The importance of a good 404 page

What is a 404 page?

For those of you who don’t know, and in an ideal world, you wouldn’t, I will give you a brief insight into what a 404 page is.

A 404 page is what sometimes gets presented to a website visitor when the page they’re visiting doesn’t exist. They might not exist due to a mistyped address, a bad link from somewhere else, a deleted page or content that has moved elsewhere.

So if someone mistyped, rather than, they would reach my 404 page. Give it a try, click above. But don’t forget to come back and finish reading.

Essentially it’s a page that is reached in error, so rather than show them a generic error message, which is good to no one, you should utilise this page and assist people in finding what it was they were looking for in the first place. Improve their user experience (UX) with some simple assistance.

What are my options?

Your 404 options are endless, many people have funny and interesting graphics, witty text and error messages. I am not opposed to any of these things, although I would ensure that your primary page space is saved for only the things that are useful.

I have opted for some common links to my popular live pages, ,y latest blog articles, a blog category list to browse from as well as a contact form. That tied with my main menu, the user can navigate my entire website from this 404 page, so even though they reached it through an error of some sort, they’re certainly not lost.

Have a look.

You have other options like incorporating Google’s Custom Search API. Google’s Custom Search API is a tool for searching within an individual website. When set up, it enables you to retrieve what it considers to be the best match from your website.

It also allows a full website search, offering Google search results back. This is ideal for extremely large websites, with hundreds/thousands of pages and articles.

You can redirect your 404 page, to another page on your website. Most likely options are redirecting to your homepage, or sitemap page. This is effective in allowing people to continue browsing your website, but can be frustrating if the visitor was looking for a specific page, and without notice or explanation, they are sent somewhere else.

Bottom line

The bottom line is, no matter how experimental or creative you get with your 404 page, ensure that the content is useful and assists people in finding where they were going in the first place. This is hugely important to the users and they will be grateful for not hitting a dead end on their journey.