Oh the 404! Such a wonderful error to come across while browsing the web. Some are funny while others are helpful. Don’t get caught with a rudimentary 404 page which does nothing to aid the user in finding what they were looking for. Instead, use these tips and plugins to create a kick ass 404 page that helps more than it hurts.
1. Create A Custom 404 Page – The default 404 page is usually not very helpful. Creating a custom page allows you to be flexible with how you help the web browser find what they are looking for.
2. It’s Not Your Fault – Whatever you do, don’t tell the end user that it’s there fault for the error page being displayed even though it most likely is. Give them an apologetic message and point them in the right direction.
3. Link To Your Site Map – Most blogs/websites now have something called Site Maps which are basically your entire site in an easy to digest format. Point users to your site map and let them browse around.
4. Add A Search Box – I don’t mean add any search box, add a search box which is tied into your blog. I’ve been to a few websites where the search box is nothing more than a Google search and I become that much more frustrated.
5. Do More With Less – There is no need to make the 404 page fancy or filled with images or videos. Be precise and to the point. If possible, remove the navigation links from your 404 page as you don’t want to have more links to dead pages and this will also help in minimizing distractions.
6. Rename 404 – Despite the fact that the Internet has been around the block a few times, there are still a large handful of people who don’t understand what a 404 error is. Do them a favor and get rid of the 404 and replace the error with a common sense definition.
7. Possible Matches – Even though the user didn’t find what they were looking for, try to display a list of five or so results of related or possible matches. If you use WordPress, you could easily add a function to your 404.php page which could display the last five blog posts or the most popular blog posts.
8. Contact Information – Although it is not the end users job to look around your site searching for 404 error pages, if they happen to come across one, make sure a link to your contact form or an email address is published so that they can easily notify you of the broken link.
AskApache 404 Plugin For WordPress – AskApache Google 404 is a WordPress plugin that uses ajax and a couple tricks to display a very helpful and SEO Error Page. The default displays Google Search Results for images, news, blogs, videos, web, custom search engine, and your own site.
Google XML Sitemaps – This plugin will create a Google sitemaps compliant XML-Sitemap of your WordPress blog. It supports all of the WordPress generated pages as well as custom ones. Everytime you edit or create a post, your sitemap is updated and all major search engines that support the sitemap protocol, like ASK.com, Google, MSN Search and YAHOO, are notified about the update.
Broken Link Checker – This plugin is will monitor your blog looking for broken links and let you know if any are found. The broken links, if any are found, will show up in a new tab of the WP admin panel. A notification will also appear on the Dashboard.
Google 404 Widget – The 404 widget is a quick and easy way to embed a search box on your custom 404 page and provide users with useful information designed to help them find the information they need. Where we can, we’ll also suggest other ways for the user to find the information they need, thus increasing the likelihood that they’ll continue to explore your site.
Sometimes, all one needs is a bit of a kick to get the creative juices flowing. Check out this list of 100 funny and unusual 404 error pages. Beware though, this page takes forever to load.