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Let Your Business Reflect Your Site Layout

How to Set Up Directories and 404 Pages for Convenient Navigation

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You've decided to build a website for yourself or your company, but you're not really sure where to start. It's one thing to set out to build a web page, but when you're staring at that blank screen trying to determine what to start with first, an entire website can be very daunting. With this in mind, there are some pages that almost no business website can do without.

  • About this Site - information about the site, the author, or the company.
  • Help or Support - assistance using the site or the products sold on the site
  • What's New - a listing of what has recently changed on the site
  • Archives - archival copies of older articles and information on the site
  • Contact - how to contact the site owner or developer
  • Search - a search function to find things on the site
  • Products - a listing of all the products and/or services available on the site
  • Legal Notices - legal information such as the privacy policy, copyright notices, or other legal documents

Once you have these sections of your site and you know what's going to be in them then you can start thinking about how to organize your site. Remember, organization of a website is more than just how it looks in the browser window. If you start out well organized from the beginning, you can save yourself a lot of trouble in the future.

Intuitive Organization

If you're going to have the above sections of your site, then you should organize your web directory structure to reflect that. For example, if you have a section "About" that talks about your company and what you offer, then you should put that in a directory /about on your web server. For the above sections, I would create the following directories:

  • /about
  • /help
  • /whats-new
  • /archives
  • /contact
  • /search
  • /products
  • /legal

Page Not Found

The other thing your site needs to have good organization is a useful "page not found" or 404 page. This 404 page should have links to all of the major sections of your site as well as information like FAQs or common search terms to help your customers find what they are looking for.

To create a custom 404 page on the Apache web server:

  1. create a web page that will be your 404 document
  2. open your httpd.conf file for editing (you may have to login as root to edit it)
  3. find the line that reads
    ErrorDocument 404 /404.html
  4. change the /404.html to the URI you would like to display – it can be any file on your web server
  5. restart your server

Once you have both useful organization and a 404 page that reflects that organization, your Web site will be that much easier to build. And even if you can't create a custom 404 page, your organization will make it easier for your readers to find things on your site and so they'll be less likely to get a 404 page.

Other Web Organization Tips

Organize Your Site
Spring cleaning is for more than just your house. Whether you have a large site or small, it's always a good idea to reorganize and make it easier to manage.

"Link Rot" Are You a Culprit?
Do you you move your pages? Reorganizations and other changes to a site can cause links to go bad when they don't have to. Stop link rot at the source, don't change your URIs.

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