As an SME owner managing a website, you would pray that your visitors never encounter issues while browsing products on your site. However, we do not live in an ideal world. Links can break, resources can move around as you continue to update and revise your site, and as visitors click around on the various links on your site, they may eventually chance upon a glitch or the dreaded error 404 page.
Error 404 is one of the most common error codes anyone will run into online. This occurrence happens when a visitor is trying to reach page that cannot be found on the website. It may be because the page has been moved to a new URL or it has simply been removed from the website entirely.
While any good website manager would take steps to rectify these errors, some of them can fall through the cracks – especially if your site has thousands of pages. Hence, it is important to have a well-designed error 404 page to not just ease the situation, but also to help visitors find what they need or to continue browsing.
Encountering disruptions during a browsing journey can ignite several possible reactions from visitors – confusion, disappointment, feeling lost, frustration and sometimes even anger. Hence, a good error 404 page is able to redirect these negative emotions and replace them with a more positive experience.
To do that, the page should have these three elements, among others:
A visitor browses websites for two reasons: They are looking for something specific, or they are looking for something new to catch their attention. An error 404 page will cut short this journey, and may become one of the reasons visitors bounce from the site. A search box presents continuity to their browsing journey, giving them the opportunity to find what they could not on their last click, and thus, send them back in the right direction.
When something is indeed unavailable on your site, another way to retain website bounce rates is to re-navigate the visitor to related, suggested or new topics on your site. A site navigation section can come in various forms; some examples include:
With this, visitors can continue browsing your site immediately without having to go back a page.
Sometimes, all it takes is an apology to calm a visitor who may otherwise be frustrated due to her disrupted browsing. Some websites take to including quirky and funny apologies or fun facts on their error 404 pages to soothe the visitor. It may not do much in the useability and practicality of the site, but it does indeed go far when it comes to the audience’s feelings towards your business, as well as customer loyalty!