A “Not Found” Page
5 Essential Elements of a Successful 404 Error Page
Nobody likes to be inconveniences, and let’s face it, when you’re searching for something on a website and the dreaded 404 Error Page pops up on your screen, chances are that you’re going to feel inconvenienced. You were looking for something and it’s not there. Well guess what, when people conduct searches on your website, chances are that sometime in the future, at least of a few of them are going to encounter a 404 error page on your site and also feel inconvenienced. The good news is that there are a few things that designers can to greatly improve user experience when they encounter a “not found” page.
Give the Right Message
Instead of merely “page not found” which is really not very helpful at all, a well-crafted error message can be a huge help to your website visitors. An apology along with some helpful advice or explanation as to why a page may not have been found is a good start.
Include a Search Box
Ok, so a visitor to your website has been inconvenienced by going to a page that didn’t exist. If they are very frustrated, they might leave your page altogether. But there is also a good chance that if you’re willing to help them find what they are looking for they will stay on your website awhile longer – perhaps even be converted to a customer.
One of the easiest ways to help them find what they are looking for is to include a search box on your 404 page. This will encourage your site visitors to continuing looking on your site rather than going to your competitor’s.
Have a Category List
Having a category list is another great way to help your website visitors find what they were looking for. This is useful because while the exact content that your visitor was looking for may no longer be on your site, you might be able to direct them to something else in the same category that would be of interest.
Another advantage of providing broad categories that are covered on your website, is it allows your visitors to see what else you have to offer.
Links to Featured Posts
Your 404 error page just might be a place where you can upsell your featured posts. Think of it as a way to compensate your visitors for having landed on an error page. Ok, you say, we don’t have that article that you were looking for on boating safety, but perhaps you might be interested in this schedule of upcoming boating safety courses.
And of course, by sharing your featured posts with your visitors, it might just be another way to drive traffic to the posts that are most important to you.
Remember Your Key Links
While it can be very helpful to your website visitors to include links to items you think they might want, remember that some visitors may prefer to simply return to your home page or another major page on your site.
Including links to pages such as home, about, or even services and products pages allow your visitors to quickly return to your live pages is yet another way to keep the visitor on your website longer which will hopefully result in a conversion for you.
Remember that 404 pages – while they can be annoying at times – can also serve a function and even help to create a better experience for your users. Do not ignore this important element of your website!