In an ideal world, you would never need a 404 error page. Links would never break, resources would stay in one place, and visitors would seamlessly navigate around your website by clicking on links. Every once in awhile however, visitors on your website will stumble upon the dreaded 404 error page:

404 Error Page

There are a number of different error codes that can be returned by a web server, but the 404 error is the most common one that your site's visitors will run into. It basically means that the page the visitor was trying to reach cannot be found. This could be because the page has moved to a new URL or simply been removed from the website. 

While you can take steps to correct these errors on your site when you find them, it is also important to make sure that you have a worthwhile 404 error page in place that helps your visitors find what they're actually looking for in the event that they encounter this error.

Making Marketing Focused 404 Pages

1. Search Box - One great feature is to have a search box that is featured prominently on the page. Your visitor was clearly looking for something , and while they may not have found it on their last click, a quick search should send them in the right direction.

2. Navigation - You also probably want to include a site navigation section, so that visitors can continue browsing your site immediately, without having to go back a page.

3. Fun - Some websites like to include quirky apologies in their 404 pages. These aren't totally essential from a usability stand point, but they can go a long way to calm a visitor who might otherwise be frustrated.

Marketing Focused 404 Page Examples

1. Smashing Magazine - An apologetic graphic and easy navigation make this 404 page fun and useful.

2. Cut and Taste - A great 404 page that quickly gets the visitor back to what they're looking for.

3. Psyked - A great 404 error page that explains what happened and offers some easy suggestions to encourage the visitor to keep clicking around the site.

While we as marketers hope that visitors never see error pages, the truth is that it does happen occasionally. It is important to put some thought into them and help your visitors find what they're looking for on your website.

What is the best 404 error page that you have ever seen?

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Originally published Feb 8, 2011 1:00:00 PM, updated October 20 2016


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