Custom 404 Error Pages – Worth it?
404 errors, surely we’ve all seen them right? A 404 error is the more common way of talking about a HTTP 404 response. That is when a browser can connect to a websites server but cannot find the exact page. For example if you go to www.msbugslittlepretties.com/contact.html it will take you to our beautiful, elegant and damn sexy contact form page. But if you were trying to type the url and accidentally typed www.msbugslittlepretties.com/contacts.html you would be shown the screen in the image above. That is because the browser found msbugslittlepretties.com but could not find a page called contacts.html within it. If I had not created a custom 404 page you would be shown a generic page created by the hosting provider like so:
There is nothing inherently wrong about the generic hosting providers 404 page. It isn’t an eyesore and it tells the user what is going on. But not using a custom 404 page you miss out on some benefits.
An obvious benefit is branding. A custom 404 page still contains your branding and can have the same navigation functionality as your other pages. This way the user can navigate easily from the error page back to any other page via your websites nav. Also for SEO purposes this helps ensure the user clicks on a link in your nav and keeps clicking on your site, rather than being frustrated and leaving.
Custom 404 pages are also useful for search engine crawlers. If you have a dead link on your page that results in a generic 404 page, the search engine crawler can crawl no more. Where as if you have a custom page with more links to your page, the crawler can keep on crawling through your website.
Lastly, the custom 404 page is just good UX. If you use the opportunity to make it creative or fun, you can turn an error into a positive experience for the user, which is always a good thing.