Owning your errors: The importance of personalised 404 pages.

Craig Greenup 28/12/22, 09:00

404 errors are unavoidable when it comes to managing your website. Regular maintenance is important to redirect and remove as many broken links as quickly as possible, but there will always be one that slips through the cracks. In this article we look at the importance of creating a personalised 404 page and how it can prevent you from losing valuable business.

What is a 404 page?

A 404 page is an error page that is shown when a URL can’t be found active on the website. They can appear for many reasons some of these include:

  • The page URL has changed and an old link still remains
  • The page has been deleted from the website but the link remains on other pages or websites
  • Users type the URL incorrectly and the page they are trying to access does not exist
  • You are linking to a URL that is not live currently, perhaps the page is still in draft
  • You have a new website and some of the old URLs have not been redirected to the new website correctly

Avoiding 404 errors

With all websites, content frequently gets updated and changed, and pages are moved or deleted. Regular website scans can identify any broken links that need to be fixed. It is also good practice to create redirects, especially on high traffic pages. This avoids the issue of other websites linking to a page that no longer exists.

Personalised vs generic 404 errors

Personalised 404 pages are very simple to create, they don’t require much development but are very important to a business. Many companies completely forget about 404 pages in their website design which could result in potential customers going elsewhere.

Personalised 404 pages

A personalised 404 page is simple: it explains to the user that there is an issue with the page that they are looking for, it also provides a link to the homepage of the website or another useful page such as an FAQ page. Personalised 404 pages are in keeping with the website design and will offer a familiar feel to the user as well as ensuring your site doesn’t feel deserted and impersonal. By adding links to the 404 page the visitor is much more likely to continue their user journey without bouncing away from your site completely.

Generic 404 pages

If a personalised 404 page isn’t in place the 404 page will be set by the browser. Each browser has a different 404 page that they display when there is an issue. These pages are standard and do not match the website the user is trying to visit. They are typically plain white pages with 1 or 2 sentences of black text and they can be very off putting to users.

From these pages the user is most likely going to exit the session and use another method to try and get to what they are looking for, this could include using a search engine. They may also form a negative impression of your business and be wary of trying to visit your website again.

When you don’t have a personalised 404 page on your website you are essentially turning interested visitors away. Personalised 404 pages will prevent your business from losing potential customers by alleviating the frustration that comes with discovering broken pages and diverting them back to a working page. For help or more information on getting set up with a personalised 404 page get in touch with one of our team.