to Set Up A Custom 404 File Not Found Page
How to Set Up A Custom 404 File Not Found Page
Let's do a quick survey: what do you often do when you click on
a URL and encounter a "404 File Not Found" error? Do you:
1. Click on the BACK button of your browser and go somewhere else?
2. Try to back up one directory in the URL and try again?
3. Write to the webmaster of the site and the referring site to
inform them of the situation?
If you are like most people, you'll simply click on the BACK button
and try another place. The majority of people don't even know that
there are any other alternatives.
You thus need to do something so that you do not lose this group
of people who come to your site by following an old link or by typing
your URL incorrectly.
Requirements for Customizing the 404 File Not Found Page
It is not possible to customize your 404 error page if your web
host has not enabled this facility for your website. For example,
at the time of this writing, if you host at Geocities or Tripod,
you would not be able to customize your 404 Error Page.
If your web host has this facility, you will usually find mention
of this somewhere in their documentation. In fact, if they mention
somewhere that you can customize a file named ".htaccess",
it probably means that you can also customize your 404 File Not
Found error page.
The .htaccess file is what Apache web servers use to allow you to
fine-tune your web server configurations at a directory level. Other
types of web servers handle the customization of 404 error pages
Step One: Creating/Modifying the .htaccess File
This step may not be necessary in all situations. Some web hosts
already configure their web server so that it will look for a specific
file in your web directory when a certain document cannot be found.
If so, simply skip this step.
If your web server is not an Apache web server, you will have to
find out from your web host what you need to do to enable the server
to serve your customized file when a file cannot be found.
Otherwise, the first thing you need to do is to add the following
line to a file named ".htaccess" (without the enclosing
quotes and with the preceding period). In most instances, no such
file will exist, and you can simply create one with a text editor.
ErrorDocument 404 /notfound.html
You will of course need to put a notfound.html file in the main
web directory for the above directive to work.
The "ErrorDocument 404" directive essentially tells the
Apache web server that whenever it cannot find the file it needs
in that directory and its subdirectories, it is to use the document
specified in the URL that follows.
One .htaccess file in your main directory will do the trick for
that directory and its subdirectories. However, if you want a certain
subdirectory to show a different 404 File Not Found message, you
can always place a .htaccess file into that directory. This will
override any .htaccess files you have in the parent directories.
Step Two: Creating Your Error Document File
What should go into your custom 404 File Not Found page?
It is insufficient to simply let the visitor know that the file
could not be found. In order not to lose that visitor, you will
have to provide him some way to locate the document he wanted, or
you would have lost him.
Your page should have one or more of the following things:
1. A link to your main page, with a suggestion that the visitor
can find what he wants there.
2. If you have a search engine for your website, you should definitely
put a search box on that page. Many people prefer to simply type
a query than to scan through your site map.
3. A link to your site map, which lists all the pages on your website.
4. If you know of frequently mistyped URLs on your site, you can
even put links to the correct location directly on the page, so
that visitors who arrive there from outside can quickly get to the
correct page. Remember, you don't want to lose that visitor, so
do all you can to help him.
5. Any other navigational aids that you may have - for example,
if you have a quick navigation menu on your normal pages, you should
probably put one here as well.
If you like, you can even put a simple form on the page to allow
your visitors to inform you of the broken link. However, the primary
aim of this page is not to help you track bad links, but to make
sure your visitor does not leave your site if what he wants can
be found there.
Step Three: Testing the Error Document
When you're satisfied with your page, upload it together with your
.htaccess file to your website. Then test it by typing a URL that
you know does not exist.
Your error page should load up. From this error page, test to see
that the links here lead to the pages you intended it to lead.
Common Errors with a 404 Custom Error Page
The most common error people have with their custom error page is
making a mistake in the URL they put in their .htaccess file. This
leads the web server into a loop when a visitor tries to access
a missing file. When a file cannot be found the server tries to
load the file specified in your ErrorDocument directive. But that
file does not exist too, so it tries to load the file specified
in that directive. You get the idea.
Make sure you test your error file by typing in a non-existent URL.
Do not test it by typing its real URL - that will of course work
but it will prove nothing.
When a visitor encounters a 404 File Not Found error on your site,
you're on the verge of losing the visitor that you've worked so
hard to obtain through the search engines and third party links.
Creating your custom 404 error page allows you to minimize the number
of visitors lost that way.
About the Author
Christopher S L Heng.
Get more free tips and articles like this, on web design, promotion,
revenue and scripting, from http://www.thesitewizard.com/.
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)
Guides & Articles
Guides & Articles..
Domain Name Registration