The 411 on 404 Pages: Taking the Ugly Out of Errors

24 04 2012

If prospects and customers make the effort to visit your website, the last thing you want them to do is experience a frustrating dead-end “404 error” message that discourages them from continuing. These messages commonly occur when a page has been renamed, removed, or moved from its previous location. Instead of losing potential business over a faulty link, here are a few ways to give an ugly error page a marketing makeover:

  • Customize your 404 page so it is recognizable as part of your website. Feature your web banner, logo, or a similar color scheme.
  • Provide the basic structure of your website’s navigation tools, so users can navigate elsewhere within your site without closing the webpage in frustration. Also consider including a home link as a convenient way to start over.
  • Include a friendly message that apologizes for the inconvenience.
  • Encourage users to continue searching by offering a “site search” box. Some users who are frustrated with an error message may be more likely to type in a keyword than spend time sorting through your website’s navigation.
  • Consider adding a lighthearted quote or humorous graphic to your 404 page that allows your website’s personality to shine through.
  • Provide an easy way for users to report broken links, such as including an automated “report this link” button that users can click to report the broken link to your web support team. Be sure to follow-up if broken links are reported.

Of course, the best way to avoid error messages is by frequently visiting your own website and clicking through pages and links to be sure everything is in working order. Websites are visited more often than many storefronts, so be sure to keep your site presentable and ready for business.

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