How to Make the Most Out of Your 404 Pages

No matter how careful you are about your site structure, someone’s bound to land on your 404 page through an old link or because they mistyped a URL. Many marketers don’t realize that these pages offer a lot of opportunities to engage their website’s visitors. If your website has boring, generic 404 pages that simply state that there’s a problem, your visitors will simply close the window and look for something else. Having a good 404 page gives them a reason to stay.

The Elements of a Good 404 Page

You can customize your 404 page any way you want, but to make a really good 404 page, you should keep the following elements in mind:


Don’t be afraid to get creative with your 404 page’s design, but remember that it should still tie in well with the rest of your website’s look. Keep your design and branding consistent to engage the visitor effectively and convince them to do something other than close the window.

A comparison of MailChimp’s content pages and 404 page

MailChimp’s 404 page still includes their logo and top navigation to keep the design consistent.


Your 404 page’s written copy is what tells the user what happened, and what they should be doing next. Make sure the tone of the copy is reassuring and that it compels users to action. Keeping the copy light-hearted and humorous is often a good option.

A screenshot of GigMasters’ 404 page

The copy on GigMasters’ 404 page plays on the nature of their business while providing clear instructions.

Calls to Action

Don’t just tell users what to do – show them. Your calls to action should be clear and simple to use. The most common options would be to provide a search box so they can easily find what they’re looking for, or links to some of your most popular pages.

A screenshot of the 404 page for David’s Been Here

The 404 page for David’s Been Here clearly tells users where to click next.

404 or 301?

Many webmasters choose to use a 301 redirect to send visitors to a different page instead of showing them a 404 error. This is probably the safest option, but it’s not necessarily the best one in terms of usability. Users might get confused when they click on a link or type in a URL and a completely different page shows up. Wouldn’t you get frustrated if you wanted to read a specific service only to be taken to the company website’s homepage? From a user’s perspective, it’s usually better to see a helpful and informative 404 page than to be instantly redirected. When having a web development company work on your website, don’t forget to have them work on your 404 page, too. Our own web design and development teams would love to work on your site and make it even better for your business. Talk to us today!

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