How to improve your 404 error page?

Once a visitor sees this on your website they might not be sure what to do next. There are many things you can do to improve your error page and your website’s visitors’ experience, so we’ve listed some below.

Don’t get technical
The term “404 error” used to be pretty standard, but there’s no reason to use technical terms which might scare off your visitors. The title “Page not found” is sounds less geeky and more accurate.

Don’t blame your visitors
Chances are high that your visitor has probably followed a link from another website, or an old link on your site. It’s not their fault that they’re seeing this error message, so be nice to them! Write wording that’s apologetic and helpful, rather than text that makes them feel stupid.

Be polite
There’s a chance that the visitor is seeing this error page because they typed in the URL themselves and made a spelling mistake. Ask them to check their spelling, but don’t be rude about it. Like we said in the point above, don’t word it like you’re blaming them.

Make the header return a 404 error
Every web page has a server response code. 200 means the page is okay, and 404 means the page cannot be found. If you’ve specified your custom 404 error page you need to make sure the page’s headers are returning the correct response code. There are several different ways for achieving this, the simplest is to use your htaccess file to specify an error page; there’s a tutorial for this here.

Make sure it’s obvious
State clearly that the page the visitor is looking for can’t be found and don’t make the page look too similar to a normal content page (e.g. by adding too much text and links.) You still want to make it clear that this is an error page, so don’t be shy about letting them know.

Help the visitor
The 404 error has been shown to the visitor instead of the page they were looking for, so you should try to help them find the original page. Make sure your error page contains a menu, to allow the user to find the page they wanted. You could also include links to pages that you know have recently moved.

Include a link to your home page
Don’t leave visitors with no way of finding out what your company does. There should at least be a link back to your home page. This way, website visitors who have followed a link from another website can find out who you are and what your site offers and might even find some content they like.

Reach out
If the visitor has followed a wrong link on your own site, you’ll want to know about it. If you give them a way to easily send you a message via your 404 page, they can report the fault so you’re able to fix it. Include a really short form that asks them to tell you which page they came from and which link they followed. That way, you’ll have all the information you need.