I’ve come across some beautifully designed 404 pages over the years. However, once the one second of artistic appreciation ends, I’ve been left confused and lost. The designers of those pages, whether Web designers or marketers, missed a great opportunity.
Your 404 page should have two objectives:
- Notify visitors they’ve encountered a problem of some sort while landing on the page they wanted
- Guide the visitor to what they wanted or to something else of value
A 404 page doesn’t have to be a dead end, or even a “Go to [Homepage]. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200” card. It can be a user-friendly and functional page. It can have a greater purpose.
Read on to learn six tips to creating more effective 404 pages. You’ll also see “Not this, But this” examples demonstrating the tips.
Consider this blog post a creative swipe file of 404 pages, if you will.
Reduce Friction and Anxiety
Tip #1. Establish where visitors have landed
Not every visitor on your website who lands on a 404 page will have come from somewhere else on your site. When another site links back to your website incorrectly, or with an expired link, you potentially have visitors who are brand new to your site.
If your 404 page provides no way for new visitors to know where they are, chances are they’re going to press the back button never to be seen again. You just lost an opportunity for a new customer or reader. On the same note, if you provide no useful link for them, the back button is where they’re probably going to go.
The “Not this” page gives me nothing. Am I on a farm page? A livestock for sale website? A personal site for someone who really loves pigs? I have no clue based on the webpage.The “But this” example keeps its logo in place so visitors immediately know where they are. The copy of the page also gives clues as to where they are and what they can do on the site, even on the 404 page.