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No more 'Error 404' pages. Something better.

"If a user enters a URL on a web site, the web site should supply them with the information that they want." Wise words indeed from Rasmus Lerdorf, of PHP fame, on the recent GeekCruise. He was talking about "error 404" status pages and suggesting that web site authors could do better.

He was right, and he set me thinking; we already have a PHP tailored 404 page on this site, but I've improved it / hopefully done better today by "data mining" the URL for succinct information , and I'll be working further on it over the coming weeks - not that we have a problem; in the last 4 weeks our log files total just over half a million lines, with around 3000 of those being errors - mostly viruses / hackers trying to break in via Frontpage. But now you'll find:

* Pages that don't exist in the directory you give, but do exist in another, will be diverted.
* Pages that you call up with the wrong capitalisation will work correctly.
* Pages that you call up (with html extensions) that don't exist at all will do a "horse's mouth" search
* Pages remaining unresolved will give our home page

Some links to try:
/bristolzoo/entertainment.html
/lisa.html (I put that in because Lisa is a little timid)
/what/a/path/to/php.html
(written 2004-10-24, updated 2008-05-11)

Commentatorsays ...
Custard:Perhaps a redirect to the search page with the terms in the search pattern would be an alternative..

Currently you can bookmark the incorrect url with the searched info in it, and IE doesn't say the page returned a 404. (I know there's a banner at the top...)

And are search engines clever enough to spot broken links that now return proper data?

Just a thought.. Very clever though, and I like the concept.

B
(comment added 2004-10-25 15:20:38)
gje:There's two ways I could "go" on this one. A part of me says, yes, we could return a 404 at least to the search engines or wrap the whole thing up in a divert. But that seems to be "chickening out".

The other part says "If someone wants to put a particular URL, then they should be able to". And if a particular URL, even one we didn't put up as a physical page, renders a useful return - heck - why shouldn't the search engines share it with others too. Perhaps I should remove that banner at the top ....

Seriously, I'm moving slowly on this one and watching my logs - who, what, where stuff over former 403's and 404's.
(comment added 2004-10-26 02:02:27)
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This is a page archived from The Horse's Mouth at http://www.wellho.net/horse/ - the diary and writings of Graham Ellis. Every attempt was made to provide current information at the time the page was written, but things do move forward in our business - new software releases, price changes, new techniques. Please check back via our main site for current courses, prices, versions, etc - any mention of a price in "The Horse's Mouth" cannot be taken as an offer to supply at that price.

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