A 404 error, which is commonly referred to as a ‘Page Not Found’ error, occurs when a browser can find the specific website but not the page within the site. A 404 page is not helpful nor attractive, so would you really like your visitors to see this?
There are no links to get back on your site, it looks uninviting and it’s as if you don’t care if your visitors are lost on your site. Your potential clients will end up looking elsewhere rather than trying to find a way onto your website. Instead of looking at it as a nuisance, take a 404 error to your advantage by creating your own page to help guide your audience back in the right track. You can do this by making the 404 page look as if it’s part of your website!
A well- customized 404 page will benefit you and your visitors. Here are some of the things that you should take note when making a great 404 page:
Link Back to Your Site
The main purpose of creating your own 404 page is to get lost visitors back on the right path. However, they won’t be able to do this without links back onto your website. For that reason, you must link back to the homepage and one to the sitemap (if you have one). Another possible option is to place a way to search your site on the page. This way, your visitors can search for what they’re looking for without going to a different page first.
Don’t Blame Your Visitors!
There are a lot of reasons why someone lands on a 404 page so be forgiving to your visitors; it might not be their fault. It could be that they’re given the wrong address, they mistyped it or you deleted the page altogether. Remember that these visitors are your potential clients, so get them back on the right direction without implying that it’s their fault.
Be Consistent With Your Design
It’s easy to forget that these pages are part of your website so you tend to design something random. However, keeping the design similar to your website’s overall layout is important. If the page’s design looks different from your site’s design, this could confuse your users and make them think they’ve left your site rather than it being a site error. It’s fine to be creative with 404 pages, but try to maintain some consistency to the design elements to make it easily recognizable as part of your site.
Keep the Tone of Your Site
Just like the layout, try to keep the tone of your 404 error page similar to that of your website. Again, it’s okay to be creative with the page, but just remember your site’s target audience.
Remove Unnecessary Calls to Action
If you’re using a template from your site to create a customized 404 page, don’t forget to remove some parts that make no sense to the page such as links to social media, rating systems and/or a comment section.
Explain What’s Going On
Remember that not all of your visitors understand what a 404 page truly stands for. Unless your site is geared towards those who’ll know what this error code means, you’ll have to explain what has happened and why they are on this page. Simply stating that it’s a 404 page will mean nothing to most that land on this page.
If you’re running an eCommerce site, why not try selling some of your products or services through this page? It could be an excellent marketing ploy, as well as getting potential customers back on the right track. But if you decide to do this, don’t forget that your clients got to this page by accident, so you still need to inform them that the page they’re looking for isn’t there, rather than bombarding them with items they probably weren’t looking for.
Keep It SIMPLE
Yes, it’s easy to get carried away. Sometimes, you even end up writing too much witty dialogue. Don’t overwhelm your users with too many options or let them read a long essay of explanations. Keep it as simple and straightforward as possible so your visitors can get back to what they originally intended for.