Custom 404 Error Pages and Site Usability

The most common reasons that a server will return a 404 error page are:

  • Incorrect URL (or an out-of-date bookmark/favorite)
  • Search engine link that points to web document on the old site
  • Internal broken link that the webmaster hasn’t noticed

Most 404 custom error messages tend to be generic, and not particularly user-friendly, so making custom messages for a site is highly recommended. We recommend you create a custom 404 error page with the same look and feel as your current website.

Here is an example of a bad 404 error page.

This page has no branding, no direction on what the user should do next, and no search box. You could potentially loose a customer who may think your site is down. Don’t let this happen to you.

A 404 custom error page should contain these elements:

  • A link to the site map (if we have one) and the home page. This is the easiest way for users to get back into the site.
  • A search box should featured on this page
  • A consistent look and feel with the rest of the site. You want a consistent navigation structure throughout the user experience.

You can get ideas on how to layout your 404 error pages by going to sites such as Apple or Microsoft.

Additional Resources:
Google on how to make your 404 page more useful:

How to create 404 custom error pages on both IIS and Apache:

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