404 Page: Friend or Foe?

The dreaded 404 page.  It’s the last place you want to see when navigating a website, and it’s the last place you want your viewers to end up because it means something went wrong.  But the 404 page doesn’t have to be all that bad.

Recently I read an article highlighting some well done and even downright funny 404 pages done by businesses. Realizing that this often forgotten page is a hidden opportunity to impress their viewers and guide them back onto their site, and perhaps even help them find the page they were looking for, these websites showed creativity in creating custom 404 pages.  Here are some of my favorites:

Here’s the article if you want to check out even more examples.

A custom 404 page doesn’t have to be extravagant or detailed, but it should have a few basic components. First, you want to offer your viewer a chance to get back on your site by providing access to your main pages or more visited posts, and adding a search bar gives them a chance to try to find what they were looking for when they got lost.  Besides helping them get back to your page, it can be nice to offer a little sympathy since it’s not fun to see the 404 error.  Lastly, customizing your 404 page gives you the opportunity to help the page design blend in with the rest of your site and even show a little personality, while giving your entire website a more thought-out, finished feel.

Seeing all those creative examples inspired me to make our own custom 404 page.  It’s nothing fancy, but it fits the feel of our site and adds a little something extra.

What do you think?  How would you design a 404 page for your site?