What is a 404 page and why do you need one?
One of the most common (and sometimes most irritating) errors you can come across on the internet is "404 Page Not Found". This happens when you follow a broken link or when an address is no longer active. Having broken links on your website makes for a poor browsing experience and you should remove or replace them with different links...as long as they are relevant. Default 404 pages are dull and overloaded with text and technical jargon. Most people simply won't read it and leave your site. Using custom 404 pages gives you the chance to capture your visitors by redirecting them.
But sometimes, a visitor getting an error page may not be your fault. Most commonly, users land on a 404 page because of a mistyped address. This is why it's good practice to have a custom 404 page to explain to the visitor that an error has occurred.
Think about these 3 tips when designing your 404 page
Turn a user error into a user opportunity
Once a visitor lands on your 404 page, the chance of them leaving your site becomes extremely high. Provide them with enough detail to keep moving through your site. Think of it as providing a solution to the problem. Provide links to other pages on your site. You could include a navigation menu or you could provide a search box.
Another option could be to add a report button incase you didn't know it was there - you could even offer some sort of compensation for ending up on the 404 (depending on your business type of course) such as a free download.
Keep it related to your site
Despite the fact there is an error, the error is still occurring on your site. Make sure your 404 page is still relevant to your site. The layout, the colour scheme and the logo should all be the same so it identifies with your website.
The branding of your 404 page needs to be consistent because the user still needs to know they are on the right site.
Explain the problem
Now this one is tricky because it may not be your fault there is an error. However, let the user know why they have landed on your 404 page. You could nicely suggest they check they have the correct website address, or you could apologise, or you could simply say the page doesn’t exist. You could also encourage them to contact you to let you know there is a page error
Contrary to popular belief, Google’s John Mueller has said having 404's are not a signal of low quality site, but simply just an indicator that certain URL's on your site do not exist ie your SEO will not be affected.
If you don't have a custom 404 page or want to redesign your current one, we offer a combination of back-end and front-end development to ensure it is technically correct and visually appealing. Let's talk further about how we can turn your errors into opportunities.
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