For those who doesn’t know what 404 stands for, there are two things you should keep in mind:
I’ll explain myself.
The standard 404 error message leaves the searcher with nothing to do but to press the back button, meaning – and this is where the “catch 404” lies – you lose a potential visitor.
Searchers don’t mean to make mistakes but they do it nevertheless. Whether it is some typing mistake, misspeling or writing your URL with a non-existed extension (using “htm” extension instead of “html” for example) they’ll get to the 404 error page and from there – the way to the back button and someone else’s site is very short.
In order to avoid this “catch 404”, meaning – not to lose this “wandering visitor”, or any other potential users, there are several things you can do, all of them deal with improving your 404 page:
Enlighten the “wandering visitor” with a short paragraph (of 2-3 sentences) explaining the visitor where he got to and what he can do in order to correct his search.
Add some links to other pages in your site – Since you don’t know what the visitor was searching for, links to your home page and the site map page will be the best ones for you. Doing this will direct the visitor into your site instead of out of it.
Another solution is to –
Use your website design for the 404 page – This will help the visitor to understand where he is and also, since your company logo or your site title will be presented to him (and it should! ), you’ll get to brand yourself in the visitor’s consciousness. That way, even if the visitor decides to press the back button he’ll get to remember your site.
More than that, by using your site’s design template for the 404 page, including the menu bar, you give the visitor way more options (or reasons) to stay in your site.
If you’re having problems with articulating your 404 error message, just remember to keep it short and simple. Following the above, get it within your website design and offer the visitor some alternetives other than pressing the back button. Your 404 error message could be something like: “Unfortunately, the page you requested for wasn’t find. You can check the following links to find what you were looking for.”
If you’re looking for some original 404 page solutions, you really should check up plinko website – it offers valuable information on 404 error message page plus some links to amusing 404 pages.