Create custom error pages and keep your visitors!

Written by Michael Bloch

HTTP 404 - File not found is a browser error message that we've all grown to know and hate. On a number of search engines, it gets to a stage where we feel that all their links will return this result? How is this happening, who is to blame and how do we fix it?

On reviewing my server logs, I had noticed around 1% of all requests from my site will return this HTTP error code. One ofrepparttar reasons for it was a stupid mistake I made around 6 months ago. I wasn't happy withrepparttar 134619 naming of a couple of my files, so I renamed them without consideringrepparttar 134620 consequences:

- The files had been on my site for a few days

- During that time a couple of search engine bots had crawled throughrepparttar 134621 pages. A search engine bot is a software program that scours web sites for content and returnsrepparttar 134622 results to a search engine database. The search engine interface feeds off this to return links and descriptions to surfers when they have entered their search criteria

- Since I changedrepparttar 134623 names ofrepparttar 134624 files afterrepparttar 134625 bot went through,repparttar 134626 pages in their original state no longer "existed".

- The search engine query results reflectrepparttar 134627 database entries, pointing torepparttar 134628 wrong filename, visitor clicks onrepparttar 134629 result - 404.... aaaaaaaaargh!

It would appear that some search engines only update their results once or twice a year, such isrepparttar 134630 hugeness ofrepparttar 134631 task of spideringrepparttar 134632 web these days. Last month,repparttar 134633 percentage of requests to my site that resulted in this HTTP error code was 2%,repparttar 134634 previous month to that - slightly higher. While I am happy that this is reducing, I am kicking myself that I didn't think things through six months ago - we live and we learn. 404 errors may also be caused through a malformed browser request (user error - wrong URL typed into address bar)

Save yourselfrepparttar 134635 shame and embarassment (and homicidal thoughts directed at you from frustrated potential visitors) - plan your site carefully before you promote to search engines.

If you do or have found yourself inrepparttar 134636 same situation as me, there is something that you can do about it (dependant upon your hosting service set up). Instead of a visitor being directed to those rather horrible "file not found" pages, you can create custom error pages. Here is an example: The above link is incomplete which triggers a 404 response on my server.

By implementing custom error pages, you have a good chance of retainingrepparttar 134637 visitor, especially if you includerepparttar 134638 standard navigation buttons. It also acts as a means of apologising torepparttar 134639 visitor forrepparttar 134640 inconvenience. It isn't just 404 error messages that you can apply this to. There are a number of error code returns that you could customise, all withrepparttar 134641 goal of alleviating visitor stress and encouraging them to further explore your site. A listing of http error codes can be viewed here:

Cross Browser Compatibility

Written by Michael Bloch

Sure, it looks great in Internet Explorer 6, but.....

A few years ago, there weren't many different versions of web browsers to choose from. Now there are dozens. Actually, there's over 100 different browsers, not counting different versions ofrepparttar same product. Quite a number of these names I had never heard of before - here's a list of browsers currently available:

1X, Act 10, ActiveBrowser, Active Worlds, Alice, Amaya, ANT Fresco, Arachne, AvantGo, AWeb-II, Beonex Communicator, Browse-X, Charon, Chimera, CipherNet, Clickgarden, CrystalPort, CubicEye, DocZilla, E:ID Frame, Encompass, Enigma, Escape, ezWAP, FairLighHTML Viewer, Fast Browser, Galeon, Go.Web, Grail, Grasshopper V1, Home Page Reader, HotJava, iBrowse, IBrowser, iBrowserPlus, iCab, ICE Browser, I-Comm, iConnecter, InfoScanner, Internet Explorer, IPowerPortal WebBrowser, KBrowser MIPS Edition, KBrowser Palm Edition, Kidnet Explorer, Klondike Web Browser, K-Meleon, Konqueror, Konqueror/Embedded, Links, Lynx, Lynx for Amiga, Micro Digital Browser, Mobile Explorer, Mozilla, MSN Explorer, Multilingual Mosaic, MultiWeb

but wait, there's more!......

Neoplanet, Nestor, Netcaptor, NetClue, NetPositive, NetRaider, Netscape, Net-Tamer, Newt's Cape, Nokia Wap Browser, oKID Browser, Oligo, OmniWeb, Openwave Mobile Browser, Opera, Orangotango VirtualBrowser, Oregano, Palmscape, Pendragon Browser, Pixo Internet Microbrowser, Planetweb browser, Pocket Browser, Palm Browser, Pocket IE, ProxiWeb, Q.Bati, RapidBrowser, Safexplorer, SlipKnot, SpeedSeek Portal Solution, SPIN, StarDesktop, TV Interactor, UltraBrowser, ViOS, Voyager, w3m, Wapaka, WAPman, Web, WebsterXL, WebPhace, WebTV, WeMedia Talking Browser, Whack Force, WWW/LX, XBrowser, Yalzer, Yoozee.

Choice is a wonderful thing, butrepparttar 134618 proliferation of browser software has also increased confusion in consumers as to what they should use. It also beenrepparttar 134619 major bugbear of web developers.

The good news for developers is thatrepparttar 134620 vast majority of web surfers use either Internet Explorer or Netscape - approximately 95%. The bad news is that there are over 200 flavours of Internet Explorer and Netscape. Web pages can look totally different betweenrepparttar 134621 different versions.

The common arguement used by web developers to avoid dealing with compatibility issues is that asrepparttar 134622 percentage of people using Netscape is relatively low, aroundrepparttar 134623 10% mark globally, - it isn't worthwhile taking those users into account. This is probably not a wise way approachrepparttar 134624 issue, especially for an ecommerce based site. 10% can make a big difference to your bottom line as it's not only Internet Explorer users who buy goods and services online.

You may be ofrepparttar 134625 opinion "my server logs show that only 5 percent of my visitors use Netscape, so I'm not going to bother too much about cross browser compatibility". Perhaps you would have more Netscape visitors by making some minor changes to your coding that would better present your web material to them. Netscape users also have a tendency to switch to IE from time to time. If they have had a bad experience on your site using Netscape, they may not even bother visiting it again under a different browser.

Even if you do target your site to a particular brand of browser; you then need to contend with different versions of that brand. For example; a site designed for IE5.5 may look different under IE4.

The simple solution is for everyone to upgrade their browser? True, but who are we to dictate what people use on their systems? Some people do not haverepparttar 134626 equipment capable to do this. The later versions of Internet Explorer demand massive system resources.

The W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) has been battling for years for software companies to produce "compliant" browsers. The idea of compliancy, amongst other things, is to guarantee that a web page looksrepparttar 134627 same under any browser. Many browsers circulating now are not "compliant". Unfortunately,repparttar 134628 W3C has had an uphill battle in this but does seem to making some ground.

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