SocialEngine 4: Custom 404 Error Page

Here is a simple modification you can do to create a custom 404 Error Page for your SocialEngine site to make it more unique

Edit the file

 \application\modules\Core\views\scripts\error\notfound.tpl

and add custom HTML of your choice.

If your website doesn’t have a custom 404 error page, users will see a default error screen like this:

a default 404 page

The default 404 error message

What can cause a 404 error page to show?

These are the most common reasons why a visitor will see a 404 error page:

  • The URL of the page has been changed –This could be caused by the name of the page being changed, and the URL is updated to match. For example www.silktide.com/latest-news might change to www.silktide.com/news. If there are many websites linking to the old page, it might be some time before they update the URL, meaning that visitors might follow the link which now takes them to a 404 error page.
  • The link you’re following is misspelt – A link on your website might have been misspelled when it was created, meaning that it’s taking you to a page which doesn’t actually exist.
  • The page has been deleted – Pages can be deleted, but sometimes a site might still have lots of links to that page which haven’t yet been deleted.
  • The website is offline – The website is currently down so the page can’t be displayed.
  • The website has been deleted – The website isn’t around anymore. The link you’ve followed might be from a site which still thinks the website exists. If the visitor sees a 404 error message, they might also assume this is the case for all of the reasons above, so it’s likely that they’ll never try to visit this website ever again.

Why is the default error bad?

If the user sees the error above, it’s bad in many ways.

  • Too much technical jargon – It doesn’t really mean anything to the average internet user. There’s a lot of wording which uses technical jargon, and it’s not very helpful for non-technical users.
  • It’s not branded – If you’re familiar with the lovely colours and design of the site you’re viewing, and then suddenly you’re faced with a nasty looking plain white page with black text, you might think that you’ve gone to another site. This makes your visitor feel uncomfortable and unsure where they are.
  • There is nowhere else to go – After your visitor clicks the link that takes them to this 404 page, there are no links for them to follow other than click “back” in their browser.

The last two are especially bad when you consider that someone might be following a link from another website, and they get this error. This is the first page they see of your site and it’s an error page. They might assume the entire site is down, where actually the only problem is that a page has been renamed.

Give people what they expect to see

With a custom 404 error page you can make the page look exactly like your website, so that there’s definitely no confusion that they might have gone to the wrong website, or that your site might be down when it isn’t.

Keeping the layout of your page the same as other pages on your site will also give users the ability to see your menu and link through to other pages on your site. They might even be able to find what they were originally looking for. Or they could link straight to your homepage and start navigating your site from there.

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Author Spotlight

Andrew Cross

Andrew Cross

Hi, I'm Andrew. A am a 25, ICT Administrator which offers support to company's around the South Wales Area. I have created a few social sites for myself and other company's. So far 2 out of 3 have been successful using the powerful SocialEngine Script. I continue to try and help the community of SocialEngine by giving Support and Technical Help where possible.

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