We have seen great discussions on how to design error pages on websites. Many creative examples wait to be explored as an inspiration of what's possible. Some of them are thought-provoking; others are strange. Some explore the limits between funny and appropriate. Others fill our hearts with the openness of a beautiful, never-ending landscape. Sometimes, they simply tell us to come back later, without giving any explanation of what happened, what the cause for the error might have been or what the user could possibly do. Some error pages are more heavy/beautiful than regular pages of the same site as if users will spend the majority of their time there. Yet, even fewer explain as fast as possible how the broken transition from one page to another can be fixed.

While the "not found" error messages are the most common, this doesn't mean that others aren't important too. Another error that can be seen much less frequently is the "forbidden" page, which is rarely discussed. We have all seen at one time or another how access to the content is restricted—by site owners, governments, Internet providers and others. Messages like "This content isn't available to your country yet" or "We are sorry for the inconvenience" or "403 Forbidden" are subtle ways to express an attitude towards a concrete human being in a way that is different from other error messages. Here we don't have technical malfunction of any kind, but a special treatment of someone. Not only can this be demoralizing, but it can cause a defendant response almost on a subconscious level. A user may ask himself: "If they don't respect me, why should I?" What's worse is when a top-level manager writes a signed explanation of why the content isn't available right now. It's probably not a good idea to subscribe under what will appear as incompetent.

It's a good idea to point out why a specific content is disallowed. It may be due to copyright, exceeded traffic limit or something else. This way, the user doesn't have to guess what's wrong, which can give a hint how to change behavior.

The tone of the voice on such pages is extremely important. The formulation of the explanation why access is restricted can determine how the site owner is perceived. If he decides to limit access to a resource, it is still better to be tolerant to the user rather than to appear cold and distant. Taking precautions against brute force attacks is something he needs to keep in mind.

Protecting resources is a sign of fear and insecurity. People, who constantly innovate aren't afraid whether someone would come and steal their work. They are happy that their work will find different incarnations and touch new people/places that weren't possible to reach before. "Forbidden" is a word they rarely use in a spoken language. They find that the resource isn't as important as the unique movement that led to its creation. Letting go of a resource that is likely to get old after a couple of months is a way to prevent attachment to it that will be limiting their mind.