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The Importance of the 404 Error page

Picture the scene; it’s 4:45pm on Friday evening, you’re looking forward to the weekend. But before you can leave, you have to check the keywords you used on a specific page on a client’s website. You can’t quite remember the URL, but you think you can make an informed guess. So you type the URL into the search bar and press Enter. “Oh for f**ks sake” you think to yourself as you’re greeted not with the page you wanted, but with a 404 Error page instead.

I’m sure we’ve all accidentally triggered the dreaded 404 Error while typing in a URL or trying to visit a page that no longer exists. The vast majority of the time, they aren’t an interesting page to land on. Either completely white with the words ‘404 Error’ written at the top, or just a simple page saying ‘Oops! This is an error!’ with a small, hidden link back to the Homepage.

When There’s a Work Hard…

It must be said that these pages should be optimised. If a user on your website lands on this page, they need to have a way to access the rest of the website. There are many examples of websites that will just trigger a very dull and unhelpful 404 Error page that literally just has those words written, nothing else, just those words. Obviously, you can just click the ‘Back’ button but that’s not user friendly, there needs to be an obvious link back to the Homepage or a built-in search bar. This way users have an easy route back to where they came from (if they were on the website before that is). Even if they weren’t already on your website, having a way back to the main part of your site is crucial to preventing users from going elsewhere for their needs.

It’s also not just about having well thought out wording on a 404 Error page, it should look like it’s a page on your website too! Time and time again we have seen these error pages that just have no life to them at all, you think “Am I still on the website?”. Everything on your website should be on-brand and follow the established structure, your current and future users will thank you for it. We all want to get where we need to be, and making someone’s experience difficult on your website will just put doubt in their mind about visiting your site again.

…There’s a Play Hard

These pages present a unique opportunity, somewhere to hide a funny joke or showcase some of the brilliant artwork that Sam from Graphic Design produced last Tuesday. The possibilities are endless.

Two such great examples of the fun that can be had with 404 Error pages are the websites for the Conservative and Labour parties. Both don’t hold back and throw a few punches at each other (which is pretty par for the course); I’m sure the meeting where the artwork and wording for this page was decided was interesting indeed!

As well, another little quirky example is Peugeot, if you happen to stumble across their 404 Error page, you will be greeted quite literally by a 404, as Peugeot produced a car with this model designation back in the 1960’s.

So next time you come across a 404 Error page, don’t just swear because you accidently typed ‘Droll’ instead of ‘Drill’, think about how useful that page is and how it looks, it might give you some ideas on how to improve your own!

The Topclick Team

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