This year marks the 25th birthday of the World Wide Web and if you’re like the rest of the world, the internet now consumes more of your time than you’d like to admit. We must assume that at least once during the last 25 years, you’ve undoubtedly landed on a 404 error page, and probably many dozens of times, even if you don’t recognize it by name. A 404 error page refers to the status code which signals a page that can’t be found. This error can be caused by a number of reasons, from temporarily-down sites to missing pages to simple human error when keying in a webpage, the causes are abundant.
The worst thing a company can do in this case is NOT customize the 404 error screen that their visitors will see. However, many do in fact just leave up an ugly default message that blares “PAGE NOT FOUND” at the unfortunates who land there, but provides nothing useful. As one can imagine the experience often leads to visitors bouncing away from the site completely and choosing another website on which to continue the search. How many sales do you suppose are lost this way?
But many wise companies turn this troublesome experience around and into an opportunity to further engage their website visitors, infusing their branding, creativity, and even a smile into their error pages. Most importantly, the page gives the visitor clickable options or a search bar so that the journey can continue from that very error page – no need to “back-arrow” out, or worse yet, restart the search in a new window (with a competing site no less!).
The following are some brilliant 404s from the websites of some popular brands. These companies all make great use of the opportunity to make a positive impact on their visitors while staying true to who they are.
The North Face
Which one of these clever 404s was your favorite? The takeaway here is that you want to capitalize on every opportunity to engage with your visitors, even during typos. Keep them on your site and give them an easy way to get to the page they really wanted, all while injecting a little personality into the experience. After all, you want your website visitors to have a positive impression of your company every place they look, and that includes your social media presence, online reputation, products, customer service practices and, yes, even your 404 page.
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