There’s always a time when one suddenly comes across a page that says, “Sorry, page not found.” It occurs when you click on a dead link or incorrect-typed URL. Regardless of the reason, getting to the right page is critical. The ideal approach to do this is to navigate to well-crafted 404 pages.
A Brief Background of the 404 Page
A 404 page refers to a standard response code that appears when users land on a non-existent page due to mistyping a URL, clicking on a broken link, or the page already removed. In these cases, you usually will see one of the following standard messages:
- 404 Error
- 404 Not Found
- The page cannot be found
- HTTP 404 Not Found
- The requested URL was not found on this server
The default 404 pages above inform you nothing other than the obvious that the page address you were trying to reach was not inexistent.
What do you think your web visitors will do should they encounter such cases? Since nothing tells them what they should do, they will most likely quit your page, and worse yet, they might not return.
A study reported by Econsultancy shows that 88% of web visitors are less inclined to come back to the same site after having a bad experience. This is why creating a personalized 404 page is a must for every website owner.
Things to Include in the 404 Page
Before heading to the design process, you need to first understand what to include on the page. 404 pages can only be regarded as valuable if they consist of the following aspects:
- A Strong Headline: Always include a brief headline explaining to visitors why they land here. Ascertain that visitors are aware they are not on the correct page but still on the right web.
- Search Bar: A decent 404 page should have similar search capabilities as other pages on your site. This helps users to search for the page they are intended to visit.
- Navigation Block: Add straightforward navigation with links directed to your most popular content to ensure your visitors don’t leave your website.
- Contact Form: Adding a contact form allows users to inform and report issues they experience on your site. That way, you know what you need to improve on your site and even locate some hidden errors.
- CTA: Great 404 pages always come with a clear call-to-action to tell web visitors what they should do next if they encounter such a page.
Another piece of advice for designers is to be creative. What to include in a 404 page may sound a bit technical. Still, it does not necessarily mean the entire look should be uninteresting.
Essential Design Aspects for Your 404 Page
Before visualizing your 404 page, you need to first consider how the page can work with the remaining pages of your site. Ask yourself: What is the tone of your website design? What should you do to make the error page fit that mood?
If your website features a playful tone, the 404 error page should do too. The images and color schemes you are about to use should also come in a consistent aesthetic. Keep in mind that great 404 pages blend seamlessly with the website they are on.
Think about the error page’s design in the same manner when designing other pages. Here are the design aspects to note:
- Maintain Consistency and Branding: Always employ the same typography, image styles, and color palettes used on the rest of the website. Also, use the same footer, header, and logo, if there is any, to ease users in identifying your website.
- Avoid Cluttered Design: Users who bump into an error page don’t need any other stuff that doesn’t get them out of the situation. Keep your visual simple because simplicity is essential for a 404 page.
- Avoid Gimmicks: As a designer, there is always a time when you can get too creative. Obviously, this won’t do any good for error page design. However, it’s essential to note that adding too many additional visuals will make visitors forget their initial purpose.
Turning a 404 page into a place to showcase your ingenuity is never an effortless task. It takes a combination of usability, a strong sense of design, and simplicity to design an error page that can effectively inform the visitors what they need to do should they encounter such a case.
Have no idea how to get started? Count yourself lucky because a wide range of templates can accommodate you in creating 404 pages. You can always rely on those pre-made layouts for inspiration or save yourself from the complicated steps of crafting an error page from scratch.