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design the perfect WordPress 404 page: 5 top tips

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When a link on your WordPress site can’t be found, users will be redirected to a 404 page. This can be extremely frustrating, leaving people likely to exit your site before finding the content they need.

It’s easy to add and update your 404 message page via your WordPress dashboard, under Appearance > 404 Error Page.

But what should your page say? How can you engage your users and encourage them to stay on your WordPress site?

In this article, we give our top tips for perfecting your WordPress 404 error page:

1. prevent users reaching the page

As the old adage says, prevention is better than cure.

Have you done everything you can to reduce broken links on your WordPress site? The best strategy is always to prevent users reaching your 404 page in the first place.

Make sure to check regularly for broken links on your site, and to add redirects whenever you delete content or update URLs.

2. acknowledge the mistake

Reaching a 404 error page isn’t the user’s fault, so it’s a good idea to admit responsibility for the problem and apologise.

A simply ‘sorry’ is often all that’s needed to maintain a positive relationship and encourage users to stay on your WordPress site.

3. provide links

To avoid users exiting, your 404 error page needs to make it as easy as possible to continue browsing. Encountering the words ‘file not found’ or similar is definitely not going to convince users to stay around!

Make sure that your 404 page includes links to your homepage and any other popular content, as this will encourage users to click through. If possible, including a search box will also help users find the content they’re looking for.

4. think about design

Although your 404 page can’t be found within your WordPress website menu, it’s still part of your overall web design and style.

Whatever text and graphics you use for your 404 page, make sure they fit in with your brand’s colour palette, tone of voice and house style. You should also ensure your logo and any website headers/footers appear, so that the page is consistent with the rest of your site.

5.  consider using humour

A 404 page is a brilliant opportunity to showcase the more creative and playful side of your organisation. Including something silly or humorous can help keep users a good mood and reduce the frustration of clicking on a broken link.

For example, for the Pedalo 404 error page, we have a graphic of an astronaut floating in space, with the message ‘Don’t panic, we’ll guide you back’.

need help or inspiration?

If you’re still not sure how to craft the perfect 404 page, these nine awesome 404 error page examples are great for inspiration!

If you’d like on-demand help with this or any other aspect of WordPress website management, please get in touch.