A survey of 404 error pages on UK University Web sites was carried in June 1999 and the findings were reported in Ariadne issue 20 . After a period of 2 years the survey has been repeated allowing trends to be identified. The findings are given in this article.
Why are 404 pages important? Put simply, 404 error pages are probably one of the most visited pages on a Web site. If user's type a URL in incorrectly, or follow a link which has been entered incorrectly, or if the Web site has been reorganised the user will see the 404 page. So it is important to provide functionality and help information to assist the visitor finding the resource they are seeking. In addition, if your institution has invested in a look-and-feel for its Web site it is only sensible to ensure that the 404 page uses the branding.
Details of the current survey are given elsewhere . A summary of the findings are listed below.
|Type of 404 Page||Findings 1999||Findings 2002|
|Tailored message (displayed correctly in IE5)||36||88|
|Tailored message (but problem in IE 5)||5||0|
|Server default (which causes problems with default setting in IE 5)||114||65|
As can be seen from Table 1 there has been a significant trend towards use of tailored error messages. This is very pleasing, although there is still a large number of institutions which use the default server error message .
Commentary on interesting approaches to use of 404 error messages is not given in this article. However the suggestions given in the previous Ariadne article are still valid, and readers with an interest in updating their 404 error page are advised to read this article .
UK Web Focus
University of Bath