On average, over 20% of site visits can be lost by a 404 page!
A 404 page is that useless page that turns up when you..
- click on a page link that has been moved
- click on a link in an old email where the page is no longer there
- or any other number of possible reasons!
Most of the default 404 pages are unintelligible for the non-geek. First of all, the page has the word “Error” preceded by a meaningless number. For most people over the age of 40 this, immediately gets them a little nervous, reminding them of blue screens of death and DOS commands gone wrong..
Aside from the internet explorer / IIS error, you will likely see this generated by default from an Apache web server:
When non-sophisticated browsers hit it, they often report thinking:
- this site is broken completely
- my computer is no longer connected to the net
- this site might be a bad site, might give me a virus
- it must be an old site
- etc.. etc..
Even sophisticated browsers will tell you they do not bother hitting the back button and re-starting their search:
- these guys don’t know how to maintain a site
- obviously they don’t have what I want
- I’ll just go to Google and start my search over
5 Things Your Custom 404 Page Should Have:
1. A clear, friendly un-alarming description
“Sorry, the page your looking for was moved.”
Also, because a 404 error can harm your brand, you may want to inject some creativity into it. Some fun & creative examples can be found at smashmagazine.com’s 404 revisited article.
2. A Clear Call to Action
“Please search here or use the sitemap to find what you’re looking for”
3. A Prominent Search Bar with a clear purpose:
4. Prominent Sitemap
Zappos.com is the world’s largest online retailer of shoes. When someone hits their 404 page, the first call to action is a summarized product catagory list that gets the buyer right back into searching products:
* What we can learn from Zappos is that displaying your entire sitemap probably isnt as effective as displaying the top 3-5 places that people go on your site / or the top 3-5 places you want them to go!
5. Prominent Homepage Link
The word “HOME PAGE” will suffice
2 Things to Drop: the words “404″ and “Error” both are fairly irrelevant to your average visitor.
My Top 5 404 Pages:
Additional 404 Resources: