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Design Talk.

Blurbs and rants about graphic design

How to Create a User-Friendly 404 Error Page

What is a 404 Error? What is a 404 Error page for? Is there a point to make it look less dull? Answers to all of these questions will be explored in this article, and you are most welcome to read on.

There is an urban myth which tells the story of a room number 404 in the CERN building, where the first Internet server was located. As a result it produced the very first “Not Found” error and that is, according to the myth, where the term 404 Error comes from. There is an inconsistence, though. They say there has never been a room 404 at CERN. Following more logical explanation we should probably look into the one which talks about HTTP states codes. It covers 5 different classes and there are over 100 likely status messages in every class. Class 4xx reports customer errors and 2 more digits define the error type. There are also 18 various cases specified in class 4xx and error 404 in particular represents a case where the request (file, document etc.) was “Not Found”.

Let’s have a closer look at 404 Error: the first “4” represents a customer’s error. The server defines that a user either misspelled a URL or requested for a page that is no longer available. “0” stands for a general syntax error and may indicate a spelling mistake. The last “4” refers to a specific error in the 40x group.

It is pretty inevitable that your website visitors will sooner or later come across the 404 error page. According to one of the recent polls held by the web masters, 23% of the Internet users that run into a 404 page will give it another chance to find the page they were looking for. The other 77% will quit trying to search for the webpage once they see a standard 404 error page. That is why customizing your 404 error page is an important thing to do for increasing the traffic of your site. What are the ways to make a 404 page unique yet informative? Here are a few tips to optimize a 404 error page:

  • Let the user know that they are in the wrong place by using a humorous phrase or image;

  • Don’t forget to mention the actual error message in a plain language that is clear to both technical and non-technical users. The tone of this message should be somewhat apologetic;

  • Provide spell-check feature for the failed URLs;

  • Create a search form or provide a link to the Home page and other destinations of your website, so that the user can easily find whatever they were looking for and see what is popular;

  • Create a contact form so that they can turn for assistance in case the error recurs, or provide direct contact details of a website owner/administrator;

  • Provide a few links but, no more than 10, to different areas of your website (FAQ etc.) so that the user could go back and surf your website;

  • The design of your 404 page should match with the rest of the look and feel of the website;

  • Don’t have any advertisement displayed on your 404 page.

Now, there are plenty of recommendations out there from custom website development services companies on how to create a 404 page from a technical point of view, and we are sure you will find all the information you need. And eventually by adding up the tips you got from us here your 404 error page will be a perfect example to others! 🙂

About the author:

Elena Bizina has come through an exciting path from teaching English to all age groups, toward IT Sales and Marketing. Now she is enjoying a part time writer’s job and a full time motherhood. Elena particularly loves foreign languages and traveling and plans to carry on with these hobbies in the nearest future. She holds a position of a Copywriter at Zfort Group, an IT Outsourcing service provider.

Image by Roberto Zingalez.

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