Stupid web site tricks

published: Thu, 21-Apr-2005   |   updated: Sat, 6-Aug-2016
Eurydice, number two cat

I'd have to say if you publish a page on your web site and you intend to continue making your web site available then you should ensure that the web site's URLs don't change. It seems bloody obvious to me. I'm just getting tired of searching for stuff on the Internet and finding that some so-called expert on a subject has removed his website/blog, or reorganized it, or archived some of it.

But, I hear you say, what if I do want to reorganize my web site? Well, ideally you should retain the original web page URLs with the same content. If not, you should at least put a page at the original URL that links to the new page with the same content. You don't have to link to these place-holders from your main page.

The reason for all doing this is that once you publish a web page, if you're lucky, someone out there will link to the page. Search engines will eventually index the page. Other people who would like to read the contents of the page will search for it and either find it or will find another page that leads to it. But if you've reorganized your web site and haven't thought about your readers, it's likely that they'll then get a 404 error (page not found). Some sites will even, incredibly, throw an ASP.NET error instead.

When I reorganized my site nearly two years ago to use CityDesk as my content management system, I monitored my web logs afterwards to see which pages were causing 404s. I then created dummy link pages at those URLs to point to the new pages. Believe it or not there are still pages out there that link to these dummy pages on my web site.

This approach is, I feel, only fair to my future readers. It also helps make sure that people return to my site. Maybe they'll subscribe to my RSS feed. If I hadn't done this maybe possible readers would have gone elsewhere and never come back.

If I were a business and had reorganized my site and hadn't tried to maintain URLs, it would be an incredibly short-sighted thing to do, especially if I published white papers or other free articles to which others might link. And yet there are businesses out there with a web presence and who derive income from such a presence that do this as a matter of course. Unbelievable.