How can you make a great 404 error page for your own website?

There is one fact that no internet user can deny that he or she has stumbled across a 404 page. No matter how irritating or annoying it may feel to land on an error page, you will come across it for sure. Now it is the caliber of the web design and development team to give it such a delightful look so that the users just don’t mind the dead link!

So, what does it mean by a 404 Error Page?

The primary thought behind developing 404 pages is to alert the visitor that the page they are looking for doesn’t exist and redirect them to some other page of the website. A 404 error page displays any one of the following messages below:

  • 404 Error
  • HTTP 404 Not Found
  • The requested URL was not found on this server
  • 404 not found
  • The page cannot be found

The importance of a 404 error page is often overlooked while designing and developing a website. People make all efforts to make the content pages as informative and engaging as possible, but when it’s the turn of the error page, they take it very casually and just use the regular error code. Such an uninteresting error page takes no time to put off a visitor and make him go to a different website. The trick is to make a memorable or less annoying 404 error page that is also fun to design. So, how to create a better looking 404 error page for your site? 

The design of a 404 error page can be of two types – writing a regular generic code or designing your own custom 404 page. The regular generic code will generate the same old generic page which has an in your face message without any emphasis on its aesthetics. On the other hand, custom pages look aesthetically good and also offer a lot of options for the users. They have usable information that the user might be looking for. All you need to have is an access to the host server to do the same. A well laid out custom 404 error page will be eye catchy, user friendly and the information given there will be useful enough to help the user get out of the unfortunate situation in some way.

Never ever flood your error page with a bunch of technical jargon to scare the users. The clever designers say that don’t even use the header, “404 errors” as it will immediately shoo the users away. Many users and first time internet users don’t even know what it means by a 404 error page! A more gentle way would be to write “The page can’t be found”. Remember, the basic idea is to keep the visitors stuck around and not lose them.

Following are some of the information that you can think of including in your error page:

  • You may include a header for your visitors stating why they have landed here. The message should sound empathizing to the users so that they know that they have landed in a wrong page but are still on the right website.
  • Provide a search option on the error page so that your users can easily look for the page they intended to visit.
  • Keep the content minimal but informative enough. The navigation must be simple so that the visitor succeeds in getting out of the page using a few options to know what to do next.

How to make your 404 page usable?

How much your error page would be usable for the users should be the first thing to be taken into consideration. An error page doesn’t necessarily have to be boring, isn’t it? Design and develop a page that is both visually appealing as well as fully functional. A few tips below would be good for you to follow:

  • Let your visitors know that they are not on the page they were actually looking for.
  • Use a friendly language to explain the matter to the users.
  • Include links to the popular posts on your website
  • Ensure that your web server returns the actual 404 HTTP status so that your error page doesn’t show up in the search results when a missing page is requested
  • Intimate Google about your site’s move using the change of address tool

Your error page should define a purpose

You must analyze the relationship of the error page with the rest of the pages of your website. The feel of your error page should be in tandem with the mood of overall design and content of your website. This is the secret to a great error page. If your site gives a mood of humor, so should be the mood of your error page. Even the colours and images should display a consistent design.

Try and maintain a design consistency by using the similar colours, typography, imaging and graphic styles as used in the main content pages.

  • Maintain design consistency. Use the same color, typography and image styles that are integrated on other pages of the website.
  • Give a touch of branding. Include your brand logo, header and footer in the error page so as to maintain the evenness with the rest of the site.
  • Keep your error page visually appealing but easily understandable. Too many gimmicks and “extras” make the page scary and confusing for a user. Instead, keep the tone and feel simple.
  • Try avoiding the scroll bar. A one screen design would be best suited for an error page.
  • Give your users a feel that you apologize for the unfortunate event. Empathize with them for the situation and sound helpful in taking them out of it.
  • Lastly, be creative or funny so that the user’s disappointment gets vanished and he stays interested in your site.