I'd be interested know people's thoughts and experiences on the cleanest/most professional way to tell a user they don't have access to a particular set of functions. I will have two user groups, sellers and buyers. They will in turn have their own set of pages/functions.

Should a seller stumble across or get a link to a page that tries to use buyer functions should I show them a 404, redirect to another page, tell them they don't have permission or another option?

For example, say you're a buyer user and you have an active session, but you're on google and google my website and it pops up with my website and in the sitelinks it has "sell your item" and you click it. You'd already be validated at my website as you'd have an active session and the system would try to take you the page to sell your item. Then it would realise, that yes this person is logged in, but they aren't a seller they are a buyer user type. How should my website handle this gracefully

  • it will greatly depend on what you want to do / achieve. for example, if they don't have access to a page because they need a membership, then you could include a signup form. Or whatever, you'll get the idea. Also, there's a huge difference between an action (as you mention in your title) and content (as you mention in your description) , so it will influence the answer as well. In short: context, context, context
    – Devin
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 22:00
  • @Devin - Tried to provide some better context for you, thanks :-)
    – Jonnny
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 22:04
  • 404 = Not found, 401/403 is more appropriate, BTW en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_HTTP_status_codes Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 23:59

2 Answers 2


Instead of saying something such as "You do not have permission" or "This area is restricted" or "404" you could say something friendlier. Using phrases such as "You don't have" and "Restricted" make the user feel a little unwelcome. You also don't provide a reason for this, "404" is also too vague and looks like that part of your website isn't working and your not bothering to fix it. Instead a better message - more friendlier and less vague would be:

Title : "Sorry, this part of our website is unavailable to sellers"

Message : "This part of our website is intended for buyers who wish to buy and is not for sellers wanting to sell."

Options : "Return to previous page", "Go to main website page"

Here is a very bad JSFiddle example: example with the code here: code

Edit : To improve the long-term ability of this answer I've included a picture of the JSFiddle example in the case that the website JSFiddle goes down or the page is deleted, also I've done a few bits of formatting to make it more readable and less like a wall of text.

enter image description here


Empty-states are always a good option over a 404 page. Even more context is needed, could you have an empty state that gives people options to perform a task e.g if it were an empty photo gallery you wold give the user the option to upload some photos

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