Aug 172007

Excellent 404 Handling

404 page What happens when your users navigate to a nonexistent page?

What should happen?

Here are five interesting resources on building an excellent 404 page ("Page Not Found"):

The last post reminds us that "pretty" 404 pages must still return a 404 HTTP header code, so that search spiders know the page isn't really there. This subtlety was a new one to me (though not to our web team, happily.)

I also agree with JDMorgan's comment on keeping 404s simple:

I'm against introducing additional layers of complexity on top of an error condition, so I say that error documents should be dirt-simple static html pages with few or no external dependencies -- No external images, JavaScripts, CSS, PHP or SSI include files, etc. That is so that if you get one error caused by or affecting any of these potentially-external resources, you won't get a cascade of errors.

Agree. Avoid the complex or cute 404s like this.

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