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<h1>Adding custom error pages to your SDF website</h1>
<hr />
<li><a href="#intro">Introduction</a></li>
<li><a href="#why">Why create a custom error page?</a></li>
<li><a href="#how">How to implement your custom error page</a></li>
<br />
<h2><a id="intro" />Introduction</h2>
<p>The HTTP protocol, which is used to retrieve documents (usually web
pages) from the internet for display in a web browser, provides a number of
<a href="">
standard error codes</a> to indicate conditions or status relative to
the process. The most widely known of these is the notorious code 404
- "File not found." This error may occur for a number of reasons,
but most commonly it indicates a broken link. Perhaps there is a
typographical error in your html, or maybe the document was moved to
a new location without the needed changes made to the referring
link. What happens at this point is that the web browser asking for
the missing document receives a special error message web page
instead. This page is usually provided by the server, but may in
some instances be generated by the browser. The error page may be
rather generic, or it may be customized for the originating site.
<h2><a id="why" /></a>Why create a custom error page?</h2>
<p>Good question! Generally, the error pages provided by the server are
adequate. On that basis, changing them isn't really required.
However, such messages also tend to be dull and often rather cryptic.
So, you might decide to create customized error messages for a
variety of reasons. <br />
For example:
<li>You may wish to create an error page which retains the look and
feel of your own site. This may increase the comfort level of your
viewers, since they won't necessarily feel like they have suddenly
been whisked away from what they were viewing into some mysterious
la-la land they'll have to crawl back from. Here is an example:
<a href="">Google's 404 page</a>
<li>Since the error may have been caused by a fault in your site,
you might want to direct the viewer to contact you about it, so that
you can fix the problem.
<li>You may want to provide the viewer with additional information
designed to help them resolve the issue themselves. This is useful
if the problem is caused not by your site but by some mistake the
user made in entering the URL, for example:
<a href="">Here</a> is an example
of that.
<li>And let's face it - most error pages are pretty dull. The 404
page in particular can be frustrating. So much so, in fact, that
people have even written spiteful
<a href="">songs</a>
about it!
<h2><a id="how" />How to implement your custom error page</h2>
<p>Now that you've decided you want to create a custom error page, you
probably want to know how to do it. In fact, on SDF this turns out to be
fairly easy. There are two basic steps involved:
<li>Create the custom error pages that you want displayed.</li>
<li>Create (or modify) the file <code>.htaccess</code> in the root of
your html directory structure.</li>
<p>Creating the custom error page itself is just like creating any other
web page. Thus, it is somewhat beyond the scope of this article, as
really you can do what you like. But if you are short of ideas, check
out <a href="">this</a> site.
<p>The key to making your custom error page work is in correctly
informing the Apache web server that you have created a custom document
and precisely indicating where that document is located. This is
accomplished through an entry in the <code>.htaccess</code> file.
<p>For the purposes of this discussion, we'll assume you already have
your website set up. The root folder of your html directory structure
is where you need to create <code>.htaccess,</code> or modify it if it
already exists. If you are logged into an SDF shell account, you can
generally get to this folder by entering this command:
<code>cd ~/html</code>
<p>If you are using SDF's vhost services, you need to change to the
directory for the website you are updating - it's probably a
subdirectory of the html directory. Once in the folder, you can create
or edit the file by entering:
<code>pico .htaccess</code>
<p>Of course, while pico is the editor I like to use, you have your
choice of several others and should feel free to use the one you like.
You can also create or edit the file on your own system and upload
it to SDF just as you would any other web document.
<p>With the Apache web server, as used on SDF, <code>.htaccess</code>
provides "a way to make configuration changes on a per-directory
basis." The complete use of this file is way beyond the scope of this
article, but more information is available
<a href="">here</a>.
<p>In our scenario, you are probably creating a new file, so you'll be
starting with a blank slate. You will need to create one line for each
error page that you define. To indicate to the server that you want to
use your own code 404 message, you'll need to add a line that is similar
to this one:
<code>ErrorDocument 404 /404.html</code>
<p><code>ErrorDocument</code> indicates that you are defining your own,
<code>404</code> is the error code you are taking responsibility for,
and <code>/404.html</code> is the name and location of your custom error
document. Please note that the "/" in front of the file name is
necessary on SDF for the relative path to work. And if you place the
document in a subdirectory off your html root, you need to indcate that
path in <code>.htaccess</code>, If you are creating custom pages for
additional codes, simply add the appropriate lines in
<p>After making your changes, it may be a good idea to reset
the permissions on your website by entering the command:
<code>mkhomepg -p</code>
<p>And that is pretty much all there is to it! </p>
<hr />
$Id: errorpage.html,v 1.5 2017/05/25 02:25:27 bradmac Exp $