If you have a website, you need a custom 404 page.
- Because there is nothing LESS “sticky” than a standard 404 page and you want a “sticky” site to retain visitors
- Because you want to deliver the BEST personalized service to your clients online and face-to-face
- Because you hate 404 pages yourself
- Because getting a generic “Error 404: Page not found” makes people run away, feel stupid, belive they have done something wrong, or it simply frustrates them when they didn’t get what they wanted
People don’t like to feel stupid and they avoid situations that make them feel that way. They don’t like to be frustrated and ditto on the avoidance there. You don’t want YOUR site to be the cause of these feelings, do you?
Stuff Happens, Accept It
Mistakes happen. 404 errors occur. Maybe it’s the visitor’s lack of typing skills, maybe a referring page is using an old link and you didn’t properly forward that (using a 301 redirect), or maybe it’s your fault (or your webmaster’s).
What Should You do?
First – take credit for the situation, regardless of who is at fault. It costs you nothing and makes them feel better.
“I’m sorry, something here is broken. I’ll try to get it fixed for you right away. In the meantime…” (you may want to add a way for them to inform you of the error).
Second – offer them another way to access the information they may seek — and KEEP them on your site.
This is a great place for a search bar, a tag cloud, a category’s list or a list of top-rated pages from your site.
Third – Keep it light.
Creativity and/or humor will go a long way to helping you recover from the 404 Error, keep your visitor and even differentiate yourself as that “clever” site with the cool 404 error. And, yes, people do notice such things.
Some Examples of Great 404 Page Resources:
- Excellent resource for custom 404 pages for all webmasters from A List Apart.
- 404 Error customization for WordPress sites
- Funny or unique 404 page approaches (and a good way to misplace a few hours of your valuable time!)
You should realize that good 404 pages are an art form and travel a webring of cool 404 pages. Below are a few that I would like to mention individually (’cause they are so cool):
- Animated 404 Page from Homestarunner (turn down speakers)
- Slightly interactive 404 page
- Political (and a riot if you don’t like Bush all that much)
I am NOT recommending any of the 404 pages above for your business site. They are funny and/or insulting and a total waste of time — but they do show the wide range of techniques used to avoid a standard 404 error page.
I’ve been working on my own “Wicked” version of a Custom 404 Error page (subject to change).
Get any good ideas for your own custom 404 error page? Good! Now I have to get back to work and quit cruising the cool 404 pages… shouldn’t YOU?