Best practice for 404 pages

It’s scary when you are lost. Even worse if someone starts shouting at you for reaching the wrong place. Worse still if there is nothing to help you find where you originally wanted to go. Welcome to the world of good and bad 404 pages.

Get it right, you keep your visitor. Get it wrong, they head back to where they came from and you have missed out. If you are a sales website you have missed a potential sale. If you have access to change your 404 page – you should do.. but not any old 404 will do you need to think about what you are going to include in this page as much as you would your homepage.

Images below are clickable so you can see the screenshots of the good and bad 404 pages. Click the links to visit the real life pages which in some cases they may have improved. At the bottom of this page are recomendations for what to and not to do when creating your 404.

BBC 404 page – includes the term 404 which is not helpful. Does include hints of pages the user could use to help them find the content they are looking for.

ITV 404 page

ITV’s 404 page gives you some clues where else to go but weirdly includes an advert at the top (blocked by my network). The last thing you want when you are lost is an advert!

Telegraph 404 page

Telegraph 404 page, a little wordy (but as usual for the telegraph does not say much of use) and really needs links to key areas of the site.

Apple 404 page

Apple does it really nicely. Simple and clean, as you would expect, with helpful links to key areas of the Apple site though a few too many links.

Guardian Newspaper 404 page

The guardian also keeps it nice and simple, and takes the blame rather than accusing you of doing something wrong. A few links to the most popular areas of the site works really well.

New York Times 404 page

Strangely the New York Times took me to a page titled Member Center.

Sony UK 404 page

Sony UKwas pretty useless. Just putting the whole sitemap is not helpful and they take way too long explaining you’ve got to the wrong place – not immediately clear. Sony USsite isnt much better.

Disney 404 page

Disney gets it wrong! Getting lost should not be a crisis and do the children looking for their favourite characters need to know they have reached a 404 page. Back to the ‘drawing’ board Disney.

ABC 404 page

Its as if just didn’t bother – well I guess they did because there is a page – but they really didn’t.

Channel 4 404 page

Channel 4 is far too official. For a creative TV channel this is one place I would have expected seeing something interesting with the ‘404’ label – come on channel 4.

Levis 404 page (of sorts!)

Levis just doesnt care what you type – trust me whatever you type – it leads to the same homepage advert. When they don’t care – will you go elsewhere?

Target 404 page

At Target it is all your fault for getting lost, however they really want to sell you a gift card.

Deutsche Telekom 404

At Deutsche Telekom I got lost in English, but had to learn German before finding my way again in their website.

IBM ignoring 404

IBM was another ‘404 ignore’. They just take you to their homepage because if you don’t know where you are going they clearly don’t want to know.

Orange 404

I searched for France Telecom, was taken to the english speaking Orange site, and when it all went wrong they tried to put me right in English. A few too many links though with helpful pointers in the right direction. My favourite behaviour of all they took the blame for me entering the wrong website address.

Barlays 404

Barclays Bank blames it all on you, and being a bank I wouldn’t be surprised if they charge your account for going to the wrong page.

The 404 Kitten

I would have loved the 404 kitten if its creator had not included the numbers 404.


What not to do…

Put adverts in the 404 page

Blame your visitor for getting lost

Have a long explanation of why they reached the 404 page

Include your whole site map

Expect your visitor do the work, beyond whats absolutely neccesay, to get where they orignially wanted to go

Not bother at all

What to do…

Take the blame for your visitor not finding what they want – even when you did nothing wrong

Be helpful, but not too helpful

Keep it simple

Keep it in the language the user was using your site or searching in

Spend time thinking like a visitor – not only for those who know your site but those from search engines who will go elsewhere very quickly if you get it wrong

Work for your visitors and make it eays for them even when they get it wrong

I would love to…

Ban the term 404

Write a programme that always knew what you really wanted and to sell it

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