Doing things by assertions is a method followed by the best of our industry. The best designers and programmers assume things will go bad and they certainly do. They take this into consideration when they design a website and each page in it. Including the 404 page design.
Users find a link in social media, search engines or another website, they click it to be taken to a website to see some content that they were not interested in. Worse they try to remember a URL and they miss type and they are lost again.
These things happen all the time and can be due to a number of reasons. The designer is reluctant. Things change over time and links become broken. Pages get moved or redirected, and the inevitable happens. As a result, the user gets the dreaded 404 error page.
Most users are scared to death of this page. And they are right. Because almost everywhere these pages are dreadful. It also means somewhere a link is broken or there’s an error with our website. However, if we think of it in the right light, we can use your 404 error page to our advantage. If we follow these tips, not all is lost.
1. A PAGE DESIGN WITH LIST OF YOUR BEST CONTENT
Just because a website visitor did not find what they’re looking for, it doesn’t mean that they should just hit a dead end. If we focus on creating quality content, then direct them to our best content; we can take advantage of 404 page.
We have a better chance of someone exploring the rest of our website if we give them suggestions of where they can go, instead of leaving it up to them. They may find the information they’re looking for on another page through a well considered 404-page design. This is something that’s important to do on any client’s website.
2. GIVE AWAY A FREEBIE OR AN INCENTIVE IN EXCHANGE FOR THEIR EMAIL ADDRESS
Even though a website visitor did not find what they’re looking for, that doesn’t mean we can’t convert them to a future customer. We can offer valuable information or a digital download as an incentive for entering their email address. This gives our client the opportunity to reach out to them later. Of course, all this depends on the website design project requirement.
For many web design clients, the entire purpose of their website is to generate leads for their business. For some clients, like dentists, plastic surgeons, doctors, and lawyers, one customer can translate into thousands of dollars in revenue. It only makes sense to make every effort possible to hold on to that website visitor and try to turn them into a customer.
3. ADD A SEARCH BOX
This is probably the best approach for a website with a lot of content. Or for older sites. Because chances are that pages had been removed or redirected to another location. So it only makes sense to add a search box on our client’s website’s 404 error page design to make it easy for users to search for what they’re looking for. Even though the incoming link may be broken, if you give them a chance to search internally for their topic, the search results may point them in the right direction.
Twitter does a good job of this, directing the user to go straight into doing a site search for the intended topic.
4. ADD A DIRECT CONTACT FORM
Most of our website clients are all about generating a lead. Hence we can provide a direct and great way of reaching out by providing a contact form right when people are lost. As a result, even if the users haven’t found what they are looking for they can directly demand it from the owners.
Users can also use this form to report the 404 error page to the webmaster. The webmaster can use this opportunity to fix the error for future website visitors looking for the same thing.
5. ADD HUMOR AND SUGGEST RELATED PAGES
One thing that can lighten up the place when your users are lost is a humor. Since people land on 404 pages when they are lost, you can take the advantage to be humorous and suggest other related pages.
Remember most visitors find a broken website to be annoying. In reality website, visitors just want to find what they’re looking for, get in and get out. They also want to do this as quickly as possible, without a lot of runarounds. So when they encounter a serious 404 page with nothing to offer they might flee away. So encourage them to stay around.
Always remember 404 page will happen. The 5 suggestions above help us from avoiding a dead end for our users. We use them to always turn a negative into a positive by giving users an option to try something else.
Another crucial point is to reach out to people who experience these errors. Especially if we are managing the website on behalf of our client. In reaching out to them we make sure they found what they are looking for.