Have you ever been lost? It is anything but a nice feeling.
Your head spins frantically, while you try to find something familiar. You may have been lost at the supermarket as a child, or on a backstreet of a new area (before Google Maps ever existed). Nobody likes the feeling of being lost — including visitors to your website!
A kick ass 404 error page can salvage an awkward situation and make your web visitors absolutely love your brand! This article will show you some amazing examples of this in action… but first, what is a 404 page exactly?
“404” is a HTTP status code, which translates into “page not found” in plain English. In other words, your website visitors have gone off the grid for one reason or another. How though? To see how and why 404 errors happen, first you have to know the three fundamental parts of any URL:
The protocol: “https://”
The domain name: “ma-digital.net”
The path: “/blog”
In the event that a visitor accidentally types “https://www.ma-digital.net/blag” they will arrive on a 404 page. Why though? Even though the protocol and domain name are correct, the path of the URL is invalid and leads to a dead end.
After some research, we found a few key elements to consider when looking to turn your web visitors’ frowns upside down.
1. Keep within your overall theme…
While it is certainly polite to have binary colours stating an apology to the tune of “We’re sorry. You seem to have landed on a page that doesn’t exist anymore. Click (wherever) to go (wherever else).”, it will not, by any stretch of the imagination, catch attention or make a positive impression! Is it really so hard to keep within your website’s actual theme?
2. Visuals can make or break the experience…
This is a fundamental pillar of most web builds… the creators of the website would like to assert their brand image / colours / values / whatever through clever visuals… so why drop the ball when it really matters? Visuals will stay with web visitors, especially in inconvenient circumstances. Take the mishap as an opportunity to introduce a fun visual component that both expresses your brand values and adds to the overall browsing experience!
3. Bring the page to live with a clever interface…
With “theme” and “visuals” you may present a decent 404 page… but why not really drive the awesomeness home by packaging the message in an amazing way? Break from the traditional and expected interface and try something new. This can be anything from humour to gamification.
Here are a few points to ponder and some kick ass examples of each…
Humour goes a long way!
A joke (even a cliché one) works like pure magic! An excellent example of this is “emailcenter” (now know as “maxemail”) who had one of the funniest, precisely because it’s so personal and relatable. It shows four possible culprits from their development team and offers you an opportunity to pick who should be fired for such an ‘unacceptable failure’. It’s so off the wall, it proves this company has both a sense of humor and can poke fun at themselves.
If friendliness is built into your core brand promise… do the same on your 404 page!
As such, you could treat your 404 page as an extension of what your brand has to offer. A prime example of this in action is LEGO’s 404 page, with a friendly plastic pal guiding you towards sections of the website that may be of interest.
Interactive can be… addictive!
OMG! This is pure genius! Who doesn’t love a good ol’ classic arcade game? Seriously, stop whatever you are doing (including reading this) and click on https://www.kualo.com/404 right now!
Oh hey, there you are… welcome back! Will a good round or two of Space Invaders keep you coming back to the site? Umm… yes! Or at the very least, it will make a great impression!
Can you believe that Kualo not only allow you to level up and collect extra lives as you play, but they offer discounts on their products and services the farther into the game you get! Pure genius!
Yes, even your 404 pages can be educational!
Keep visitors entertained with relevant information that may be of interest. National Public Ratio’s (NPR) 404 page shows featured blog posts and stories about other disappearances.
These are just a few examples of how to put in a little extra effort to turn a mishap into a new customer. Maybe even one who rants and raves about how cool your brand is. Remember, every single touch point is an opportunity to dazzle your audience and increase customer retention. What does your website’s 404 error page look like?