Create A Perfect 404 Error Page
404 pages are error pages, and how you deal with errors (like dealing with complaints) says a lot about your business.
To some extent 404 pages are inevitable, so look at them as an opportunity to impress your users - you should approach the design for your 404 page with that in mind. Ask yourself; if you were a user, what would you like to see on an error page?
Lets take Apple's 404 page as a good example: http://www.apple.com/404. This is a good example for a number of reasons that I will list now.
- The menu bar at the top of the page is the same at the rest of the site. Firstly this makes it clear that you have not accidentally left the site, and secondly it means that users who are familiar with the site can find their favorite sections quickly and easily.
- The statement "The page you’re looking for can’t be found." is clear, friendly and unambiguous.
- Lower on the page there are clear categories with the popular pages for each section listed; this makes it easy to scan across and down to potentially locate what you were looking for.
- There is a search box right in the middle of the page available for anything else.
- And a very clear link to the full size site map.
So Apple have all the bases covered when it comes to a perfect 404 page. Lets take a look at the reasons...
- A continuation of on page design elements that make it clear you have not left the site by mistake.
- The page clearly states that there has been an error - "This page can’t be found".
- Quick and easy methods - either direct links or a search - so that the user can get back to where he or she expected to be.
- One other point to note is that the actual HTTP status code "404" is not shown anywhere. This code is not of any interest to a user and can only cause confusion should the user not understand what this code means.
I can't think of anyway to improve this 404 page...