How to create a useful 500 internal server error page

  • I'm trying to create a useful HTTP Error 500 Internal server error page and the recommendations I have found and the live examples I have stumpled upon use a very simple layout. They basically include:

    • a logo
    • a headline
    • a message
    • and a couple of solutions how to fix it such as reload the page, come back later or contact the webmaster.

    What are the reasons not to also include the main site navigation or a search bar so that the visitor could find another page on the website? Is it technical or is it just to keep an focus on the error message?

    Please please please Alert the web master yourself. you've just created an Error catching website and shown it to the user and then ask the User to contact the web master.

    You mean it's rude? :) I believe the best way is to automatically send an email to the webmaster with the details (as I asked about here -

    If at all possible present a meaningful error message if there is a reason for the 500. Many sites that have common 500s know why they have a problem. has a custom error message which, erm, caters to both their admins and users.

  • dnbrv

    dnbrv Correct answer

    10 years ago

    The point of a good error page is to apologize for the error, explain what happened in layman terms, what might be responsible for this, and what next steps to take.

    Yet, error 500 rarely supplies a good explanation so the error page has to be vague. This results in users starting to refresh the page hoping it would miraculously render, even in cases of major botched up code deployments. Thus, you need to prevent such behavior with clear instructions on what to do next.

    Telling your visitors, "The site is dead. You should give up," isn't a good practice. Users need to have some feeling of control & involvement into the situation, so give it to them by letting them send a message to the engineering team no matter how large or small it is. Then, once the site is back up email them (even generically) thanking for reporting the error & notifying of the resurrection.

    The best sample design I've found so far is Goodbye, Old 500 Page on Think Vitamin ( You can also see error page examples from NetTuts+ (one and two) and Smashing Magazine (one). Search the page for 500 in all of them as they're in multiple locations.

    I really liked the idea about sending the visitor an message when the page is up again. Upvote it is!

    I like the principle of being able to report - but I think that example error page given actually has too much information on it. Users have to think about it - and that's bad.

    Came here to tell you that - all - links are dead / not linking to the proper resource.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM