Ideally, your site will never return an error. If you’re updating all of your page links regularly and creating redirects for pages that no longer exist, then you are living in error-free bliss.
Back here on Earth, however, with the constant movement and growth of your business, you’re bound to miss a link or forget a redirect here and there. From time to time there is no avoiding it. That’s where our 404 pages come in handy, and it is, in fact, their very purpose. So, if we’re bound to have errors, either way, let’s take a look at some ways that we can put our 404 pages to work for us
Show Some Personality
A broken link on your site can be embarrassing, honest a mistake as it might be. A customer may even become upset that they can’t find with they need. The quickest way to disarm your users in the case of a broken link is by adding a splash of personality to your 404 page. Humor, humility, and a little honesty go a long way in bringing your users back around. Rather than sending them stomping away and slamming the door, use your error page to bring down their guard and immediately regain their trust.
404 error pages should represent your brand visually, but they do not have to follow the rules of the rest of your site. These error pages are a chance for you to have some fun! In the examples above, iStock Photo and Pixar have used this opportunity to connect with users on a personal level. By using messaging such as, “We looked really hard, but it appears that page you seek doesn’t exist anymore,” and “Aww…don’t cry,” they have taken the typically dry messaging of an error, and turned it into something funny, cute, disarming, and relatable. I mean, how can you be mad at poor Sadness?
These seem simple enough examples, but these companies have taken a typically frustrating interaction (or lack of interaction) and turned it into an opportunity to regain trust by appealing to the human emotion of their users. You can then direct your user back into the site with a renewed and friendly feeling about your brand.
Promote Your Products and Content
This is a practice of redirection. To avoid users from becoming frustrated with a missing page on your site, offer options to help them to find what they are looking for. Often, 404 pages are discovered due to a misspelling on the user’s part, or a lack of product or service knowledge. In these cases, offer them an option to search your site to find what they are looking for. Make sure that exact matches are not required in your search so that the user can continue to browse without interruption.
Best Buy does a great job of offering users a simple way to access any category on their site as well as offering a search function. This not only helps users to find what they are looking for but may inspire additional ideas to drive them further into the site.
Amazon.com. uses the error page as an opportunity to promote their blog. The “Dogs of Amazon,” in this case distracts from the error and is also subtly disarming. More impressive is that Amazon uses this opportunity to promote content, rather than sales. This is also a leg up for them in the trust-building department.
Draw Users Back In
In the most simple of 404 pages, you’ll want to find a way to draw users back into your site, rather than leaving them for competitors to snatch up.
Chipotle does an excellent job of this by incorporating a tantalizing product shot into the 404 graphic itself, teasing the users’ tastebuds with an image of a delicious burrito, and then including a call to action for ordering. I personally forgot what I was looking for and went straight for the carnitas.
Fandango simply offers an eye-catching, humorous graphic and the option to return home. Kohl’s adds a little wordplay to their graphic, relating the loss of the page to the loss of a sock and tying the entire theme of the page into their brand while still having a little fun with it.
Stop Losing Customers Over Broken Links
The less dry your 404 page is, the less likely your users are to be frustrated that they did not find what they were looking for. And by adding a simple call to action, some color, and maybe a little humor, you’re far more likely to draw your potential customer back into your site.
Your 404 page allows you a little creative freedom and has the potential to increase sales on your site by decreasing lost traffic. So the next time you have a couple of hours to kill, why not spend it creating a funny, clever, or colorful 404 page that works for your site?