Bow House Blog

Keep customers around with creative 404 pages

by Beth Ellin

No website can be perfect 100% of the time, but sites that have creative 404 pages make sure their customers stick around and don’t head back to the search page after a broken link or mistyped URL. 

In this blog, we’re going to show you some exciting 404 pages and give you some tips for creating your own. 

What is a 404 page? 

You’ll find yourself on a 404 page if the link you’ve been trying to access can’t be found. It could be because the URL has been typed incorrectly or that the owner of the website has removed or changed the link without setting up a redirect. 

Landing on a 404 page can be very frustrating and could result in users leaving your page completely to try and find a working link from your competitors. That’s why creative 404 pages are so important. You need to keep hold of your user’s interest and make it easy for them to find the page they were after in the first place. 

Take a look at some of our favourite creative 404 pages

Lego

Lego have a great 404 page that is actually really simple. You’ve got a comic image of Lego figures in a panic showcasing an unplugged cable. The text then explains why the page might be broken and a button takes you back to the homepage. It’s a simple, on-brand and helpful page.

Check it out

Lego's 404 page image of a Lego man holding a disconnected power socket 

MailChimp 

Lots of you probably use MailChimp regularly to send messages out to your customers, but have you ever seen their 404 page? They playfully turn their monkey icon into something a little less friendly and tell you “This isn’t the think you’re looking for” before offering you a navigation box to help you get back on track. 

Take a look

Bitly 

We’re sure you’re no stranger to shortening links to keep track of them on social media and all over the web. Their 404 page is simple and to the point, featuring a creature lost at sea. It’s interactive, so moves as your mouse does. 

Unlike normal 404 pages, Bitly’s text can’t offer you somewhere else to go onsite because you’ve likely followed a shortened link from someone else online. So, instead it gives you some advice for checking the link you’re trying to open is correct. 

See for yourself

Airbnb

Airbnb have a lovely 404 page with an animation of a girl dropping her ice cream. You can’t help but feel sorry for the animation and it really takes the sting out of landing on a bad page. They’ve kept their text short too, offering helpful links to help the user find what they were looking for. 

Have a look

IMBD 

IMDB is another example of a really simple yet clever 404 page that reflects their brand. They take lines from famous movies and fit them to their purpose. It cycles through different quotes each time you hit refresh and offers you a link to the movie it’s from. You’ve also got a big call to action to return to the homepage. 

Our favourite? “This is not the webpage you’re looking for.”

Check it out 

person working on a creative 404 page for their business website

Our top tips for creative 404 pages

There are lots of different techniques you can use to come up with a creative 404 page for your business. 

Think about your brand

Keep your brand in mind when you’re designing your 404. Try and incorporate that into the page design and lighten up the mood with a little humour if you can.

Help the user move forward 

Lots of 404 pages offer the option to take the user back to the page they were on before. That’s not always the most helpful strategy. Users like to move forward, not head back to the page that’s just annoyed them with a broken link. 

Frame your copy around where they might like to go next, or offer a search bar for your site to help them find what they were looking for in the first place. 

Explain the problem 

Coming up against a load of indecipherable code or error screen text just adds to a user’s frustration. Let them know what’s caused the problem and what they can do to get back on track. 

Use friendly and helpful language that everyone can understand. You might not even want to mention 404 at all, simply saying “oops, we can’t find the page you were looking for” can be really effective. 

Keep it clutter free

Don’t go into panic mode with your 404 and try and show your users everything that you have on offer. It’ll make your page look messy and hard to sort through. Keep it simple, make the most of white space and offer links to your best loved pages and cornerstone content.

Use search boxes 

It’s likely that someone who has landed on your 404 is looking for something specific and they won’t necessarily be deterred by a small typo or broken link. Offering a search box makes it really easy for them to find what they were looking for and help you secure a sale.

Reporting the error

Having a space where the user can report the broken link to you helps them to feel like they’ve taken back a little control and can also be incredibly useful for you. If you’ve been told something is broken, you’ll be able to go in and fix it or set up an appropriate redirect. 

To sum up 

Creative 404 pages are an opportunity to keep your users engaged with your brand. They aren’t something you want lots of people to see, but when a mistyped URL or broken link happens, you can turn a frustrating situation into a fun and helpful one. 

If you’d like to talk about creating an engaging 404 for you website, or want to do some site improvement, please get in touch. We’d be very happy to help. 


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