spiderwebwoman …

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‘Not Found’ Is Not An Option: Error Handling and User Experience

Filed under: Accessibility,Web Standards — spiderwebwoman at 9:07 pm on Saturday, July 24, 2004

Found this over at sitepoint: ‘Not Found’ Is Not An Option: Error Handling and User Experience. There is no greater disappointment than failing to find what you’re looking for. From time to time, surfing the Web will lead us to dead ends that typically sport the titles “Error 404”, “Not Found”, or “The document could not be found”.

A few recommendations that will help you deliver a better user experience:

Do Not Redirect Without Permission

Redirecting people to the homepage — or any other place, for that matter — without an explanation is simply impolite, and will only confuse your visitors. Such a simple implementation may seem like a good idea, but it’s really only a means to avoid the problem — not a real solution.

Do Offer a Site Map

Many Usability experts say that site maps have no place in a Website and that, if a site really needs to be mapped in order for users to get around, a design problem exists. I think that statement is questionable, but if there’s a good place for a site map, it’s at your 404 page. Think about it: this document would appear in the only place at which no real content was served. It’s the best place to offer a global view of the content structure of your site, as it provides hints to your visitors and will help them find what they’re looking for.

Do Offer a Search Form Whenever Possible

If you have an internal search engine, putting a search form in your 404 page is a no-brainer. But, what about taking it a step further? Depending on the server-side technology you use, you might be able to trigger an automatic search based on any data you can extract from the visitor’s query.

Do Fix those Broken Links

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