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404 not found

404 not found

While you work hard to make sure that every link actually goes to a specific web page on your site, there is always a chance that a link clicked will slam dunk and become a famous 404 ERROR PAGE NOT FOUND.

All is not lost. If your visitors encounter an error, why not be a helpful WordPress site administrator and present them with a message more useful than “NOT FOUND”.

This lesson will teach you how to edit your “error” and “page not found” messages so they are more helpful to your visitors. We’ll also show how to ensure your web server displays your helpful custom messages. Finally, we’ll go over how to create a custom error page consistent with your Theme‘s style.

An Ounce of Prevention

Some errors are avoidable, you should regularly check and double-check all your links. Also, if you are deleting a popular but out-of-date post, consider deleting the body of the post, and replacing it with a link referring visitors to the new page.

Understanding Web Error Handling

Visitors encounter errors at even the best websites. As a site administrator, you may delete out-of-date posts, but another website may have a link to your inside page for that post.

When a user clicks on a link to a missing page, the webserver will send the user an error message such as 404 Not Found. Unless your webmaster has already written custom error messages, the standard message will be in plain text and that leaves the users feeling a bit lost.

Most users are quite capable of hitting the back key, but then you’ve lost a visitor who may not care to waste their time hunting for the information. So as not to lose that visitor, at the very least, you’ll want your custom message to provide a link to your home page.

The friendly way to handle errors is to acknowledge the error and help them find their way. This involves creating a custom Error Page or editing the one that came with your WordPress Theme.

Editing an Error 404 Page

Every theme that is shipped with WordPress has a 404.php file, but not all Themes have their own custom 404 error template file. If they do, it will be named 404.php. WordPress will automatically use that page if a Page Not Found error occurs.

The normal 404.php page shipped with your Theme will work, but does it say what you want it to say, and does it offer the kind of help you want it to offer? If the answer is no, you will want to customize the message in the template file.

To edit your Theme’s 404 error template file, open it in your favorite text editor and edit the message text to say what you want it to say. Then save your changes and upload it to the theme directory of your WordPress install.

While you are examining and editing your 404 template file, take a look at the simple structure of the 404.php file that is shipped with Twenty Thirteen. It basically features tags that display the header, sidebar, and footer, and also an area for your message:

<?php
/**
 * The template for displaying 404 pages (Not Found)
 *
 * @package WordPress
 * @subpackage Twenty_Thirteen
 * @since Twenty Thirteen 1.0
 */

get_header(); ?>

	<div id="primary" class="content-area">
		<div id="content" class="site-content" role="main">

			<header class="page-header">
				<h1 class="page-title"><?php _e( 'Not Found', 'twentythirteen' ); ?></h1>
			</header>

			<div class="page-wrapper">
				<div class="page-content">
					<h2><?php _e( 'This is somewhat embarrassing, isn’t it?', 'twentythirteen' ); ?></h2>
					<p><?php _e( 'It looks like nothing was found at this location. Maybe try a search?', 'twentythirteen' ); ?></p>

					<?php get_search_form(); ?>
				</div><!-- .page-content -->
			</div><!-- .page-wrapper -->

		</div><!-- #content -->
	</div><!-- #primary -->

<?php get_footer(); ?>

So, to change the error message your visitor sees, revise the text within the h1 heading and within the page-content class; if necessary, add more paragraphs below that.

Creating an Error 404 Page

If your WordPress Theme does not include a template file named 404.php, you can create your own.

Because every theme is different, there is no guarantee that copying over the 404.php template file found in the Twenty Thirteen Theme will work, but it’s a good place to start. The error page you copy from the Twenty Thirteen Theme will adopt the style of the current theme because it actually calls the header and footer of the current theme. That’s less work for you, and you may only have to edit the message to suit your particular needs.

To use the 404.php template file from the WordPress Twenty Thirteen Theme:

  1. Copy the file /wp-content/themes/twentythirteen/404.php into the directory of your current theme.
  2. Then, as described in the previous section, edit the error message to present your desired error message.

If copying the default 404.php into your theme directory does not work well with your theme, you can also:

  1. Copy the file /wp-content/themes/twentythirteen/404.php into the directory of your current theme.
  2. Then, as described in the previous section, edit the error message to present your desired error message.

If copying the default 404.php into your theme directory does not work well with your theme, you can also:

  • Change the Default Theme’s 404.php template file’s header, sidebar, footer, and other codes to match the rest of the Theme’s layout.

Or

  • Copy the index.php file of your current theme to a file called 404.php.
  • Open that file and delete all sections dealing with posts or comments, see The Loop.
  • Then, edit your 404 error message.

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Written by

Devid Cols

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