404 errors…we’ve all seen them. And it’s hard not to abandon a website when we run into them.
In a perfect world, a digital product would always function as intended. Errors are just a part of life, but they should never be a dead end.
Every page in UX design is an opportunity to engage your user, including 404 page designs. When a page they need isn’t available, it’s up to you to steer them back on the right path. Show the user that you care about their experience, even when they inevitably run into roadblocks.
Why You Need 404 Error Pages
Never assume that every page will work perfectly after you launch your product. There’s a myriad of reasons why 404 errors pop up from time to time.
The problem may be as simple as a broken URL. The page could have also moved without a redirect, the server could have gone down, or maybe the page doesn’t exist.
Without a designated error page, the browser will direct the user to a blank 404 page that offers nothing of value to your website’s experience.
This is the most basic example of a 404 error message. It tells you what the problem is, but it doesn’t offer solutions. With bland messaging and non-existent visuals, the vibe is overall standoffish (hindering the user experience).
Users are never happy to run into a 404 error, but you’d be surprised how far a thoughtful and clever error page goes in problem-solving. At a minimum, it shows the user that you want to create a positive experience for them. At best, you can redirect the user and keep them on the website longer.
Our Favorite 404 Page Designs
Never underestimate the power of a good 404 page. Sure, errors are SUPER frustrating. But with some well-designed visuals and inventive messaging, you can subtly shift the user’s perspective and foster a positive experience with your product.
Some of the best 404 page designs belong to brands you may already recognize, and some of them come from our design team at CreateApe! We scoured the internet and gathered these examples to get your wheels turning. Think about how you can apply these ideas to your own 404 page!
Keep The Focus
We’ve used our design for cabi’s 20th-anniversary 404 page as an example before because it tied into the overall purpose. They were celebrating a milestone as a company, and we used the error page as an opportunity to reflect on their success with a timeline preview.
Present Relevant Content
The user’s journey doesn’t need to end just because they can’t find a specific page. If you have interesting content related to their goals, include them on your 404 page to pique the user’s interest and keep them engaged with your site.
Encourage Search Visibility
When in doubt, a search bar is a good go-to for users. If they stray too far and land on a 404 page, keep the search bar as your focal point to help them find where they need to go. It’s a solid way to keep the user on track (instead of sending them back to the homepage).
If someone can accomplish multiple goals with your website, it’s hard to know exactly where to direct them. Tripadvisor’s 404 page is organized and points lost users to the most important facets of vacation planning.
Make It Interactive
If you’re a UX/UI designer, you’re probably familiar with Dribbble. As a hub for creatives, their 404 page should represent the talents of their users. Dribbble’s designers are front and center in this example, but the user can also change colors and get inspired by the visuals (even when they’ve gone off course).
Make Your Brand The Star
Who doesn’t love coffee? We’ve all felt that anticipation waiting for our morning drinks to brew. Coffee Mate’s 404 page taps into those emotions, relating to their users and capping it off with a strong CTA.
Offer Basic Troubleshooting Solutions
No one wants to spend time out of their day running diagnostics to fix the problem. If the page never even existed, it would be a massive waste of time. However, you can present a few “quick fix” solutions to try and get the user back on track (in your own voice and tone).
But, if all else fails, it never hurts to include a link to your help page or a chatbot if the user really needs to find a specific page.
Directing users to product pages is a safe bet for E-commerce stores. Some online stores have plenty of informational material, but you can assume the user's main goal is to make a purchase. Send them to a product gallery or your most popular items.
Just Have Fun With It
404 errors aren’t fun, but there’s nothing wrong with trying to lighten to mood. We talked about how much we love memes in one of our last blogs — but who knew that they’re a great tool for 404 pages? We don’t recommend actually punching a moose, though.
Create a Great Experience (Despite the Errors)
Ideally, your product and web maintenance team would spot errors before they happen. But it’s best to be prepared. Creating an inventive (or at the very least a well-designed) 404 page adds a personal touch to problem-solving on your website.
A 404 page is just a temporary solution. You should be performing regular website maintenance, fixing broken links, and redirecting to new pages. But there’s nothing wrong with using a fun, colorful band-aid for a small papercut.
Need to spice up the design and messaging on your 404 page? We’ve got just the team of apes to do it. Start a project with us today!