Oops! Something went wrong – Best practices for 404-pages

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by Joonas Kyyhkynen
on

Published by: Luxus Worldwide

“Sorry, page not found” is as synonymous with using the Internet as ‘you’re on mute’ is with business calls. A user may be directed to a 404-page for many reasons, typically, the server is down, the page is removed, the URL is wrong, or the page never existed. 404-pages are especially common in online stores when a product is no longer for sale (gutting!), or when a certain campaign has ended. 

Luxus logo in rows

Naturally, landing on ‘page not found’ can be frustrating. Particularly when the user is merely informed that the page does not exist, or they are directed back to the home page with no explanation. The overall confusion and disorientation does not make for a pleasant online experience, and may well cause the user to leave the site altogether.  

So, what does make for a good 404-page? How do you keep the user engaged when the inevitable error happens?

Be creative

Here is your chance to be personal and unique. A simple ‘We couldn’t find the page you were looking for’ will not do. Creating a brand related, or even self-deprecating, messagwill add a unique edge to your website. However far you take your humour is up to you, but anything that makes it a memorable laugh is bound to keep the user happy, instead of a decisive turn-off. Add a visual, like LEGO who is known for their playful brand image, and you’ve got 404-page gold!  

A confused Lego character holding an unplugged cord

Navigation

Even on a 404-page, it is really important from the user’s perspective that the site remains consistent. Clear navigation helps the user continue browsing the site, and so, the header and footer should not be different from the other pages. A search box could play a vital role too, so that the user has the option to search for alternative pages. Ideally, the user should also be able to access the sitemap and therefore continue browsing on the site. For example, Apple has a clear structured and simple but consistent 404-page that allows the user to continue browsing without feeling lost.

Apple's 404-page with navigation items, search box and link to the sitemap.

Relevant additional content

Wouldn’t it be nice if, when shopping online, the site offered you a carousel of alternative products on the 404? Likewise, on news sites, suggestions of similar articles would prove useful for the user. MTV's 404-page is promoting featured TV-shows with their own fresh way. Anything that offers an alternative route and keeps the users engaged is key.

Music Television's 404-page with featured TV-shows

Contact and feedback

When facing an error, many users are willing to give feedback or contact the provider in order to report about the malfunction on the site. It has to be a quick process, though, asking them to leave their personal details will not suffice. Spanish travel technology company Amadeus provides several options on their 404-page, one of them being a feedback form with clear and simple approach. 

Amadeus IT Group's 404-page with navigation and links to the homepage, search page, sitemap and feedback form.

Reconsiderations

If a certain page with 404-error gains a significant amount of traffic, it might even be worth developing a specific landing page for the address. There are plenty of ways to inspect and keep on track with 404-pages, with tools such as Google Analytics. 

Interested in how to improve the look of your website? Drop us a line!