Page not found? Well, help them find one.

People will arrive on your website by following a link to a page which doesn’t exist. Maybe the page did exist once, but doesn’t any more. Maybe they typed it in wrongly. Whatever the case, it happens. And the question is, what do you do about it? Could it be improved? Do you even know what people get?

What they’ll get is your “page not found” announcement, or “404 page” in web-speak. Take a look at your own, by typing in your company’s domain name followed by “/junk”, e.g. There are three things you might see. Firstly, there might be no such page defined, in which case the visitor just gets a really poor system error message, like this:


I’m sure you’ll agree, that’s unacceptable. The second possibility is there could be no specific error message defined, but your website has been set up so that the “Page Not Found” message at least appears within the website template, which will presumably include a clickable link to your home page, if nothing else. This is really the minimum effort you should put in.

Finally, there’s the properly thought-out “page not found” message. This can be really creative, or perhaps even humorous if applicable, such as the message on the Liberal Democrat party’s website:


However, you’re more likely to want to just provide something helpful, and the best thing you can probably do is to give people an indication of what’s happened, and how they can quickly recover the situation, perhaps with a clear link to a site index, or a search box. Here’s what we’ve got on our own website at the moment. Your web designer should have provided nothing less.


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