404 Not Found
The Web server cannot find the file or script you asked for. Please check
the URL to ensure that the path is correct.
Please contact the server's administrator if this problem persists.
Ha! I bet you thought this page wasn't here. Ha ha! Hooo! Yeah.
That 404 message above is
familiar enough to most people to stimulate a Pavlovian click of the Back
button. Which means it's doing its job. 404 Not Found is the most famous of
the HTTP status
codes. These status codes are three-digit responses that an HTTP server
returns when given a request. These codes fall into three series: 2xx,
which means success, 3xx, which means partial success (redirection), and
4xx/5xx, for errors on the part of the client and the server respectively.
Some highlights include 200 OK, which is the most common, but rarely seen
in the flesh it just means everything worked; 401 Unauthorized, when
HTTP authorization has blocked a request; 500 Internal Error, when the
server somehow couldn't provide the requested page. 404 is the one that
pops up when the client asks for a page that isn't there.
So what does your average Web surfer do when she hits a 404 page? At best,
she trims the URL layer by layer until she finds what she's looking for, or
returns to the home page and searches. At worst, she goes elsewhere and
never returns to your site.
Either way, 404s represent a major bleed-off of traffic and source
of user frustration, which, as hospitable Web providers, we want to do our
best to avoid. So what can be done?