Countless articles have helped to explain the value of a custom designed 404 page over a server generated warning. While they are often not the most interesting or creatively challenging, a clearly designed 404 page can help enormously when a reader finds themselves typing a bad URL or following a dead or incorrect link.
- A link to the site map (if you have one) and the home page. This is the easiest way for users to bail out. This no-brainer requires no clever scripting.
- A search box. If you have a site search, add it to your 404 page. If you don’t have a site search and are in the habit of generating 404 errors, perhaps you should get one.
- A distinctly minimalist look. Avoid putting all your standard site navigation on this page. You should aim to remove distractions. Besides, insisting on including a complete site navigation strip may present a maintentance overhead (your 404 page can easily lag behind the rest of the site if it is not dynamically updated with the rest of your site and the last thing you want is to have navigation on the 404 that is no longer relevant/working. Oh the irony!)
That doesn't mean of course that you can't have a little fun and lighten the mood when things go wrong.
I have attempted to bring all of this together for the New Internationalist 404 page.
Although I'm sure that New Internationalist editors will change the copy before my redesign is launched, for now I'm running with;
Oops! Sorry that you ended up here — 404
We are very sorry, but what you were looking for is not here.
Maybe you clicked a bad link somewhere, or perhaps that page has been stolen by a greedy capitalist.
Funny you should say that
Writing this entry gave me an idea. How about you, New Internationalist readers or interested web geeks, write the 404 copy? You can be as weird, funny, stinging or sarcastic as you like.
I can't promise that your copy will make it to the redesigned site, but if it does, I'm sure that my friends at New Internationalist can sort you out with a little something to sweeten the deal.