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Tips on creating useful and elegant Error 404 pages

One of the most frustrating things on the web is when you think you’ve found what you’re looking for, and after you click on the link to that page, you get an error saying “404 Page not found”. We’ve all seen that too many times, haven’t we? The default style is the error information on a plain white background, but it can vary according to certain ISPs. It’s not very useful, and simply hurts user experience, making us want to navigate away to another site altogether. Now, imagine if the broken link was on your site. You can let your visitors walk away, or you can do something about it. If you have access to your server, you can create Error 404 pages can are useful to people, and even a little fun.

Junk the plain white background (unless you are a minimalist). Style your custom 404 page the same way as the rest of your site, as this prevents people from feeling lost and minimizes frustration. This includes navigation, which is key. It provides your visitors plenty of options on where to go next, keeping them within your site.

Make it friendly. The text should clearly state that the page they’re looking for can’t be found, providing reasons (broken link, deleted page, mistyped URL). Make it personal yet concise, as in this case. Or, you can write poetry, like this one and this one.

Use catchy images. A great way to personalize and make your 404 page fun is to incorporate graphics. Examples can be found here and here.

Provide alternatives. Aside from making your site’s navigation links available, try adding links to your most popular articles or posts. Also, you can add a search box and entice visitors to use it, like this.

Make allies out of your visitors. No matter how much fun your 404 page is, it still means something wrong happened along the way, and it’s best to minimize these if you can. Provide a way for users to quickly and effortlessly report a broken link.

Last thing is that unless you want your custom 404 page to appear in Google search results and other search engines, ensure that sure that your webserver returns a 404 HTTP status code when a missing page is requested.

2010-05-25T21:49:55+00:00 May 29th, 2008|Design, Tools and Tips|0 Comments

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