A 404 error usually happens when someone follows a link to a page on your website that’s been moved or deleted.
Photo by Denise Jans on Unsplash
A standard web server page for a 404 error is pretty basic but by creating your own 404 error page you can turn a potential problem into something positive.
Over the last few years there’s been been a trend for making funny error 404 pages with images of lost cats and people stranded on mountains.
Personally, I’m never sure whether this is such a good idea.
It’s worth remembering that if someone lands on a 404 error page on your website they’re probably going to be a bit disappointed that they can’t find what they’re looking for and they’ll be unsure what to do next.
Your opportunity to help
This is your opportunity to help them before they leave your website in a huff.
As part of a website build I create a 404 error page which contains a website sitemap.
The sitemap lists all of the pages on the website and usually includes:
Main navigation such as the homepage, about page and contact page
Any list and detail pages in use like a portfolio or projects section
Blog posts or latest news items
A brief description of what’s happened and a contact email address in the event that the visitor really can’t find the information they’re looking for and need to contact someone
As most of the websites I create are built using a content management system any new pages that are added to the website are also automatically added to their sections of the sitemap.
This means that once the error page is set up you can just forget about it and let it do its work if it’s ever needed.
By giving your visitors a decent 404 error page you can provide them with a snapshot of your website, guide them back into your content and give them a helpful solution to what can be an annoying problem.
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