Make your 404 error page work for you

What if we told you that  your 404 error page could increase your conversion rate and boost your online revenue?

With a little effort you can turn an embarrassing mishap into an event which works for your business and brand.

With the help of a designer, you can produce a creative 404 error page that will raise your conversion rate and encourage traffic, turning passers-by into leads. Sounds great, huh? If you want inspiration on how to do it, then read on…

First, let’s briefly talk about 404 error pages and why they matter.

What is a 404 page?

A 404 error page is a page on your website which visitors are redirected to when they click on a broken link.

This could mean that the content has been moved or deleted, the permalink structure has been changed or the visitor has simply typed the URL incorrectly.

Simply put, if you find yourself on a 404 error page, someone somewhere has messed up.

Ideally, the 404 page would never be seen, but in the real world hiccups happen and that’s why your 404 page to be branded – if it’s not, you are absolutely losing visitors who may write you off and never return.

This is not a good look for anyone…

A custom 404 page is much better.

Here’s several reasons why your 404 page needs your attention:

  • Branding
    Branding your 404 page strengthens visitors’ confidence in your brand and increases the probability of them continuing with your site and not abandon it forever.
  • Builds trust
    Getting is frustrating, so guiding a visitor through your site improves their experience. Taking responsibility for the error is a reliable method of establishing trust between a consumer and a company.
  • SEO
    Your 404 page includes further links to the important parts of your site, which act to assist search engines in reaching its complete structure.
  • Fun
    Humourous 404 pages play on creativity, provide a human touch to an otherwise purely functional page and softens the blow of visitors’ failed expectations.

1. Brand it

404 page

Lego created fully branded their  404 page. It’s fun and easy to understand, free of technical jargon or references to a “404”  or “error”.

All your visitor needs to know is that they haven’t found the page they wanted. They tend not to care why, they simply want a solution.

How to do it:

For starters, replace the techy stuff with normal human language. Instead of the default 404 message, use phrases people will understand:

“Page not found.”
“Sorry, we can’t find the page you were looking for.”
“Oops! Something is broken.”
“Oh dear, this link isn’t working.”

2. Add some humour

Humour goes a long way to adding a human touch to an otherwise purely functional page. Gymbox is a London-based gym offering the “the most unique and diverse classes in London”.

Their 404 page plays on the fact that there are, naturally, limits to the ‘diversity’ of their classes. 80s short shorts, crop tops and pelvic thrusts – what more could you want from an error page?

3. Make it friendly

Where would YouTube be if it hadn’t been for cat videos. For many, those cuddly felines exude a homeliness and friendly charm. That’s likely the reason Cloud Sigma opted to soften their functional image as a provider of cloud hosting with this tongue-in-cheek 404 page. Warmth and friendliness of a familiar household pet.

4. Entertain

Most people seek to navigate off a 404 error page the moment they land on it, but web hosting company Koalo decided to turn that around.

The company has been providing web hosting for more than 15 years – a long time by internet standards – so why not reflect this by branding up one of the oldest and most beloved arcade video games of all time – Space Invaders.

You can even earn yourself a special discount on web hosting if you score 1,000 points. How’s that for an incentive!

Not only does this page provide a welcome distraction, but visitors who play the game raise the duration of visits which helps raising ranking on search engines.

6. Own it

On his website, New York-based artist Steve Lambert describes his as “the most awkward 404 not found page on the internet” and he may be right. It features an excruciating face to camera video that just goes on and on. We defy you to get to the end of his video without any part of your body clenching.

It’s always embarrassing when something unexpected goes wrong. Play on that embarrassment and it demonstrates that you’re prepared for such an instance.

Be merciful! Include a search function to help visitors escape your 404 page.

7. Upsell

A 404 page is essential for any website. For a retail company, if a webpage is not driving of sales, it’s a wasted page. US retailer Steve Madden ensured that their 404 page would work for them by using it to promote trending sales items.

Steve Madden’s 404 page offers up options to lost visitors. The search box is a great addition to any 404 page and providing help for visitors to better navigate tor site shows demonstrates careful consideration.

Consider including:

  • Menu navigation
  • A link back to the homepage
  • A link to your sitemap
  • A search bar
  • Links to popular posts
  • Links to popular products

8. Be responsible

No one likes being lost, and on a site as huge as Amazon, it takes some getting lost to get lost!

Amazon have chosen to comfort lost visitors with pictures of employee’s pet dogs. It creates a momentary distraction from the frustration of arrived at a dead end.

9. Interactive

Email Center UK used a two-part 404 page that took all the blame off the visitor and giving them an entertaining way to vent their 404 frustrations. 

Rather than blaming the visitor, being apologetic goes a long way.

Should you decide to explain the error, avoid use absolutes. Words and phrases like “might have” or “possibly” are always a better option. This wording is less likely to make the visitor feel like the error is their fault.

10. Illustrate

Mailchimp currently use stylised illustration to brand their website.

Their 404 page does away with developer jargon and is worded in such a way to take full responsibility for the situation.

Accompanying the message with a humorous animation ensures it’s 100% on brand.

Time to make your 404 page work for you

There you have it. So great examples of how to brand your 404 error page and make it work for you.

To view your current 404 page, simply type in your homepage URL and add /404/ at the end.

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