The Benefits Of A 404 Page

Posted on August 9, 2012

In its simplist form, a "404 page" is a page a website visitor was trying to reach that could not be found on the server. In its technical form, it is an error message indicating that the client was able to successfully communicate with the server, but that the server was unable to find what was requested.

There are many ways that a visitor might reach a 404 page. Maybe Google has archived a page that is no longer active on the site. Maybe the site has incorrectly linked to a page that never existed. Maybe the visitor even incorrectly navigated to a page by mispelling the actual page name in the address. The end result of any of these is often the visitor landing on a page that says something along the lines of "The webpage cannot be found." This page doesn't link to anywhere else on the site, leaving the visitor to either click the back button or to leave the site entirely. Obviously, neither of those options are ideal.

Fortunately, you can create a custom 404 page on your website using your HTACCESS file that automatically gets displayed if and when a visitor encounters one of these errors. The benefits of having a custom 404 page not only helps on the search engine optimization front, but also increases usability for users. Here are some tips and tricks you might want to implement for your own 404 page.

Provide Links To Your Site:

Instead of ending the navigation flow entirely, provide links to other pages on your site. Your visitor was looking for something on your site. Direct them to popular navigation branches within your site so they can try to navigate to the proper page.

Identify Yourself:

You don't need to entirely fall on the sword, but let your visitor know that they have reached this page in error. If a visitor reaches a 404 page thinking it should be a product page, if they aren't instantly aware that the page they are on isn't the one they are looking for, they may click away and never come back.

Have Fun:

If you are a bank or other professional organization, take this suggestion with a grain of salt, but you can have some fun with your 404 pages. In fact, funny 404 pages are a bit of an artform.

Some of our favorites include:

  • Proteys: Complete with dancing characters, music, caution signs, and more.
  • Huwshimi: Clearly, it wasn't a bad address. It was ninjas.
  • Lego: Lego characters looking on in disbelief to the bad connection.

If you would like assistance with developing your own 404 page, please feel free to reach out to us. We are always happy to help.

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