Customizing Your 404 Error Pages

When launching a new website, particularly a redesign for an existing website, there are many “lint items” that need to be addressed. These are the nitty, gritty details that exist behind the scenes, details that can make or break the transition of a newly launched website. Unfortunately, these items are often overlooked. Sometimes, it’s due to a lack of attention to detail. Sometimes, most companies just don’t even know about them.

The 404 error page

I’m sure many of you have unfortunately run into one of these guys while browsing the Web. You have a page bookmarked and revisit it several months later only to find “THE PAGE DOES NOT EXIST!”

Oops.

Unfortunately, this can be a very common issue. When redesigning a website, there’s always a possibility the coding language used during the build will change, which affects page name extensions such as .php, .asp, .aspx, .html, etc. Or, if the coding language doesn’t change, the page name itself could. For example, the URL of your “About Us” page could simply change from something like “about-us.aspx” to “aboutus.aspx.” No matter how minute, that change is now an issue.

Let’s take the “About Us” example. There’s a good chance search engines have most likely already indexed that page’s old URL. So it’s a best Web usability practice to put a custom 404 error page in place to explain to your visitors what’s happened and what to do about it. Always keep in mind that someone who hits a 404 error page could be a potential lead, and if that person hits the browser’s default 404 page, that could be a potential lead you just lost.(Of course, you should also deploy a page redirect in the event your URL changes, but we’ll discuss this another time.)

It’s alive

Custom 404 error pageCreating a custom 404 error page does require some setup and integration on your Web server, so you may want to contact your Web designer or Web hosting service to get more details. But, on the design side, you can get very creative and clever with these pages. To get some inspiration for yours, take a look at Design School’s 50 Of The Most Creative 404 Pages On The Web.” In addition to some interesting and fun ideas, the post provides a deeper look at some of the design nuances you’ll want to consider when putting your page together. Feel free to take a look at ours.

When you get ready to launch your new website, make sure you have all your bases covered. Don’t let your “lint items” stay stuck in the trap. If you’re not sure what you should take into account, it’s best to consult with a Web professional. If you’d like to learn more about creating a custom 404 error page for your website, or best Web usability practices in general, contact us today.