One great thing about WordPress is that you have nearly full control on your sites’ design, look & feel and ultimately the user-experience which results from the former.
One such page on which you have full control is the 404 Error page. From UX perspective, it’s very important to have a good implementation of the 404 page – if you don’t want your users to leave site and loose potential clients and revenue.
What is a 404 Error Page?
The HTTP 404, 404 Not Found, 404, Page Not Found, or Server Not Found error message is a Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) standard response code, in computer network communications, to indicate that the browser was able to communicate with a given server, but the server could not find what was requested. -Wikipedia
In simple language: A user has visited a link on your website which may have been previously there but now it’s not.
404 Error Reasons
- The URL or Page you are trying to access was deleted
- The URL or Page you are trying to access was moved (without taking care of forwarding the current URL to the new one)
- The URL or Page you are trying to access never existed in the first place (typo error)
- The URL can not be resolved (DNS Error)
404 Error Page Best Practices & User Experience
One page you don’t want to see yourself on your website is the 404 error page, for the above mentioned reasons. It indicates that something went wrong. People want to look up information and/or solve a problem they have. Usually the following happens:
- User has a problem, question, query, research task, wants to buy a product
- User visits Google
- User performs a search
- If your site is SEP optimized, they click on your Link
- Boom: 404 – This page can’t be found
- User is frustrated and leaves the website, continues to search on Google
So, based on the above process and workflow, its of utmost importance that you have your house in order and design a good 404 page to keep the user on your website.
The Anatomy of a good 404 Error Page
- Clearly inform the user that something went wrong, not in technical terms but in layman’s language
- Have the site’s navigation easily accessible
- Highlight the search facility on your website prominently, it will invite the user to perform the same keyword search as he has done it on Google
- Check analytics and see which sections/pages/posts perform well and have a link pointing to them
- Links to Social Media Profiles and Contact Page, you can also add a contact form
Ultimately, the 404 page should be branded and should accompany/match your websites overall look & feel and not just be another simple looking page. This will help you to get ahead of the competition and the user will clearly see and feel that you take care of your users’ needs with attention to even the smallest details.
Do you have any additional tips and tricks on how to optimize the 404 error page? Let’s discuss in the comments section.