404 Page: Why You Need One

posted by Ishmael Sanchez on Apr 03, 2009

Having a custom error page is highly underrated. One of my clients recently reported to me that their most viewed page was their error page. And if you drive a lot of traffic to your site, I wouldn't be surprised if your error page was highly viewed.

So why have an error page? There are several reasons.

  1. It's better than a blank page that says the page doesn't exist on the site
  2. Eventually a user will mistype a URL or visit a page that doesn't exist
  3. For usability and SEO purposes it makes sense to keep users on the site as long as possible
  4. Gives you a second chance to engage the user
  5. If your site relies on advertisements, it's a great place for an ad or sponsor
  6. For web site redesigns, it's important to help maintain time on site

However, it's not good enough to just have a message saying "page not found". You should attempt to explain why that page was not found (site redesign, wrong URL, etc.) and give the user another option (display a site map, link back to the home page, search, and so on). Otherwise they're likely to just move on to another web site.

Also, this is a great place to let your creativity shine. Hongkiat.com has a great post showcasing creative and informative 404 pages. You can also view my custom 404 page at www.ishmaelsanchez.com/whoops

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Ishmael Sanchez