What's In A Good 404?

404?

The dreaded 404 error code essentially means “not found”. Visit a webpage that’s not there anymore, and you’ll probably see such a message.

What’s required for a pleasant 404 design? Automatic search for what’s not found? Good guesses? Or simply a short friendly message?

Noscope has an updated 404 page. I went with simple & friendly. How about you?

17 thoughts on “What's In A Good 404?”

  1. Gareth says:

    modx has some a nice helpful 404:

    http://modxcms.com/404.html

  2. Joen says:

    That is helpful… but don’t you think it’s got too much text? In my experience, people don’t read on the internet (which of course makes the point of a blog moot), but really, large amounts of text simply scare people away.

  3. Nick says:

    I have a 404 page that shows what a 404 is then displays navigation elements (categories etc).

  4. Nik says:

    Personally I like the simple 404 page. (Noscope’s new one is great!)…

    I can see what people are trying to do, offering the sitemap on the 404 page, we do the same at work, but are now discussing whether this might actually confuse the reader even more as with so much content it actually looks like another page in the site, rather than an error page.

    A technology company (can’t remember the name) actually offered a discount code to use in their shop as a result of discovering a 404 page… I thought that was quite a cool idea.

    I agree with you though Joen, simple and friendly.

  5. Apart from simple and friendly, I think a 404 needs to tell people explicitly what to do.

    Like mine does, unsurprisingly. I like to think this minimises confusion and gives people an easy way out.

  6. Joen says:

    as with so much content it actually looks like another page in the site, rather than an error page

    That’s exactly my thoughts! As long as some navigation is available, I think it’s more important to keep things simple.

    A technology company (can?t remember the name) actually offered a discount code to use in their shop as a result of discovering a 404 page… I thought that was quite a cool idea.

    Neat. Was this intended to try and get rid of dead links?

    Apart from simple and friendly, I think a 404 needs to tell people explicitly what to do. Like mine does, unsurprisingly. I like to think this minimises confusion and gives people an easy way out.

    Indeed… that works very well. A friendly message pointing to the archive page. That makes sense.

    http://www.wddg.com/joen

    Ah, those were the days!

  7. Ah, those were the days!

    did you give it time? if so, you should have ended up here:

    http://www.wddg.com/NIHIL/NOS/PROHIBERE/NON/POSSIT/NUNC/

  8. Jonas Rabbe says:

    If I were to give one comment about your new 404 it is that you in some way still blame the user with the “Maybe it was never here” text. And of course that you don’t offer some way for the user to move on.

    That’s, of course, two points and not one, and I have to admit the first is a bit weak, but the second is important. If the user got your 404 from an external link they would just say “Oh well”, close the browser window, and move on. Since you have so much interesting content that’s a damned shame.

    I have read several posts and articles about what makes a good 404, but I haven’t found the perfect recipe as it evident by the look of my own 404.

  9. Well, 404-Pages ..

    I like your new 404 page, because it is funny, though it could be more helpful: “Maybe the stuff you are looking for has moved. Try to search for it. [searchform]”

  10. Joen says:

    did you give it time? if so, you should have ended up here:

    Yep, I ended up with a lavish Flash presentation (in a blocked popup window, no less!). Those were the days 😉

    If I were to give one comment about your new 404 it is that you in some way still blame the user with the ?Maybe it was never here? text. And of course that you don?t offer some way for the user to move on.

    Hmm good point. I should adjust it.

    I’ll adjust the text, but the question remains: how do I encourage the user to search further? Point to the search box? Or link to the archives? Maybe it’s actually a problem that the “archives” page is a sub-page of the journal… I should probably change that.

    I like your new 404 page, because it is funny, though it could be more helpful: ?Maybe the stuff you are looking for has moved. Try to search for it. [searchform]?

    I’d think pointing to the existing searchform would be a better idea than creating an extra search form… otherwise, people might think “which one is the real search form?”

  11. Daniel P says:

    In general, I think it’s a bad idea to be directing users around the page in the event of a 404.. There are of course plenty of exceptions to that, but unless you’ve been restructuring the page in a way that you could put a good guess at where the user actually wanted to go, there’s no real need to start supplying sitemaps or archive links.. Most of the time a user who realizes that the content they were expecting isn’t quickly available (searching or archive listings aren’t really fast enough) they’ll just leave. And if they don’t leave, it’s probably cause they’re just slow surfing and want to read something.. In which case you don’t need to prod them anyway.

    That’s just my opinion though, I can’t say I’ve performed any extensive research on user response to 404 situations… Though I probably should. 🙂

    Btw,

  12. Joen says:

    Most of the time a user who realizes that the content they were expecting isn?t quickly available (searching or archive listings aren?t really fast enough) they?ll just leave. And if they don?t leave, it?s probably cause they?re just slow surfing and want to read something.. In which case you don?t need to prod them anyway.

    Good point.

    Btw,

    Weee! Thanks!

    How did you know?

  13. Daniel P says:

    Weee! Thanks!

    How did you know?

    Why through your sister, of course!

  14. Joen says:

    Why through your sister, of course!

    Ah, of course!

  15. Joen says:

    Oh! Happy Birthday!

    Thanks! Big 27.

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