404 page error: nothing to be afraid about; it’s a free opportunity to make your brand stand out. 

 April 7, 2021

By  Pascal Depuhl

The 404 page. Someone screwed up somewhere. Either your visitor typed in the wrong URL, or a link broke. But it’s a page that many people will just leave. Plus, you lose an opportunity to put a smile on someone’s face despite a mistake.

A useless error page

An unbranded 404 page looks something like the one here – kinda boring.

As one of my blog’s readers, you know that I’ve blogged for quite some time, and with that came an opportunity since my SQL database was outdated and I had to update my PHP. (If you don’t know what those alphabet soups mean, don’t worry. Your web designer or your ISP will help you figure it out.) 

And you also know that I like to brand in unexpected places – like my link shortener.

In case you were wondering, I use Ionos as my Internet Service Provider. They’ve been my ISP for many years, and I love their service, pricing, and options.

404 page – revisit it during your site redesign

So with the update of the technical side of things, I figured it would be worth updating my blog’s design. (As of this post’s writing, it is in the sandbox and not live yet, but here’s a preview of what the top of my new blog design looks like.)

Nice and clean. The site runs on WordPress, and the theme I use is by a platform called Thrive Themes, which makes design and implementation easy. Their goal is to help you drive conversions on your sites. 

Well, as I was designing my homepage layout, up pops the template for the 404 page. So now I’ve finally taken the opportunity to brand this page as well.

404 page - branded on purpose

What your 404 page needs

Ok, so you’re sitting in front of your empty 404 page template and say, “Great. Now what?” Remember that people will never see your 404 page unless there is a mistake. It’s either a user error or a site error, but it doesn’t really matter your visitor ended up somewhere they did not plan on being. So they are already not thrilled.

Take this occasion to turn the mistake into a positive experience. Many 404 pages are a bit tongue in cheek.

Here are some of my favorite 404 pages:

A 404 page can be a static image – like Pixars (click on the image to go to my original blog post, where you can click through to these 404 pages).

404 pages can also be a video clip – the one from GymBox is hilarious and wouldn’t even need the words to communicate that you’re in the wrong place.

Finally, CarWow has a little game on its page. Hey, it’s engaging.

All of the good ones offer options:

  • Search for a new post
  • Go back to the main page of the blog
  • Visit another page (in my case, that’s ###a href=”http://www.depuhl.com/” target=”_blank” class=”tve-froala”>my photography website).

Are you branding your 404 page?

Please leave me a link to yours in the comments.

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Pascal Depuhl

Miami product photographer, video producer, cinematographer and chief mindchanger at Photography by Depuhl I love to share the knowledge I've gained over the past two decades. Catching light in motion.