We’ve all been there before, looking around on a site, either for something to do when you’re bored or to find much needed information. Then it happens. You’ve clicked a promising link and the dreaded “404 – Page Not Found” appears, instead of the content you were promised. Frustration starts to set in, and only builds from there with every 404 you encounter.
On the world wide web, it’s one of the most common errors you can run into. As a user, or even the owner of the site, you may not know exactly what this 404 error means, or how it’s impacting the site.
What it is, is a client-side error, meaning the issue is within the site’s content. The server made a connection, but couldn’t find what it is that’s being linked to. Which can get very aggravating to the user. Links are like promises made to give them more information, but when that promise is broken, it quickly hinders the site’s credibility and the user’s experience.
Finding the bad links is now the easiest part of maintenance, as there are many programs made to crawl the site, checking every link along the way and documenting it. Why the link is a 404 error usually requires a little more investigation, but it can be narrowed down to one or more of these reasons:
- the content has been removed from the server;
- it’s location on the server has been moved;
- the URL is either incomplete or has a typo;
- or, the URL itself has been change;
Which ever reason it may be, 404 errors can be easily resolved by updating the link to the correct URL, using a redirect to navigate the bad link to another page, or by removing the link all together. Following a regular maintenance schedule to check for and fix these 404’s will always be the first step. The more time that builds up between checks, the more potential broken links there will be to fix, and the more promises that are broken for the user.