Blah… We know. Fixing 404 errors may not be the most riveting use of your time, but it’s sometimes a necessary evil.
However, you can rejoice, as not all 404 errors have to be repaired. Sometimes, just sometimes, you can leave these sneaky bastards out in the worldwide web to let people know that what they’re looking for literally doesn’t exist anymore. Not only does this save your visitors a lot of time searching for a page that’s been deleted, it also gives you a chance to get a little creative (but more about that later).
When a 404 Error has to be Fixed, and When it Doesn’t
A 404 Error won’t affect your site’s ranking in Google, so if the error is coming up because a page has been deleted and you haven’t replaced it, there’s no need to remove the error page.
Likewise, if the page is popping up as a result of a bad URL generated by script, or something that never existed on your site in the first place, you don’t need to fix it.
However, if the content from a broken link has moved, it’s best to add in a redirect. The other main reason you’ll need to fix a 404 error page is when someone else has linked to your site and made a typo or spelling mistake. For example, instead of typing in www.webfirm.com/404errors, they might have incorrectly linked to www.webfirm.com/405rerrors.
If your site has a broken link that’s occurred from someone else’s typo, you can capture the misspelled URL by creating a 301 redirect to the URL it should link to. Otherwise, you can contact the owner of the site in question and ask them to either remove, or edit the incorrect link.
Now that the nitty gritty is out of the way, let’s have some fun!
How to Make Your 404 Error Pages More Interesting!
So, you’ve decided the best course of action is to leave your 404 error page be, after all, it’s just happily floating around and probably doesn’t want to be disturbed anyway. But, there’s no reason you can’t give this typically boring page a little bit of a makeover… Kind of like how the Google Chrome dinosaur game makes Internet issues a lot more interesting.
Traditionally speaking, clicking on a broken link is a pain, especially if you get the standard ‘Not Found’ or ‘Error 404’ page, which are duller than surviving in a world with no Internet. However, a lot of websites are starting to sweeten the initial disappointment by designing bespoke 404 Error pages that are probably more interesting than the page you were actually looking for.
How do you design a great 404 Error page you ask? Well, that’s easy!
A good meme, entertaining gif, or even a viral video will work wonders, but the classic concept of playing a retro game is a great interactive option.
Another option is increasing the functionality of your error page by suggesting the disappointed user does something else on your site. You could encourage them to sign up to something, or check out your awesome blog.
Need some inspiration? These are some of our faves!
Remember that screaming goat that was doing the rounds a few years back? Well this digital design agency has made good use of this super annoying, yet insanely addictive video on their 404 page.
Perhaps one of the best 404 error pages going around, especially if you’re a Star Wars fan, belongs to coding website, GitHub. The website is targeted at geeks, and they’ve hit their target audience head on with this clever design.
Contrary to popular belief, not all 404 Error pages are bad. Sometimes they’re useful, and if you design one that suits your branding, they can prove more beneficial than you initially thought.