A well-crafted error page can mean the difference between retaining and losing a user. If they run into a blank error page, they’ll either have to go back and start again (a chore) or use a search engine and be exposed to your competitors.
The best alternative is to redirect errors to useful pages, but when this isn’t possible, a creative approach to a 404 error page can turn frustration into surprise, amusement or education. For a little inspiration, take a look at a few clever ways different sites deal with a broken link or user typo.
A great example of practical functionality that — rather than stumping the user with an error and leaving them to fend for themselves — offers a search function as well as quick links to the site’s main section. Too many sites forget to include top level navigation and breadcrumbs for these error pages, adding further friction to an already frustrating error experience.
Web Designer Benjamin Reed leverages frustration into an opportunity to entertain with a fun interactive tribute to Jurassic Park. What seems to be a plain, forgettable error quickly gets overridden by a familiar DOS interface when you land on the page.
A few attempts at “rebooting the system” trigger Dennis Nedry’s famous denial — “You didn’t say the magic word” — and Reid wraps it all up by redirecting you to social media accounts, using the fun and memorable experience to attract new followers.
Another example of useful practicality, TechCrunch’s 404 page barely feels like an error, including options to search further or contact support in addition to standard navigation throughout the side. A few of the site’s latest articles are also featured prominently on the page, allowing users to simply move on to the next interesting story and forget they even ran into an error in the first place.
This web development company uses a fully playable game of Pacman for their 404 pages because — why not? Their tech-minded clients are likely to enjoy a little gaming break, while the navigation and search links at the top offer an opportunity to keep looking for something — after trying to get all those ghosts a few times.
NPR is a broadcaster dedicated to education and telling stories, and their error page represents the brand perfectly. In addition to search functionality, the opportunity to report an error and standard navigation, the page offers users the ability to jump into other stories about people and things that were also lost — from Jimmy Hoffa to luggage to Waldo.
The ability to spark an interest in a new subject and nurture learning about it showcases the eclectic approach that fans know NPR for, solidifying brand awareness elegantly instead of irritating the user.
This simple 404 page offers the proper URL for those who may have been searching for that term on Wikipedia, potentially resolving the issue with a single click. If that doesn’t help, you’ll have the chance to review any matches similar to your search term, offering a guided experience towards the results you need, rather than forcing you to retrace your steps and try again.
There are a lot of clever touches going on with this game developer’s 404 page: A literal interpretation of a “broken” page, a clean yet functional navigation layout and a sarcastic tone using gamer terminology — everything comes together nicely to amuse visitors and take the sting out of an error.
This landing page generator takes a different approach than most, offering up a free use-case tutorial as an apology to any visitor looking for a missing page on the domain. In addition to mitigating frustration with a surprise, this move attracts new business, as the tutorial discusses successes achieved through the LeadPages service.
Since this platform seeks to inform through its databases, this 404 presents the visitor with a list of funny, snarky and quirky comments about missing pages — in over 404 languages. After a user finishes wondering what each could mean, they’ll find comprehensive navigation and search functions available to round off the experience.
Next time you’re developing a 404 page, don’t settle for a simple notice. Consider your brand and type of visitors you expect.
An error doesn’t have to be an inconvenient embarrassment. It’s an opportunity to help people narrow their scope or fix mistakes, searching and navigating through the key parts of your site. If you’re producing content, suggest new, popular or alternative material that may be even more interesting to readers than what they were originally seeking. Don’t forget fun and games, either — they can turn UX friction into smiles.
The goal is to keep visitors on your site, engaged with your offerings and the spirit of your brand. Make sure those error pages work as hard as the rest of your content to keep their loyalty — a practical, creative solution is all it takes.
Did you enjoy this post?
Never miss a blog post. Subscribe below to get more posts like this sent straight to your inbox as soon as they're published.