Recently I customized the 404 page of this blog (Read my post titled ‘dealing with page not found errors‘ to understand what a 404 page is all about). It is not the final version yet but I thought of writing this little post about the process of setting up a custom 404 page on a WordPress blog and some examples of 404 pages.
Most of the professional WordPress themes will have their own 404 pages. In most cases, the 404 page is represented by the 404.php file in your theme folder. Hence, customizing your 404 error message is all about editing this file and adding relevant messages or content there. If this file doesn’t exist, you can just create one.
You could customize your 404 page either via directly editing the 404.php in your theme editor or by using a number of free 404 plugins available out there.
Good 404 page ideas
Throwing an ordinary ‘Page not found’ page is like handing a tight slap on the visitor’s face because they reached your blog expecting something but they cant’ see anything. Hence it is very important to customize this page and if properly implemented, it can result in good conversion and readership as well.
The following are some of the great examples of custom 404 pages based on the content that it displays.
#1 Sell your services on 404
Ebay, DELL and HostGator have implemented exceptional 404 pages on their site where they sell their services using these bounced web hits. Checkout:
Ebay 404 page
HostGator 404 page
DELL 404 page
These are very high volume sites and they will have several thousand 404 hits everyday. Just imagine the situation where even 1% of it resulting in a sale or a lead.
#2 Show blog archives or sitemap
I like the simple 404 page that Daniel Scocco has put together. It just shows the blog archives. Similarly one could decide to show the sitemap, as well.
#3 Show multiple options including search, most read content etc
The ProBlogger’s 404 page is one of the best examples of a blog 404 page which summarizes his best categories, a search option and a very polite ‘sorry’ message all put together very nicely.
ProBlogger 404 page
#4 Sell your brand
The PhotoBucket 404 page is just about photo categories – of course there is a 404 message and a search option but the 404 hit moves immediately to the images shown there. Of course they have the advantage of being in the photo niche.
PhotoBucket 404 page
#5 Automatic redirect to Homepage
I could not find an example for this option but it is definitely something that can be done. Ideally, it is better to display a message (something like ‘in five seconds you will be redirected’ etc) before the redirect takes place.
There could be other great examples of 404 implementations as well.
Bad examples of 404 pages
The following are some of the bad examples of 404 pages, which do not show anything useful.
John Chow’s 404 page (Nothing more than the error message)
SAP’s 404 page (Too much courtesy and blaming the technology)
twitter’s 404 page (Can’t the imagine anything other than that silly bird?)
Lufthansa’s 404 page (Giving the wrong message to the user that he has to go to a new address without specifying which)
Default thesis theme 404 page (Most of the thesis fans are still having this ugly geeky 404 message. Check out ShoutMeLoud’s post to customize your thesis 404 page)
What about you?
Do you have a cool 404 page idea (either your own or seen elsewhere)? If so please talk about the same in your comments.