Have you ever searched for a website and clicked on a link only to be met with a generic "404 error" message? 404 error messages were designed to let an internet user know that the web page they are trying to reach is either malfunctioning or does not exist. Having a custom 404 error page allows users to be redirected instead of leaving them stuck in internet limbo and wondering where to go next.
When designing your 404 error page, you must first determine what you want it to say. Most 404 error pages should include either one or a combination of the following messages:
- A simple message to notify your visitor that the webpage in question no longer exists
- A search box that would allow the user to find an alternative webpage
- A link to your domain sitemap
- A direct link to your website home page
Avoid automatically redirecting users who try to see an invalid page to your domain home page. This is very confusing to those who click on a link and can not figure out why they can't get past your home page.
Get creative with your 404 error pages. It doesn't have to be technological, boring, or impersonal – as so many already are. You can include whatever you want as long as it matches the tone you've already set with the rest of your website and gives your visitor the information he really needs to find what he was looking for in the first place.