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Making a better 404 page

I just ran into a 404 page on a website, and realized that it should be a standard practice to customize your websites 404 page to make it more useful to users. The standard 404 error page is ugly and does not provide any benefits to the user.  The traditional goal is to just let the user know that the page / resource could not be found and it usually looks something like this:

But why use the default 404 page? It might be a small detail in the grand scheme of things but think of how effective a screen like the following would be:

This example accomplishes the following things:

  • It accomplishes the main goal and lets the user know that the page was not found.
  • You can provide a list of popular or top links to the user that can help them find what they were looking for.
  • A search option is available for the user which will give them the opportunity to seek out the page they were trying to find.
  • You can introduce some humor or use this as a way to give a more human feel to your website.  It doesn’t have to be a stuffy message.
  • You don’t have to put up a big error notice, or show the details of the error.  The user doesn’t need that.
  • It still send the ‘404’ response to the browser so a search engine like Google can know that it could not be found.
  • You should also have this page log the URL they were trying to access.  This will allow you to possibly set up a 301 permanent redirect to the page.

 

I have not implemented this on any of my sites yet, but I think in the coming weeks we will make this a standard practice.


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