Authoring/Development - Custom 404 Error Pages
The Usability Aspect
We've all clicked a link or typed a URL and gotten the dreaded 404 error page. So you know how your site's visitors feel when they see this default message:
The requested URL /example.html was not found on this server.
They probably feel annoyed and frustrated and leave with a bad impression of your Web site. They may even think that the whole site no longer exists. All of this can be avoided by creating a custom 404 page.
A custom 404 page adds a professional and thoughtful touch. It says that you care about your visitors and their experience at your site. A well-designed 404 page also helps your traffic, since visitors aren't left at a dead end.
To be as helpful as possible, your 404 page should include these elements:
- An apology - keep it short.
- An explanation (not everyone knows what 404 means) - avoid the word "error" as it could scare people away.
- Options - at the very least there should be links to your home page and your site map. You could also include a search box and a phone number or e-mail address.
Ideally, the page will keep the navigation of the rest of your site. If you don't want to do that, then at least keep the look and feel consistent and make sure to include your logo. You want your visitors to know that your site hasn't disappeared.
The Technical Stuff
In order to implement a custom 404 message, you'll need to set it up in the Account Control Center. Instructions are outlined in our Web Settings Tutorial. (You may also set up custom 500, 403, and 401 pages.)
Please note that Internet Explorer 5 and above will not display custom 404 pages if they're smaller than 512 bytes. If your file falls short of this, you can add comments to your HTML code to beef it up a bit.
Another helpful tip is to hide your custom 404 pages from spiders. To do this, create a robots.txt file in the directory that your domain is mapped to. This is what should be in it:
Disallow: /404error.html (replace 404error.html with whatever you've called your 404 page)
You can also add a meta tag to your 404 file:
<meta name="robots" content="noindex, nofollow">