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We are sorry. The page you are looking for does not exist.

“Well, dang. Now what?”

Things go wrong: old pages are moved or removed, links can be bad, and users misspell urls. When a user navigates to a page that doesn’t exist, an error message appears explaining that something has gone wrong.

The returning page is called a 404 error page, and it is easy to undervalue what can be done with this page to improve the effectiveness of your website.

MasterPlan Website 404 page designed by ZeroBulb

MasterPlan Website 404 page designed by Zero Bulb

Here are some ways you should be using your 404 errors to help keep users on your website.

Engage your visitor

First, make it clear that the user landed in an unexpected location, but still engage the visitor. Stay away from the default “Content Not Found” – that’s boring and doesn’t speak to your visitor. Try something like “Oops. Something broke.” or “We tried and tried, but can’t find what you are looking for”. Use this page as an opportunity to use the tone of the error message to reflect your branding.

Use visuals and layouts to help lighten the 404 page. Refrain from making the the page look like a default computer error and more like a purposely designed part of the website.

Need some inspiration?

Google 404 Error Page

Google 404 Error Page

 

Slack 404 Error Page Screenshot

Slack 404 Error Page Screenshot

 

YouTube 404 Error Page Screenshot

YouTube 404 Error Page Screenshot

 

Dribbble 404 Error Page Screenshot

Dribbble 404 Error Page Screenshot

 

Guide your visitors

Next, answer the question “now what?”

Where do you want your user to go? Hopefully your site has a goal-oriented funnel directing your visitor. Suggest things that the user might be looking for, or encourage a visit to a specific page, or guide the user to fill out a form. Don’t underestimate the opportunity to message your visitor. Turn a wrong turn into an effective page with real conversion rates.

See also :  The Case for Microsites – When And Why

More 404-spiration:

Bing 404 Error Page Screenshot

Bing 404 Error Page

 

Asana 404 Error Page Screenshot

Asana 404 Error Page

 

Provide alternative content

Simplify the navigation to help get the user to the location he/she was intending to arrive at in the first place. This can discourage the user from using the back button and, instead, start exploring the site.

A few more examples:

LinkedIn 404 Error Page

LinkedIn 404 Error Page

Microsoft 404 Error Page

Microsoft 404 Error Page

Although you never intend for your user to hit this error, and you should make an effort to maximize the return of this page.

Don’t underestimate the ability you have to help lost visitors engage with your site and maintain your digital influence.

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