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    Thursday, July 29, 2004

    Whoops! Nothing here by that name.

    We've all made acquaintances with the lovely 404 File Not Found error at one time or another. You click on an outdated link, or mis-type a web address, and suddenly you're face-to-face with a cranky page telling you that nothing exists there.

    There are, of course, many ways to customize a 404 page if you're involved with building websites. For instance, you can gracefully greet visitors with an apology and some helpful tips to get them back on their feet again. More on that shortly.

    I'm at the point in my website project that I'm crossing the i's and dotting the t's -- wait -- strike that, reverse it. The web copy and imagery are still in the works, but for the most part every web page (30 in all) of the new site has been authored, links have been tested, broswer compatibility has been checked, and code has been commented.

    Asterisk*, a blog I frequent weekly, posted a helpful checklist of "The Big Web Design Details" yesterday. It's a helpful list of bullets that makes my life easier when it comes to, y'know, crossing t's and dotting i's. I missed an important detail though: Do you have a custom 404 page? These can be a real help. No doubt.

    So after giving 404s some thought, I created my own within the design of the site which states: "Sorry, but the page you're looking for isn't at this location. You may have followed a bad link or mis-typed a URL. To get back on track, please visit our Site Map, or simply return to the Homepage. Thank you."

    No frills. Just a simple (and I'd like to think, helpful) message to assist a derailed visitor. You can get as fancy as you want though. Check out the 404 Research Lab for a variety of error examples -- riveting stuff, eh? But don't knock it just yet -- Yikes! 404! is a great tutorial for persistent people who refuse to turn their back on a site after one measly "page not found" experience.