Site Structure Pitfall No. 238: Failure to Add Index Pages for Subfolders

One of the things I sometimes encounter on local websites is the ‘404 Error’. Although seeing the custom 404 is an upgrade over the generic error message generated by web browsers or web servers, such errors are deemed unnecessary and paints a bad impression of the website. Not that we clicked on a broken link has generated this ‘404 File Not Found Error’ page but a random ‘hack’ of removing the trailing filename will reveal this error.

For example, it very is common to view Hong Kong Observatory’s pages during time of inclement weather conditions. With a wealth of timely weather information — from synchronizing time to climate change — the Hong Kong Observatory is the place to go. However, when it comes to organizing content, the site is a bit wanting.

Perhaps if you’ve managed tens of thousands of pages and several generations of webmasters taking turns to manage the site that never made an update for the past several years, errors like this are bound to happen.

One informative set of pages include definition of rainstorm (shown above), thunderstorm and strong monsoon signals issued by the Hong Kong Observatory. Although they all belong to one subfolder “/wservice/warning”, it is not clear which page(s) link to them. It is because if I strip off the page file names and leave the folder “/wservice/warning”, it doesn’t contain a list of different warnings. Instead, a sharp rebuke from the website saying “Access Denied” greets me and every other “lost” visitor.

Ideally this page should contain a list of weather warnings, each with introduction teasers and link to individual pages. But it doesn’t. At least there’s an email we can reach in case we get too frustrated by this seemingly simple issue that needs resolution as soon as possible. Other government websites continuing to display similar layout but make good use of site structure. Cases in point: Transport Department, whose sub folders have content and not 404 Error pages.

Other government websites are fulfilling promises. I hope that HKO and other contemporaries decide to retire the old page layouts and embrace the age of wide screens, smartphone Internet browsing and heat maps.