From time to time we've all experienced the frustration of looking for something on the Web and finding that the best link takes you to a 404 Error Message page â€“ a dead end.
The solution is to create a custom 404 Error Message page that will help visitors find what they're looking for rather than leaving unhappy and empty handed.
A 404 Error Message page is shown when you've been able to connect to the website but the page you're after can't be found. This could be because the website owner has moved the page (so the link to the page now has a different URL than the link used), the website owner has deleted the page (it no longer exists at all and the link provided is out of date) or the link to the page is wrong (the page exists but the link provided has a typing error in it).
Here are 4 design tips for creating a useful, user friendly custom 404 Error Message page.
- Use an informative page title
For the average website visitor, looking at a page that says â€œ404 Error Messageâ€ doesn't tell them why they're not looking at the page they thought they'd be going to.
To help your visitors understand where they are and why they're not seeing the page they want, use a page title that's informative. Even a simple title such as â€œPage Not Foundâ€ will help visitors to orient themselves and delay them pushing the back button while they consider their options.
- Write a useful message
A blank page with an informative page title will help visitors understand that they got your your website, but it isn't really going to communicate much more than that.
So in addition to your page title provide a useful message that gives the visitor more of an idea of why they're not seeing the page they wanted.
A good example of a useful message is - â€œThe page you are looking for could not be found. We apologise for any inconvenience.â€
This example uses a friendly and open writing style and avoids blaming the visitor or other websites for causing the problem.
- Provide options
Instead of having visitors get to the page and leave straight away, give them links, navigation and a search form so they have the option of looking for the page or content they're after themselves.
Having the main menu and other navigation elements from your website on the page will allow visitors to browse around and look for what they want. Providing a search form that allows them to search your website is another great way to help visitors find what they're looking for, as well as give them a glimpse of what other things you do that may interest them.
You can also encourage further exploration of your website by putting a block of links to your most popular web pages on your custom 404 Error Message page.
- Encourage direct contact
Some visitors may prefer to contact you with a question rather than search your website themselves, so make it as easy as possible for them to get in touch by providing different ways to contact you â€“ phone, fax, chat, email, online form, whatever suits your business.
Build your custom 404 Error Message page using these 4 design tips and turn a potential frustration for your website visitors into a lead generation strategy for your business.
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