Does your 404 Not Found page help your visitors or irritate them? You will undoubtedly come across unhappy visitors to your website from time to time. It’s a part of business. And 404 Not Found pages are supposed to help visitors who couldn’t find the web page that they were hoping to find. You don’t want your 404 Not Found page just being a blank page or some useless error message that will send your visitors elsewhere cussing and spittering and sputtering like a rusty wheel.
If your website sits on an Apache web server then you can simply update your .htaccess file and customize your 404 Not Found page. Open you .htaccess file and add this phrase to the file:
ErrorDocument 404 /notfound.html
This creates your 404 Not Found page. If you don’t already have a notfound.html file then you’ll need to create one of them as well and put it in the root directory of your web site. If you don’t have an .htaccess file then you’ll need to create one of them and all you need to do is open a blank Notepad file to do so.
If all you have is a blank page that says 404 Not Found then your visitors will hit the back button and never return. To prevent that from happening, you need to help them find the web page they were looking for. Here are some things you can put into your notfound.html file to help your visitors.
- Make your 404 Not Found page look like any other web page on your website by enclosing in your website template and having your menu bar in its usual location
- A sitemap link so that visitors can see all the web pages on your website
- If you’ve created a customized search engine or you have a search function for your website then put a search box on your 404 Not Found page
- A list of frequently mistyped URLs and their correct locations
Anything that will help your visitors find what they are looking for should go onto your 404 Not Found page. Otherwise, your visitors will leave and not come back.