What is a 404 page anyway?
A 404 page shows when someone gets lost on your website by using the wrong URL. This can happen for a variety of reasons:
- They typed in the page URL with a typo in it
- The page might be temporarily down or unavailable
- They clicked on a link from a search, but the page no longer exists
- They bookmarked an old page
- You moved or deleted a page on your site, but there are still links back to it from other pages or sites
Note: the last 3 items in the list above could be handled using a 301 or 302 error page (redirect).
Default 404 just doesn't cut it!
A standard ‘Default 404’ pages do not provide a good user experience, they can leave a user feeling frustrated and confused. You feel like you're dealing with a computer, not a professional business or a 'real' person.
It doesn’t provide any options or solutions for the user. In most cases they will search again, or go to a competitors website and that’s bad for business!
Turn the negative into a positive
A custom 404 page takes away the confusion of not landing on the page they had intended to land on. It lets your user know that there is an error with their request. Pointing out that they may have mistyped the URL, or the page is temporarily unavailable, or no longer exists.
In the very least you should display:
- A message
- A link to the homepage or to other important pages within your site
- Display some sort branding
- In some cases you could provide a category listing or site search
A well designed 404 page can:
- Keep users on your site
- Direct them to useful content which could help solve their initial query
- Strengthen your brand and leave a positive impression
- Improve SEO (can lower your site bounce rate)
Here are a few good 404 examples
Most of these inject a human element (even an inside joke) that feels warm and more personal. The other more practical examples provide plenty of options for you to explore their sites in more detail.