1. provide links for further browsing
Your 404 error page needs to convince the user to carry on browsing your site rather than exiting. Solely seeing the words ‘file not found’ is going to make them want to leave and find what they’re looking for elsewhere. Therefore, at the very least, you need to provide a link back to your website homepage or menu. Ideally, a 404 error page should also provide a search box, popular content or suggested content.
2. acknowledge there’s been a mistake
The fact that the page is no longer there isn’t the user’s fault – indeed, it may well be your mistake, whether you’ve removed the page intentionally or not. There’s no harm in admitting responsibility and apologising on your 404 error page – this helps maintain a positive relationship with users.
3. keep the design consistent
Although your 404 page is a single page which can’t be found within your site menu, it’s still part of your wider web design. Whatever approach you use – whether it’s a serious or humorous, simple or elaborate – make sure it’s inkeeping with the colour scheme and design of the rest of your site. You should also ensure your logo and any website headers/footers appear on the page.
4. add emotion or humour
Yes, there’s been a mistake and yes, this isn’t great for user experience, but it’s also a brilliant opportunity to show the playful side of your brand. By including something silly, emotional or humorous, you can grab the user’s attention and keep them in a good mood. This not only encourages users to continue browsing your site, but also indicates that your brand is warm and personable.
For further inspiration, check out these nine awesome 404 error page examples. Or, for on-demand help with your 404 page, website user experience or any other aspect of digital performance, please get in touch.