I occasionally have webmasters writing to tell me that they have published their web page using either their web editor or an FTP program, only to find that when they visit their website, they still see their web host's default web page or perhaps even a 404 File Not Found error page. This article discusses the causes of the problem and suggests some ways to fix it.
This article may apply to you if after publishing (or uploading) your web page, you still see one of the following on your website:
You get a "404 File Not Found" error when you type in the exact web address ("URL") of the page you just published.
You still see the default web page that your web host puts on your website. (Most web hosts put up a web page with some dummy content on your website when you sign up with them, so that you don't get an unfriendly "File Not Found" error when you proudly test your website. This web page, by default, is generally overwritten, or perhaps just overridden, by any new "index.html" web page you publish.)
You see an old version of your web page, one that, theoretically, should have been overwritten by the one you uploaded/published.
Note: this article is not for those who haven't published/uploaded any web page yet. If you're reading this article because you're curious about creating a website, please see How to Make/Create Your Own Website: The Beginner's A-Z Guide instead.
There are a number of possible causes for not being able to see your newly uploaded web page in your browser. Below is a checklist of the common ones. Please don't assume that an item does not apply to you because it looks obvious. Check everything.
Probably the most common error committed by newcomers is that they have published or uploaded their web page to the wrong folder on their site. Web servers are configured in such a way so that they only serve pages that are placed in specific folders. This is intentional, since if anybody can access any folder on the web server, your visitors may end up being able to read your email and other private data. As such, for the security of your other files, only files placed in special folders (directories) are recognized.
On most web hosts, your web pages have to be placed in a "www" or "public_html" folder in your account. Other web hosts require your files to be placed in a subdirectory named after your domain name. For example, if your domain name is "example.com" then your web pages need to be uploaded to an "example.com" folder. And so on. Different hosts have different setups.
In view of this, you cannot simply upload/publish your website willy-nilly into any folder you like. Your files may end up in one of your private directories, where it cannot be seen by anyone except you.
The best thing to do in such a case is to find out from your web host what the correct folder for publishing your web pages is. If you use a commercial web host, chances are that this information has already been given to you in the confirmation email when you first signed up with them. It is often also available on the web host's website, in their online documentation. Or you can just ask them.
After you find out the correct folder, modify your settings in your web editor or FTP program accordingly. Instructions for how to do this for Dreamweaver can be found in chapter 1 of the Dreamweaver CS6 Tutorial, Dreamweaver CS5.5 Tutorial, Dreamweaver CS5 Tutorial, Dreamweaver CS4 Tutorial and the Dreamweaver CS3 Tutorial. Users of KompoZer can find the equivalent information in the KompoZer Tutorial, while Nvu users should check the Nvu Tutorial. I also have a FileZilla tutorial for those using the FileZilla FTP program to upload their pages instead of a web editor.
If your domain name is, say, "example.com" and you expect to see your newly published web page on your website when you type
"http://www.example.com/" in your web browser, the new web page should be named "
index.html". That is to say, the web page should have
a filename of "
index.html" and no other name or variation. To make this doubly clear, "
Index.html" is wrong, as is
INDEX.HTML". The name should be exactly "
index.html", with all small (lowercase) characters and no spaces
As mentioned in the article How to Create
Good Filenames for Your Web Pages, filenames on the Internet are often case sensitive. That is to say, "
index.html" are two different things altogether. This may not be obvious to Windows users, since Windows is blind to case.
But most web servers are not, and two names with different capitalization will be regarded as two different files.
In addition to this, web servers also recognize "
index.html" as a special file which it will deliver when you a URL
that does not include a filename. That is, "http://www.example.com/" and "http://www.example.com/index.html" both show the same
index.html". If you name your home page "
Home Page.html", the web server will not deliver that
file when you type "http://www.example.com/".
Note that this does not mean that you cannot have web pages with names other than "
index.html". That is of course not true. After all,
if you look up at your browser's address bar, you'll notice that the article you're reading has a URL of
"https://www.thesitewizard.com/faqs/default-page-after-publishing.shtml", meaning that its filename is "default-page-after-publishing.shtml".
However, this article is not the main page of thesitewizard.com or one of its subdirectories, so it can have any name I want.
Technically speaking, the main page of a directory/website can be named a number of different things depending on the type of
web server software your
web host uses and how they have configured
it. For example, many web hosts also allow the main page to be called "
index.htm" in addition to "
index.html". Some of these filenames cause the web server to treat the
file as something more than just a straightforward web page. Since you are reading this article, and therefore likely to be new
(or fairly new) to website making, it's probably best to just use "
index.html" as the filename for your main page.
In addition, there are also web hosts which allow "
default.html" or "
default.htm" to be used the index
page of your folders and main website. If you want to be absolutely certain, the best way of finding out what the correct filename for your
index page should be is to ask your web host. They are the only ones who can tell you for certain, since they are the ones who
configured the names of the pages on their server.
