We've all clicked on a link that doesn't actually work and ended up landing on a 404 error page - and most of the time, it's not most interesting experience. But it doesn't have to be that way!
With a bit of creative thinking and humour, a boring error page can not just amuse website visitors but it can also drive engagement from site visitors. The good folk at Digital Doughnut have put together an excellent article explaining the dos and don'ts of 404 pages, and it's really worth taking a look at!
As Digital Doughnut explains:
A 404 error page implies that a website was unable to find the page you requested. There are a few reasons for error messages to exist on a website. Research tells us that typos, and old links in emails and bookmarks lead the charge at 45.87% for the source of 404 errors. Broken links on a website are less prevalent as a cause of 404 errors, at just 17.58%, which essentially means that the vast majority of 404s generated on your site are out of your control.
This is important because statistically, only 23% of website visitors that encounter a broken link make a second attempt to find the missing page- 70%+ of people who reach a 404 error page will leave your website and not return. No matter the reason for a 404, certain websites have taken the initiative to create funny, clever and visually masterful error pages to engage their visitors.
However, while creativity is key in a 404 error page, the visual design of the page is only one facet. Exhibiting functional options to easily navigate away from the error page to other areas of the website are also essential to producing a useful 404 ‘not found’ page that drives engagement from site visitors.
So what do you need to do to make a great 404 page? Here's a couple of tips we gleaned from the folks at Digital Doughnut.
• Start with a gentle apology to the user for landing on an error page on your site, politeness counts for something!
• Include some links to popular pages on your website that they may wish to take a look at instead
• Also include a link to the sitemap
• If you can include a search bar on the 404 page so that your user can try to find what they were originally looking for, even better!
• Appropriate/visually appealing/funny images or GIFs can compliment the above nicely.
If you're curious to see some visual examples and read more about creating excellent 404 pages, head to Digital Doughnut.