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Assuming UX experts are familiar with the Bastien & Scarpin Heuristics Criteria, how does it classify the behavior of user clicking in a link and being redirect to a 404 page?

I'm struggling to define it as guidance (immediate feedback) or error management. The user has to know that an error occurred and this is why we have this behavior. Would you agree with that? I'm saying this because of someone with no technical knowledge suggested to redirect the user to the homepage for example, instead of a 404 page, but this would lead to confusion for the user. So I just wanted to classify it properly to support my decision.

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    Can't it be classified as both? Because 404 pages both guide and serve as an error indicator. If someone challenges you on the redirect in case of unavailable pages, then a classification won't change their opinion. Explaining what purpose a 404 serves should. Jul 18, 2018 at 11:49
  • That's why I wanted to discuss.. I also think it can be classified as both, but I wanted more inputs :) Jul 19, 2018 at 7:21
  • Iʼm not familiar with Bastien & Scarpin, but a common UX argument is the Element of Least Surprise. A 404 page informs the user that something they did lead to an unexpected result but it will usually not be their fault, e. g. clicking on an erroneous or outdated link target. It should guide the user to solve the problem, e. g. by providing a list of resources with similar URLs. A silent redirect to the homepage will confuse the user for sure.
    – Crissov
    Jul 19, 2018 at 15:11
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    Surely it depends on how the 404 is designed? It could fit in to so many of those classifications depending on how/when it is triggered, what messages it contains, and how it helps the user to recover from the problem. This question, as it stands, really just boils down to opinion. Jul 20, 2018 at 8:22
  • Agreed, @AndrewMartin ! this is why I thought would be a good idea to raise the question here.. I wanted to discuss it with someone and I imagined here I'd get some good points of view, and it's being pretty much interesting getting them. Jul 20, 2018 at 8:30

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Without having to reference the criteria (because I think it is not necessary to answer the question), you are probably struggle with the question because of a couple of reasons.

Firstly, it is possible for there to be more than one way of classifying something, and if the criteria doesn't allow for this (or isn't flexible enough to adapt) then you should consider customizing it so as to be more fit for your purpose.

Guidance and error management can both fall under the bigger perspective of messaging and notification to the user, which allows the user to feel in control of their actions (in their interaction with the system). So I don't see this as a problem that you can't fit it neatly into just one category.

The other thing is that there are ways to implement a 404 page that leads to a more positive user experience, and ways that can make the user more confused and frustrated. So it is not so much redirecting the user to a 404 page that is the problem, because at some point your system will probably generate an error that you can't necessarily address immediately (e.g. the server is down).

But as with all good error handling and management best practices, if you can:

  • identify the source of the error (i.e. is it caused by the user or the system)
  • provide some idea the nature of the error (e.g. is it an expected error caused by things like validation or something unexpected and outside of the system) and then
  • give some ideas of how to resolve the issue or perhaps next steps

Then your users will thank you instead of clogging up your support system/mechanisms.

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