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ALA’s New 404 Page

   October 2nd, 2008

ALA's new 404 page screencaptureMost of the talk about ALA's new website redesign has died down, but I noticed something this week I want to comment on.

On the whole, I think the new site is a vast improvement over the old one. And with any new site, I understand they're still shaking out the bugs, and dealing with lots of dead links.

But: for my previous post, I wanted to find information from the ALA about library activity rising in time of economic trouble. A search on Google linked to something sounding exactly like what I was looking for on the ALA site. However, the link was broken.

By searching the ALA site itself for the title displayed in the Google results, I ultimately found the article's new location. Which is fine, but I have to say I am disappointed with the new website's 404 page.

When the 404 "Page Not Found" page loads, the most dominate thing on the page is the search box right in the center. So of course I clicked on this to search for the page I wanted. But - surprise - it's not a functioning search box. It's just an image of what the search box at the top of the page looks like. Of course the text above this image tells you to use the one at the top, but who reads? I don't - especially when a dominate image draws my attention away from the text.

So ALA, how about making the search box in the center a functioning search box, instead of just teasing us? It would add utility to the page, and make the 404 page incrementally just that much more user-friendly.

But otherwise, I think this is a pretty good 404 page, as far as they go. It customized and nice-looking, and gives some tips for finding what you're looking for. It also includes an email address to contact a person for help, which is great. I think I only noticed this because I talked about library website 404 pages before, and gave my library a fancy-pants 404 page.

I don't understand why it doesn't show up all the time, but maybe that's in the works, too.

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4 Responses to “ALA’s New 404 Page”

  1. Deborah Fitchett Says:

    Why it doesn’t show up all the time — must be something to do with the suffix-thingamies, because http://www.ala.org/theres/nothing/here.html brings it up. Likewise ../404 doesn’t work but ..404.html does.

  2. Graeme Williams Says:

    You certainly do have a fancy-pants 404 page. I’m quite jealous — our local library doesn’t have one at all.

    I have two suggestions. The blue error message is hard to read on the wonderful image. Perhaps white text on blue would be better. Also, if someone is looking for a page that isn’t there, a pointer to the site map at ./library_info/index.html might help.

  3. Liz Says:

    I love your fancy-pants 404 page. “But don’t give up – we like helping people find information. Here’s what you can do:” is so adorable I want to throw up and die, and you have wonderfully helpful links underneath it.

    Of course, this has made me more vigilant about 404 pages, and my own school’s site doesn’t even have one – just the standard “page cannot be found” one. You’ve spoiled me; now I want a fancy-pants one too.

  4. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Deborah: I’m not sure. I’m guessing it has something to do with ColdFusion, as I had found the same sometimes-it-works results as you.

    @Graeme: Thank you – if I can help you customize yours, just let me know. And I will reevaluate the colors. It was hard picking a text color because the shelf in the photo is dark on top and light at the bottom, so we had to find something in between. I’m not great with colors, so I think whoever was standing next to me when I tried the blue like it, so we went with it. Oh, and the page you mentioned isn’t exactly a sitemap, but I do like the idea of linking to it – I’ll add that next week.

    @Liz: I made you say “fancy.”