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Good practices for 404 pages

What is a 404 page?

Let’s first cover what a 404 page is. A 404 page is shown to the visitor when they have tried to access a page that doesn’t exist, this could be due to an old broken link or the user just typed the incorrect page name.

The Dos

Have a useful 404 page – We can’t stress this one enough, it’s very important to have a useful 404 page. It’s not great that your visitor has come across a 404 page without then having this compounded with a useless page which doesn’t help them find what they was looking for or at least gets them back to the home page to start again.

Stick to the theme – Your 404 page shouldn’t look too different from your main website, it should still have the same layout, colour scheme and logo if you have one. If your 404 page looks nothing like the rest of your site it’s possible people will just leave.

When is a 404 not a 404? – You need to ensure the page returns a status 404, there is no point in spending all this time on creating a great 404 page if crawlers and automated bots don’t know the page they are viewing is a 404 page. Ensure the correct page status is returned.

Do you need a map? – If you have frequently visited pages on your site, you may wish to have links to these pages included within the 404 page to help people find their way to the desired resources.

The Don’ts

Full screen ahead – We have seen it time and time again, you hit a 404 page and they have a full-screen image which includes “404” in some visual form, that’s it, that is the 404 page, nothing more. This is a bad idea, it’s not helpful and leaves the visitor frustrated.

We don’t want to see that – It’s normally recommended not to place adverts on your 404 page, the visitor won’t be happy with the fact they have come across the page in the first place without then having adverts pushed upon them.

Wait, what just happened – Don’t just redirect the customer to the home page when a 404 page is reached. Let them view the page and choose where to go from there. If you just move them along to the home page you could leave them feeling confused and not sure what just happened.

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