If you spend any
time surfing the Internet, you've probably encountered
a few error messages.
have numerous causes, such as misspellings, outdated
links or internal server errors. When an error is encountered,
your server will display specific generic error pages
according to the error. These error pages are not only
dead ends, but they are also very frustrating for your
When your visitors
mistype your web address or click on an outdated link
and receive the dreaded error page, they'll most-likely
click on their back button and never return. However,
you can recover a majority of your lost visitors simply
by taking the time to create some customized, user friendly
As servers run
different types of software and do not function in
the same manner, there isn't a simple method for creating
custom error pages that will work with every system. However,
if you have your own domain and your site is hosted on
a Unix/Linux server running Apache, this article will
assist you in creating custom error pages.
If you're not sure
what type of server you're on, visit the following web
address to find out: http://uptime.netcraft.com/up/graph/
Before we begin,
keep in mind, editing your server files is serious business.
Even one small typographical error can wreak havoc --
make sure you make a backup copy of any file you're planning
Guidelines for creating
your error pages:
your error pages in standard HTML -- just as you would
create any other web page for your site.
2. Don't alarm
your visitors. Never include the word "ERROR"
in large, bold text. Your visitors may immediately become
alarmed and think they've done something to cause the
error. Instead, be apologetic and encourage your visitors
to click on the navigational links to locate additional
resources and information.
3. Your error
pages should look just like the rest of your web pages.
Each error page should contain good navigational links,
a search feature, and provide information in regard to
the specific error they received.
If you'd like to
see an example error page, visit the following web address:
Once you've created
an error page, save it as the error name. For example,
if you're creating a customized error page for a 400 Bad
Request error, your page should be saved as 400.html.
Here are some of
the more common errors:
400 Bad Request
401 Authorization Required
404 File Not Found
405 Method Not Allowed
500 Internal Server Error
501 Method Not Implemented
502 Bad Gateway
503 Service Temporarily Unavailable
Once you've created
your pages, you'll need to access your server via
FTP and create a new folder called "errordocs"
where you store your HTML files. Upload your new error
documents into your new folder.
Your next step
will be to locate your .htaccess file and download it
to your computer. (If you use FrontPage to publish your
web pages, you cannot customize the .htaccess file, as
FrontPage uses the .htaccess file. Editing the file may
cause errors in your configuration.) The .htaccess file
should be located on your server where you store your
If the .htaccess
file isn't visible, you can create one within a plain
text editor. However, you must first make sure your server
isn't configured to hide the file. Your FTP program should
enable you to choose to display hidden files and folders
on your server.
Once you've downloaded
your .htaccess file, open it within a plain text editor,
such as Note Pad, and add the following lines below any
other text that may be present:
ErrorDocument 401 /errordocs/401.html
ErrorDocument 403 /errordocs/403.html
ErrorDocument 404 /errordocs/404.html
ErrorDocument 405 /errordocs/405.html
ErrorDocument 500 /errordocs/500.html
ErrorDocument 501 /errordocs/501.html
ErrorDocument 502 /errordocs/502.html
ErrorDocument 503 /errordocs/503.html
If you're creating
your own .htaccess file, open a plain text editor and
add the above lines.
When typing in
the information, make certain you type it exactly
as it appears above. You can include the error documents
of your choice.
Once the file is
complete, save it as .htaccess and upload it to your server,
via FTP in ASCII mode, where you store your HTML files.
For additional information on File Transfer Protocol
(FTP) you may visit:
If you have
a Windows operating system, you will be unable to
save the file as .htaccess. You'll need to save it as
htaccess.txt. Once you upload the file to your server,
you can rename it to .htaccess.
That's all there
is to it. When your visitors click on an outdated link,
your custom error page will now be displayed.
own custom error pages is well worth the time and
effort, as they will enable you to recover an unlimited
number of your visitors. If you follow this step by
step guide, you can have your pages up and running in
Shelley Lowery is the author of the acclaimed web
design course, Web Design Mastery. http://www.webdesignmastery.com
And, Ebook Starter - Give Your Ebooks the look and
feel of a REAL book. http://www.ebookstarter.com
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