Building the Perfect 404 Error Page

You must have seen a couple of these. Who knows, perhaps one of your sites is at this exact moment showing a 404 error page where you previously had a great resource. You should always ensure your website is not broken and if anything should break, the 404 error page shown in the absence of the resource intended doesn’t send the prospects away.

For instance, how does this feel?

building-the-perfect-404-error-page-poor-example-WDExplorer

Arrrgh. Cringe Attack. Get it away from me! Now, see this…

building-the-perfect-404-error-page-good-example-WDExplorer

The devil is in the details. Just imagine how much you can accomplish with a simple 404 error page and a bit of creativity?

The Perfect 404 Error Page is Branded

Oh yeah, it must look exactly like the rest of your website. Otherwise, users will run away in panic since the error page is starkly different from the rest of your website. Look at these awesome examples:

building-the-perfect-404-error-page-mint-example-WDExplorer

Well done mint.com, well done.

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Copyblogger.com even retained their side bar, which unfortunately is not visible in our illustration above.

building-the-perfect-404-error-page-facebook-example-WDExplorer

Facebook.com use the familiar ‘Like’ button but with a twist (the thumb is broken). They maintain the brand colors and keep it simple. And to think this might be your error page:

building-the-perfect-404-error-page-poor-example-WDExplorer

Haha. No. It won’t work.

One of the reasons that default 404 error page elicit feelings of panic in visitors is that they are visually starkly different from the page they were just on. – Vee Tardew

The Perfect 404 Error Page Has Emotive Appeal

Humor always does the trick. If your prospect laughs (or even chuckles), you’re half way there. You can also choose to offer an apology on your error page or explain what happened (in plain English please) to the customer. You can combine all three – get creative.

Using humor, you can easily transform your error pages to landing pages – the first point of contact with your products. Don’t believe me? Look at this example:

building-the-perfect-404-error-page-funny-example-WDExplorer

Keep It Simple and Add Links…

…to relevant pages and other resources. You want to direct the reader to your homepage or sitemap. You can direct them to products as we saw in the example above. Keeping it simple means your customers won’t be distracted.

Add a Search Box

You can go a step further and add a search box to your error page. This gives the user the chance to find what they were initially looking for. With a search box (and perhaps a nice navigation menu), the user has more options.

You can try and suggest search terms or give users deliberate cues on where they should go.

Fix the 404 Error

Adding personality and a little warmth to your 404 error page does not mean romanticizing the idea of tolerating evident errors.

At the same time, it is important to remember that errors are inevitable and even the best of websites break once in a while too. You better be prepared with a custom error page that compliments your website when something breaks.

But before you go to sleep at the end of the day, ensure you have fixed these errors. User experience on your website will improve significantly and even Google will reward you with some great rankings.

Check your links regularly or after making major changes to your website. You can use W3C’s Online Link Checker tool.

That said, here are five (5) more examples of 404 error pages done right for your inspiration:

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building-the-perfect-404-error-page-imp-designs-example-WDExplorer

building-the-perfect-404-error-page-example-three-WDExplorer

building-the-perfect-404-error-page-creative-example-WDExplorer

building-the-perfect-404-error-page-madmimi-example-WDExplorer

See more examples at 33 Brilliantly Designed 404 Error Pages.

Errk, Conclusion Not Found

Every page on your website should work to your advantage. All pages must rally for your cause, and the 404 error page is no exception. With these tips and a bit of creativity, you can build the perfect 404 error page in no time!

Disclosure: This page contains external affiliate links that may result in us receiving a comission if you choose to purchase said product. The opinions on this page are our own. We do not receive payment for positive reviews.
About The Author

Freddy is a WordPress theme reviewer at WP Theme Raves, writer, web developer and founder of Vista Media Enterprises, a nice place dedicated to the online entrepreneur looking to boost conversion rates using effective web content.

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