Elements a 404 and Other Error Pages Should and Could Contain

Errors happen. They are not avoidable. User might enter a wrong URL or your server is just broken. Nevertheless, you should try to serve your users as good as possible. They are articles just dealing with the creative or inspirational art of good 404 pages, this one rather deals with the information one should or could provide to his or her users.

Optional Error Page Features

  • offer alternatives, "you might want to take a look at this or this", do an automatic search depending on the user input or URL
  • offer a search box
  • offer the sitemap
  • present the page in the layout/CI of the company
  • Provide an unique error code which allows you to trace that individual error in your logs without lot of hassle (Imagine, if a customer experiences a specific error, he or she can just tell you the number and you easily find it in your logs because it is unique)

Minimum Set of Error Page Features

  • Always send the correct HTTP code, e.g. 404 for a page which does not exist, or 500 for an internal server error (Something just got wrong). This is especially important for search engines
  • Give an excuse, even if it was not your fault: "oops, sorry, something went wrong"
  • Link to the homepage
  • Description of the type of error "Server not available", "page not found", "not allowed"
  • at least some kind of layout (not just a blank white page)

Do you have other suggestions? Feel free to comment :)

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