Imagine this scenario – finally, you reach that link you’ve been looking for, and a 404 page greets you. Annoying, isn’t it?
It doesn’t have to be like that. Even a 404 page can be made to make a visitor glad it showed up. Brands are now competing in creating more creative and appealing 404 pages. Let’s face it – it is almost an art to turn potentially bad situation like a “dead link” into your advantage. Arriving to a horrible 404 page with bad navigation and erroneous content can additionally turn your visitor away.
When a visitor arrives at your website, even before all the technical characteristics or solid layout, he will respond to emotions. Therefore, wise brands and websites are giving a 404 page design special thought. The best case scenario is if they are using this page to convey some message, show their creativity or good humor.
Make your visitors laugh, and then they will maybe forgive you for screwing up their visit and for not showing them what they were looking for. Here are some of the nicest and funniest 404 pages from the web:
The best way for a visitor to swallow a bitter pill of disappointment when the expected content is not there is to find something really good. Magnt used a joke and a Venn diagram definition to show that if a page is not there, an error could be either on their or on your side. Bold and funny. Oh, they are linking to their homepage, just in case.
And if you can’t make a visitor laugh – impress them! Huswimi made a visually appealing page that resembles a little of a piece of art. It really captures your attention. It also leads on their homepage, no matter where you click.
They have thought of putting an interactive, Pacman-like game. It’s a 404 page which you will intentionally visit just to kill some time. Additionally, they have made some significant effort to keep you on the website by adding several boxes with content to the 404 page, like what does Blue fountain does, search option, company info, and even links to social media accounts. You would never say that this is a 404 page.
Some 404 page are straight on scary. Like this one from Hakim El Hatab, which has a lot of eyes opening and blinking wherever you click. When you finally click on a right link, you will be redirected back to the homepage.
A 404 page can be another great opportunity for branding. It is masterfully shown on Lego’s 404 page. Sometimes, you don’t need any fancy tech talk to show where the problem is.
This newsletter service has gone a step further – their 404 page has a video with Mailchimp’s mascot, little monkey frozen in ice. Great!
And this is their old 404 page:
Another example of giving a 404 page a personal touch, as well as branding of this global coffee shops chain.
Another example how can an error page fit in website’s theme and also be used for branding is eHarmony – a website for online dating. Authors have find the way to perfectly adapt the message to the website and its function.
Interactive pages or ones with sound effects can be very appealing. One of them is Tin Sanity’s 404 page, on which a screaming cup is running around the sign saying that the page we are looking is not there. There is even some dramatic music in the background. Appealing, interesting but after some 30 seconds begins to irritate since there isn’t any links on it.
There isn’t a website out there where visitor wouldn’t stumble on a 404 page eventually. Basically unpleasant but, if there is an idea and some effort, an event that can be turned around for your benefit. In order for your 404 page to be right on, there are several important steps to be taken:
- Link to some of your more popular pages. Let the fact that your visitor doesn’t know where he’s going to become your advantage. Take him to the some of your best pages.
- Include search. This way, you are in damage control and you are giving your visitor a chance to almost seamlessly continue browsing your website by using search to find what he wants.
- Give them an opportunity to be useful. Let your visitors report a dead link. It will give them pleasure for doing something useful. Give them a support email address to write to, it will make them feel that their voice is important.
- Explain the problem as a human being, not a machine. Treat that 404 page as an informational portal which has something to say to the visitor as a person.
Give your 404 page the same technical treatment as other pages, even better if possible. Because if you messed up and there isn’t any content that your visitor was looking for, you’ve got to make it up for it somehow. This can even be a winning situation since a lot of visitors share interesting 404 pages on social networks, basically promoting your website for free.