From a user experience point of view, 404 pages are not something you want to see. If you reach one, it means the content is gone or has been moved. Also, the average Internet user has no idea what the “404” actually means, even though that’s usually the message they see. For webmasters and search engine marketers, 404 pages can provide a valuable opportunity to market your website, instead of frustrating your visitors.
However you decide to make your 404 page, keep these principals in mind:
404 Page Principals for Search Marketing
- Try to make the page look similar to the rest of your website
- Use language that the user will understand
- Explain to the user where they are and how they got there
- Include a search box so a user can find what they’re looking for
- Link back to your homepage
- Link to something unique on your website
- If you can’t do any of the above, at least do something memorable
Let’s look at how some high profile websites handle their 404 pages.
StumbleUpon takes a more traditional approach, but at least they maintain their site design, link to their home page and have a funny message, “It’s not the end of the world…”
Pownce keeps it simple with, “Ack! We can’t find that page.” and they show off their age with retro-cool Star Wars reference.
Mixx provides a clever page and aesthetically pleasing page, but I’d like to see the navigation.
LiveJournal does an excellent job of stating the error message (without the number) and explaining to the user what has happened. However, nothing can explain a goat reading a newspaper while taking a crapper.
In true Fark style, there’s a basic message with a well endowed squirrel. More could be said, but there’s really no need.
Etsy has a Zelda “I am error.” page. They include their navigation and site search capability, which is good.
The error page for Boagworld encompasses most of the 404 page features we prefer. It includes their site navigation, a mildly funny “Zoinks!!!” and clear messages with appropriate links.
On the other hand, Pukka Dawn provides an orange. That’s right, just an orange.