Impossible tri-bar

Digital Phenomena - Your first stop for internet consultancy 
The HTTP Error 404 Antidote
by Paul Adams 27 Sep 2002

Paul Adams is Webmonkey's resident acronympho, covering the likes of PHP, DNS, and SOAP with startling aplomb.

Page 1

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?

next page»

|Home|About Us|Services|Search|
W3C validatedW3C validated CSSCompatible with all browsers