Website Details – Helping Visitors When Things Go Wrong

404imageWhen setting up and refining a website, we pay attention to what happens when things go well. But what about the visitor who tries a bad link or goes to a page that doesn’t exist?

In technical terms,  the server has you covered. Any time a visitor tries to go to a page that isn’t on the server, it will display a 404 error page. The default language is “404 Error: the page you are trying to reach couldn’t be found on the server. ”  Better than a blank screen, but not very helpful.

To see what happens on your site, simply type in a URL that you know doesn’t exist. Something like: http://%5Byourdomain.com%5D/badpage. If all you see is a white screen with black default text, you can do better.

For the most part, you can configure your content management system to create a customized 404 error page. This includes applying the website template to the page as well as the ability to have helpful text and links.

Consider:

  • Providing a link to the home page and/or search page
  • Asking that the visitor send you an email that lets you know where the broken link he or she clicked is found
  • Adding a clever image or video that takes the 404 page from frustrating to fun

Sometimes, the difference between a good and an excellent website is minding the details, like a helpful 404 error page.

 

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