If you're sure you've published your files to the right folder, using the correct names, but still see the default page from your web host, there is a possibility that your web browser has cached an old copy of your web page. This can occur if you have recently looked at your website in your browser, such as just prior to uploading your new page. To speed up the web browsing experience, most (if not all) web browsers keep a copy of the web pages you've recently accessed in an internal cache. When you request the same web address again, instead of going to the Internet to get a new copy of the page, they simply show you their old cached copy. This speeds up your browsing experience and saves you bandwidth.
To get around this, try the following:
Refresh/reload the page in your browser. If you use Firefox, this can be done by hitting Ctrl+R (that is, hold down the Ctrl key and press the "r" key). If you use Internet Explorer ("IE"), hit the F5 key. I understand that you can use Ctrl+Shift+R to refresh the page in Chrome.
Alternatively, use a different web browser to check your website. For example, if you have used IE to load your site previously, use Firefox or Vivaldi instead. If you don't have any alternative browser, get them. They're all free, and as a webmaster, you need to check your website in multiple browsers anyway.
If refreshing the page does not work, clear your browser cache. This will force the browser to retrieve a new copy of the page when you type your URL in the address bar.
For example, Firefox users can hit Ctrl+Shift+Delete, select "Everything" in the "Time range to clear", uncheck everything in the dialog box that appears except "Cache", and click the "Clear Now" button. Internet Explorer users should click "Tools | Internet Options", click the "Delete..." button in the "Browsing history" section of the dialog box that appears, and finally click the "Delete" button in the new dialog box that appears. (The exact method and words in the dialog boxes of the web browsers probably change from version to version, especially in Firefox. The above was true of the versions of Firefox and Internet Explorer I used when I wrote this paragraph.)
(Note that these web browsers may have alternative quick ways to delete everything, but if you have saved login data and passwords in your browser or want to preserve your login status or settings at some sites, using those quick ways may also inadvertently wipe out the saved information. So make sure you know what you're doing before using the faster methods.)
Similar to the above situation of your web browser caching an old copy of your web page, if you use a proxy to access the Internet, it's also possible that your proxy server has cached an old version of your page. Note that some Internet providers (broadband or dialup) transparently put up a proxy between you and the Internet, so it's possible that you're using a proxy without your even knowing it.
The only way I know to solve this is to try to refresh your web page in your browser. You may want to try loading your site in an alternative browser and try reloading your page using those browsers. (Internet Explorer sometimes ignores a request to refresh a page, so using an alternative browser is often the only way to do this.) The reload request may force the proxy to check the website again and retrieve the latest version of the page.
Finally, if all else fails, check that you've typed the correct URL in your browser. Frankly, I doubt that this is the cause of your problem, but you never know, since careless errors can happen. It'll do no harm to check anyway.
This section deals with another type of error, which is technically outside the scope of the article, but possibly one that has brought you here to find a solution.
If your website is at, say, "example.com", and you try to go to your website at "www.example.com" only to find that your browser says that the domain does not exist (or words to that effect), it's possible that your web host has not set up their system to answer to the name "www.example.com".
A little explanation is in order here. Where the Internet is concerned, "www.example.com" and "example.com" are two different websites, just as (say) "gmail.google.com" is a different website from "google.com". True, if you own "example.com", you can create any subdomain called "www.example.com", "whatever.example.com", "etc-etc.example.com" and so on. However, by default, these are all regarded as separate addresses.
When you sign up with a web host, most web hosts automatically set "www.example.com" to point to the same place as "example.com", since that is the way most newcomers expect things to be set up. It saves them the time answering technical support questions from puzzled new webmasters when they can't get "www.example.com" to work. However, this is not a guaranteed thing: not all web hosts do this by default. Some web hosts only set up "example.com", and you either have to go to your web hosting control panel or ask their technical support to set up "www.example.com" to point to the same place as "example.com".
Incidentally, do not assume that this is the cause of your problems. If you get a "404 File Not Found" error, or you see your web host's default page, then this section does not apply to you. Getting either of these two errors when you type "www.example.com" means that your "www" subdomain works fine. You should go back to the main section of this article for your solution.
It's only when you get a message from your browser saying that the domain cannot be found, that this situation is a possible reason. Even then, it is by no means certain that it is the cause. If you have only just bought your domain name within the last 1 or 2 days, it's also possible that your domain name hasn't propagated to the rest of the Internet yet: that is, your broadband provider's system (not your web host) still doesn't know about your new domain name. It can sometimes take around 2 days for the rest of the Internet to catch up when a domain name changes hands or is newly bought.
Anyway, if you're sure this section describes your situation, and you're not sure how to fix it, ask your web host for help.
Take heart. The problem of not seeing your web page in your web browser after you publish your website is usually a one-time problem, that is to say, it occurs because you're new to publishing your own site at that particular web host. Once you've encountered it and solved it, chances are that you won't encounter it again (unless you're careless). And even if you do, you will be able to solve it easily the next time.
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