I don’t know why, but I’ve been quite unlucky with broken links lately. Not that it happens often, but when it does, I tend to get really annoyed if I see a boring old school 404 page or perhaps even worse, a server error displayed like the one below.
I mean. Think about it. It doesn’t take that long to produce a helpful 404 page which at the least tells me I’m on the right domain or tries to help me in some way. Even though the sole function of the 404 is to help the user where to go next, there is no reason not to give the user a pleasant surprise.
404 = Opportunity
I believe a good 404 page is to embody the same qualities as a viral video. Give me some value for my “lost” visit and try to keep me on your site. Use humor, a surprising twist or a compelling message to ease my pain. And I do so appreciate a creative angle.
Therefore it really surprises me how few of the top brands, realize that the 404 page is a branding opportunity. Make it the place where you can show me a peek behind the curtains of your company culture and a bit of personality too. While searching for great examples I checked through a lot of these top 100 brands.
Apple, Samsung, Sony, Audi, BMW, Nescafé, Nestlé, Nike, Adidas, Disney and GE amongst others all do have 404 pages which try to help me. They are just so very very boring.
Coca Cola, Heinz and Starbucks on the other hand, did give a little bit extra:
- In spite of the strange smiley, the playful text mad me smile.
- Heinz uses the empty bottle to signal the missing page.
But why not bring the bacon? Why not be original like below companies?
With a lot of traffic going via Hootsuite and Bit.ly shortened links, they’ve realized that their services may put users on the wrong track. Both take a humoristic approach:
- Wanted. El Hoot O., Link bandito
But even though you don’t have such creative, funny or exceptional 404 pages, at least I hope you have one?
Flash and homepage redirects should be banned
Those brands who have glossy flash pages without a proper link structure somehow annoy me the most. I’m not against flash. I’m against the lack of unique URLs. Imagine following scenario. Your friend shares a link with you via Twitter or email or [put in preferred network] E.g. “Really cool shoes/gadget/competition – what do you think? -> link”. When clicking the link, you end up on the homepage of the brand, instead of the intended destination. Confused? Yes. I think so. And probably irritated too.
A quick 404 checklist from a user POV:
- Explain to me what might have happened in a normal language: This page does not exist. Simple errors may be the address is typed or copied in wrongly or that the page you are searching for might have been moved to a new location.
- Display recognizable graphic elements to show me, I’m on the right domain: Use your brand style guide or show your logo as a minimum.
- Try to help me get to the right destination: Implement your menu and embed the search bar.
- Bring the bacon: As said. Show me who you are and I’ll like you for it. Remember the viral qualities.
Do you have some good examples? Do share the fun!