Let’s admit- no one is particularly fond of the 404 page. It is like a wrong landing for us. A wrongly typed address, an out-of-place bad link, deleted page or content shifted to a new place, whatever is the reason, we definitely have a bad taste in our mouth. Ironically, the page that informs the web/app users that the place they are trying to get to doesn’t exist is one of the potential elements to lose out on users with that boring and dull layout.
But this doesn’t mean that these error pages will always be a nightmare to encounter. If done correctly, a refreshing and informative 404 error page can not only make users land to the target areas of the site hassle-free but also lessen user annoyance and let them stick with the site longer. They can indeed become lucrative sources for conversion and branding. All you need is an effective UI design, dedicated user experience, and a little human empathy to transform 404 page design.
The page can have varied designs- it can be simple, comic or reserved. It all depends upon the nature of the product and the mood that you want to enforce. So, what all can be done to frame an out-of-the-box error page to fascinate the users and keep them exploring the site? This post will elaborate on the best practices that can be adapted to make 404 pages creative, appealing and interesting-
Explain It Out
Nothing can be more irritating in the world than to face an error message, and then to be confused by its context to such an extent that you have to Google to understand it. User-friendly 404 messages must convey crisply what went wrong in simple language and what should be the next action. It will be appreciated if you concisely tell what happened. One or two sentences will suffice. The websites should stick to their common style and justify what led to the error in the very first place.
Avoid the Clutter
A lot of sites used to adopt the panic mode- Caution, 404 ahead! They wanted to show the users what they got and see the reaction. That is actually a very poor approach. Suffocating the user with a 404 page loaded with links at every possible place of your site is like jumping in the lion’s den and irking an already irritated user. Remember cognitive overload and usability are like opposite poles.
The best way is to create a 404 page with limited key links, along with a link to the home page as a relief for the users who are lost with their decision to go next. Other alternatives can be to link with a blog, product features or About Us.
The user might have reached your site via a broken link from a deleted source, an incorrect URL, or a page that has been deleted. It is best to offer assistance with navigation of your website by keeping few links either separately or entering them in the footer of the page.
Make It Fun
Users might turn cranky if they fail to locate the information they are searching for. Let’s make them laugh. Why not bring in an element of humor? It is best to raise their spirits and hilarious pictures or videos will do the deed rightfully. Go for some entertainment, folks! Laughter isn’t the best weapon for the would-be comedians and first dates.
Including humor in your 404-page design can fulfill the criteria of design principles too. View 404 page as a medium to transform user annoyance into fulfillment not through navigation route, but through laughter.
Try a Fix
Error messages are common and no matter how desirable your site or app is, you just can’t stop it. People will always goof up while entering URLs. This doesn’t mean that you should stop putting in the effort to lower the number of people who view your 404 page.
Be careful you are not transporting users to broken links internally by staying under the coverage of site maintenance. Go for tools like 404 Checker and Screaming Frog to locate and mend broken links and send them to more relevant or useful content.
Engaging error pages or pages having gamification elements are a superb way to interact with users. Figma, an online tool, which has been made particularly for interface design creates such 404 page. 404 is designed in vectors that can be rebuilt as per your wishes.
Creative enough, the Marvel website has a 404 page that shows a set of diverse heroes when you refresh the page.
Scope for Branding
For a lot many users, a 404 page might be the first experience they have had with a brand. That is too much pressure for one tender error page. Stick to the standard practices like checking the aesthetics of the page matching with the rest of the website, microcopy setting the tone throughout, and ensuring that the icons and images are compatible with other sites or products.
Note that functionality has to step in before form in case of a 404. The target is to make the brand’s look and feel fulfill the function of the page.
Reflect the Product
The companies which are into selling various products have a good option to include pictures of that product on a 404 page. You can play with your mascot or logo to experiment with your error page.
Different design trends can be used to optimize error page design. Mixing and matching color contracts, color gradients, including shapes, shadows, and layers, etc. can always be of help. Your aim is to reduce negative emotions associated with 404 error warning. Use color schemes and illustration techniques that catch users’ eyes and eliminate the unpleasant experiences.
Visual effects can create their own charm for an error page. The images and contents should integrate in such a manner that it makes the text more appropriate and proves successful in removing the negative emotions of users. Additionally, extra links like ‘Help’, ‘About’ and other features also extend the page functions and improve user experiences.
Some visual effects that can come to aid for a groundbreaking 404 error page are high-quality images, impressive color schemes, creative theme, etc.
404 error pages can become creative and interesting if you select a proper theme for your page design. Of course, themes will add on to your work, but at the same time give a fascinating look to the page. You can choose an apt theme for your page design from movies, cartoons, festivals, animations, and diverse cultures, etc.
Another way to make this page intuitive and engrossing is by using 3D technology. Many advanced technologies like video/audio media, 3D technologies, and others if incorporated can upscale the design.
404 error pages have been a constant ugh! forever. But it doesn’t have to be like that all the time. UI/UX designers don’t want to create 404 pages just for the heck of it. They are viewing this page as a platform to showcase creativity and make users navigate a website smoothly.
They intend to keep the customers involved, launch their brand and work on user problems. Hope these practices will go a long way to revamp your error page and add every bit of delight in user interactions.