How to Make the Most of Your 404 Page: Design It to Reassure

11 May. 20
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Give your visitors a positive experience

We all know the feeling of excitement when we come across an interesting product link or blog post. We enthusiastically click expecting to be taken to the content, only to be left with a sour taste when a 404 pops up. Not only is this annoying to experience as there is often no way to get to the content we want, but it also gives your visitors a negative impression of your brand and your overall website. This is why it is important to ask yourself, what is this 404-page doing for you and how can you design it better to give your visitors a positive experience? We’re going to let you in on how to use 404 pages and provide some examples for inspiration.

What Is a 404 Page & What Makes It Good?

You can think of a 404 page as a landing page. While it isn’t one that people want to land on as it denotes that there was an error reaching the intended page, it can be used to your advantage if you think about it as a landing page instead of an error page. A well-designed 404 gives you an opportunity to make a huge difference in how your customers interact with your brand. So, what makes a 404 page a good one? Simply, one that matches your brand’s aesthetic, messaging and uses comic relief to inform your audience. We will expand on this with a full rundown later on, but first, let’s take a look at the brief history of the 404 pages.

A Brief History of the 404 Page – a Status Error Code

The common myth spinning around the origin of the 404-error code is that it referred to an ancient server room or a physical place. This, of course, is false and rather, the 400 series of numbering was just arbitrary labels that were given to client-side errors at the time. The programmer just happened to be on 404 when the Page Not Found error popped up. The 404 Page Not Found error is considered client-side because the client, which means your web browser, is asking for a resource that either does not exist or cannot be found. While your web browser can access the server that the resource would be on, the resource itself is not available.

As a business, it is important to remember that not all 404 errors are going to be your fault as misspelt URLs and poorly copied links from another source may point to a 404 error on your website. The key here is that while you might not control them popping up, you can control how they are designed and give the intention.

How Do Companies Normally Approach 404 Page “Not Found” Errors?

Typically, when you come across a 404 page, it’s a bare-bones page with not much to it. It simply serves as a notice of error and doesn’t do much more than just link the visitor back to the homepage of the website. While this definitely works, it’s technical and doesn’t really give the visitor anything to understand beyond that the page they were trying to reach isn’t available. Does this approach make for a good 404 error page? We don’t think so!

In our opinion, a good 404 landing page is going to show your website visitor that something has gone wrong and that everything will be alright in the meantime. Instead of just linking back to the homepage, the error page should guide the user to other interesting content. The idea here is to craft memorable content and place it on your 404 pages. Think of it as an opportunity to connect with your visitors in a different way.

So, What Should Your 404 Page Include If It’s Not Bare Bones?

Every 404-page error is going to change according to your brand’s voice, messaging, aesthetics, and industry. That’s okay, just make sure to include the following into the design of your page.

  • Get an Error Message Up! Your website visitors need to know right away, without fail, that they have landed on an error landing page.
  • Inject Your Brand into The Page. What we mean by this is to use your brand’s colour scheme palette, your brand’s voice, and your brand’s message as part of the 404 pages. It needs to have the same cohesive feel and look like the rest of your site.
  • Add a Jolt of Laughter. If you can, come up with a light comic relief to add to your error page. It is important to not go overboard here, as a little laughter goes a long way. If you get this right, your visitors are going to come away with a positive experience.
  • Add Engaging Content.Take some time to figure out what your best content is right now. Then take a minimum of 3 of these links and place them on your error page. This could be blog posts, videos, or even product testimonials. The idea here is to not lose traffic because they landed on an error page. By linking engaging content, you have a much better chance of keeping the visitors within your website.
  • Add Those Buttons!The 404-error page should be thought of as just another landing page. So, use it as such and add in some call-to-action buttons. This could be download buttons for free resources, a sign-up button for newsletters, or even a contact button depending on what industry you are in.
  • Simplicity Wins Here. Don’t place a ton of text on the page. There’s no need to treat it like a long-form blog post. Engine crawlers won’t be indexing the page, so keep it simple, light, and engaging.

What Are the Crucial Elements Needed 404 Pages?

Don’t Let User Error Go to Waste. Standard 404 pages simply redirect users back to where they came from and don’t do anything else. This is such a waste of resources when you could have a 404 page that allows your visitors to see other parts of your website. As we mentioned above, adding in feature pages, blog posts, and links to other engaging content is the way to go. Why? This gives your users more control over their experience and facilitates a positive experience. Maybe even add in a search box function!

Everyone Hates Clutter!Don’t do it. Don’t overwhelm your users with a 404 page that is jam-packed with buttons, links, and text. This is aesthetically frustrating, overwhelming to look at, and it overloads the user into having a bad experience. Use a handful of key links and a button to the homepage, but no more than 4 links!

Microcopy Is Important!Spend time on the microcopy that you place on the page. It needs to mirror the tone of your entire brand and the visuals need to match the microcopy. The best 404 pages will look and serve as if it is a part of the brand itself.

Looking for Inspiration? Check These 404 Pages Out!

  • Mailchimp gives a nice brief explanation but provides the same illustration and personality as the rest of their branding.
  • Lego turns what would be a bad user experience into a useful one that stays on-brand. It provides them with the opportunity to sell to customers and gives a beautiful call-to-action back to their homepage.
  • Omelet’s error page has a touch of humour to it and its simplicity makes it a big winner.
  • Airbnb has quite a unique error page in its aesthetic, which gives the page some flair to an otherwise very minimalistic page. There is a touch of light humour here as well, and they have links to their other pages.

The main thing to remember here is that you can showcase your brand’s personality, creativity, and voice while still reassuring your website visitors and pointing them in the right direction. When you treat 404 pages as landing pages, it becomes an opportunity to convert frustration into a positive experience. To know more about the interesting facts related to the 404 pages, contact us or direct mail to info@letsnurture.com.au

Author

Lets Nurture
Posted by Lets Nurture

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