In this post I will explore a few of the ways you can be certain your 404 page is working hard for you, in addition to looking at some creative illustrations to receive your ideas flowing.

We’ve all been there: you have searched for something on a web site and a 404 webpage was returned, saying the page doesn’t exist.

This is a frustration for the consumer, but an honest and well-designed 404 page may actually permit you to direct that visitor to additional helpful info on your website. This is an chance to show your users the way you manage the customer experience so that even if something goes wrong, you will have a strategy in place to cope with this.

Do not Just Rely on the Default

Most good content management systems (CMS) will have a default 404 page built in and therefore, if you don’t update the webpage, this is the one which will reveal if a 404 is returned. The default page might only be a line of text using the error code, that could leave your site visitor feeling frustrated and disenchanted with the site experience. There would normally be no hints on where else to browse to, and the plan of the webpage would usually be sterile and unconsidered.

When the site visitor has clicked through to your site from an outside link, only to see that the page no longer exists, then it’s unlikely that they’re going to take some time to click elsewhere on the website. Especially if the one thing that they were looking for is unavailable and you haven’t publicly offered up an alternative solution.

With online competition as fierce as it has ever been, there is really no excuse for not upgrading your 404 pages, considering with most modern CMS’ that this procedure is fairly straightforward.

Think Outside the Box – add some humour?

So a visitor has landed on your own site and they’re presented with your custom 404 page. However, what exactly does it look like? What do you say? Where do you send them?

As with any business interaction with your client, it’s worth giving this a little consideration and considering the approach which you would like to take.

You Can Make It Funny
Humour has a humorous way, (no pun intended), of diffusing frustration and when done well, can transform a negative experience into a beautiful one. Consider ways to add an element of humor to the page, to surprise the visitor.

For instance, Bluegg has evolved their 404 page using a much more funny and smart strategy.

Originally, the under feisty goat was the star of this 404 page layout:

As I said, this has evolved and now the following sits on the 404 webpage:-

3. Make It Relevant

The visitor is on your site, so they obviously have some intent to discover more about what you’re doing. It might work well to incorporate some light-hearted components of your brand in how you communicate your message.

MailChimp does so nicely on their 404 webpage, with the MailChimp monkey featured, looking like the Incredible Hulk.

mailchimp 404 page

To Re-Cap

Hopefully, the above points have given you some food for thought when considering how to design and structure your own 404 pages.

To summarise the things we’ve discussed:-

  • Do not simply rely on the default
  • Think outside the box
  • Make it applicable
  • Add more value
  • Be consistent