404 error pages: Examples and best practices for custom 404 error pages
A 404 error page, commonly known as a page not found or simply a 404 page, indicates that a user has arrived at the requested site, but the URL is empty.
Let's look at the URL address https://www.site24x7.com/blog as an example.
➤ https:// refers to the protocol.
➤ site24x7.com denotes the domain.
➤ /blog/ is the path.
So what if a user includes a typo, entering https://www.site24x7.com/blig/ by mistake? The domain name is correct, and the server has reached the site, but the path leads nowhere. This would land the user on what is referred to as a 404 error page.
How does a visitor land on a 404 page?
- The requested webpage is deleted or moved to another location.
- The URL entered is misspelled.
- The server is unable to find the requested webpage due to a configuration issue.
Learn about the most common HTTP codes and how to troubleshoot them here.
Why is a custom 404 important? How does it help?
The primary goal of a custom 404 page is to transform a negative user experience into a positive one. This can be achieved by incorporating a few innovative concepts into the design along with a message in clear, basic language explaining to visitors what went wrong. If done right, 404 pages can be a source of entertainment to the users who land on them before they're redirected to the correct page.
Three key practices for custom 404 pages
When a user comes across a broken page, it creates a negative user experience. But you can turn this into a positive experience using custom 404 error pages with these best practices.
1. Redirect to the home page
Most error pages will redirect users to a home page, giving them access to the content on your website. A search bar can be placed to allow users to quickly find what they're looking for.
2. Access to the support desk
When users arrive at an error page, they often become frustrated. Providing contact information for your service team is one way to counter consumer attrition and maintain engagement. This helps users get answers to their questions, which helps with branding.
3. Simple language
- Use a plain, easy-to-understand message with a simple design, so users will immediately understand the error. Some examples are:
- Page not found. The page you are looking is unavailable.
- Something is broken.
- We are not able to find the page you are looking for.
404 error page examples from real websites
Let's start with several 404 error page examples from popular websites that keep users engaged and help navigate them back to a functioning site.
Zoho uses a simple design with minimal text, including a search bar to help users find what they're looking for. To learn more about Zoho, a user can visit its social media accounts available in the footer.
The colors used in the overall design, as well as ManageEngine's logo, provide consistency; the binoculars suggest that the user is looking for information, which can be found using the search bar at the bottom of the page.
Dogs have historically played a significant role in Amazon's culture. It now has over 6,000 registered employee-owned dogs roaming around its headquarters.
Disney has picked a well-known fictitious character, Mike Wazowski, to deliver its message that the page the user is looking for cannot be found.
Netflix's error page is visually pleasing and complemented with a background image to add some flair.
Spotify created its 404 page with an animation of a music track playing, a clever pun, and handy links to its FAQ and Community website.
7. Exploding Topics
The design uses clear phrasing and includes a section that lets users run trend searches on random topics, offering great user engagement.
8. Help Scout
Help Scout's 404 page design includes links to recent news and help docs along with some cute graphics to draw attention.
It's not just Amazon and Help Scout showing some love for dogs. CoSchedule's
copy combined with and the visual element of dogs relaxing on vacation is a great way to make users smile. CoSchedule also added links to its products and blog, which essentially turns their error page into a landing page.
Here is another one from the creatives at CloudSigma. This error page exhibits some behind-the-scenes humor that may help users feel less intimidated by the brand.
Here are a few key things to remember to make your 404 page not only functional but engaging:
- Keep it free from any advertising.
- Redirect users to your best, most reliable pages.
- Use unique CTAs.
- Make sure your messaging reflects your brand's image.
- Leverage interactive elements.
By having a visually appealing, customized error page, users can explore more about your website, which improves user engagement and lowers the bounce rate. Connect your error pages to your status page so users can easily check the status of any ongoing issues.