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Re: User friendly 404s reconsidered

From: Orion Adrian <orion.adrian@gmail.com>
Date: Fri, 21 Jul 2006 09:18:18 -0400
Message-ID: <abd6c8010607210618j5090b0bw807c95b095c48112@mail.gmail.com>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org

On 7/20/06, Jesper Tverskov <jesper@tverskov.dk> wrote:
> Orion Adrian writes:
> "In general the article feels like it's your opinion and not based on a
> study."
> _ _ _ _ _
> ... Others have expressed the same feeling.
> Yes, it would be nice if some usability study could document what error
> messages work and not. Others are much better doing that but I hope I
> provide something useful anyway.
> My approach is based on my general knowledge of usability, accessibility and
> best practices and on my own experience as a web designer. That is probably
> what gives my article drive and direction: I try to do what I preach myself
> and I feel strongly about it.

Analysis based on general knowledge is good, but you also make points
that say Jakob Nielson's 404 error page is also bad. He is a usability
expert of phenomenal success. One would assume that if he choose to do
something with his 404 page, it's worth emulating.

>From my usability experience, I came to same conclusion that Jakob
Nielson did. Place things the user is most likely looking for and
additionally a search box.

The premise is as follows. If they come to your site and the URL is
wrong, it is likely that they know what they're looking for, but the
URL may have been mis-transcribed. In that case a search box allows
you to search for what you're looking for without having to go back to
the homepage and then to the search bar. Also added the most requested
URLs on your 404 is a safe bet. Since more people come looking for
those resources than any other, it's a decent bet the visitor was
looking for that. Also it's the most likely that what they were
looking for since they're also the most linked.

Finally, you mention not suggesting people use the back button. I'm
not sure I can find any usability reason for this. The back button is
perhaps the most beneficial advice I could give someone when they hit
a 404. You suggest directing them back to the homepage, but that seems
a round-a-bout way of doing it. The quicker you can get them to what
they're looking for the better. The homepage is for browsing. They
came in with a direct link; they know what they're looking for.

And, finally, you mentioned not doing automatic error correction on
URLs. I do agree you shouldn't do automatic error correction, not
because there would be multiple URLs, but because the correction may
not always be the same. The incorrect URL would work for a time and
then go someplace else. However, I do believe you should offer the
correction on the 404 page. Perhaps the top three most likely


Orion Adrian
Received on Friday, 21 July 2006 13:18:27 UTC

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