For many business websites the 404 page rarely gets any attention. Generally it is a page that no web developer wants the user to see. Many hours go into making sure that the website is functioning properly and that all links lead to somewhere. But it is going to happen, the user will end up going…nowhere. That is to say they will click a link or enter in an extension that leads to a very plain page that simply states “Page Not Found”. What tends to get ignored is the fact that this page can be customized and as such can be made to do so much more than deliver a message that doesn’t help the user at all.
Use Your 404 for Simple, Easy SEO Help
The 404 page is a great example of how simple and common things can get overlooked. You would be surprised where you can make simple changes that will not only help improve the users experience but also improve your websites conversions.
I was asked, late in the day, to make a graphic image for our website for the 404 page that was going through an overhaul. It was not to complicated, just something that fit our website’s theme and would improve the look of the page. So I took a moment to consider common icons used for this purpose and immediately created an image of a magnifying glass.
This image was nice and simple. But I was told that it needed to be larger and I knew that the handle of the magnifying glass was going to create a lot of white space on the page. So I went back and reviewed the newly updated space where the image was planned to go. Since the page was about not finding a page I figured that the best choice to fill up the space was to put the magnifying glass icon over an icon of a web page. Since I was to design the image so it matched our current theme, I decided that the image of the web page should match our current web page.
During this time, there was brainstorming going on about how to get the page to do more than just tell the user that the page could not be found. It was decided that this page might as well do what every other page does and direct the viewer to points of interest on the site. The 404 page quickly went from being a passive message to an active participant with links leading the user to commonly visited locations, along with a little advertising.
It didn’t take long for the icon I created to get roped into this process. I was told to see if I could add in some marketing text and include a call to action button. My simple icon went from being a passive object to an active participant just as the rest of the page had.
It is easy to overlook the potential of simple items such as a graphic or an error message. While not everything can become a marketing piece, you would be surprised at what you can do when you take a moment to ask whether something so simple could be doing more for your business.
– from Brian, JSA’s Graphic Artist Extraordinaire.