From Glitch to Gold – turning 404 errors into a brand opportunity

Landing on a 404 error page is like hitting an unexpected dead end on the internet highway. However, while it may cause frustration among users, it presents an opportunity for brands to shine. When users find themselves on a non-existent or relocated webpage, the 404 page becomes a crucial touchpoint. Its primary role is to alert users to the error and smoothly guide them back to their intended destination.

Designing a user-friendly 404 page is essential for delivering a positive user experience. It also presents an excellent opportunity to showcase your brand personality and values, transforming a potentially frustrating event into a memorable and engaging brand interaction.

Turning Your 404 Page into a Brand Opportunity

Now, let’s delve into the key elements that can elevate your 404 page and transform it into a brand showcase:

Messaging

Ensure clarity by explaining why users are seeing a 404 page. For example you could say “This page does not exist or may have moved”. Not everyone knows what a 404 error is, and they may not understand why they are not seeing the content they wanted.

It is important to be empathetic and keep in mind that you are engaging with real people. Use language that resonates with your audience and reflects your brand voice. Avoid using language that blames the user or makes them feel like they have made an error.

When we designed a new website for Ipswich Sports Club, we created an engaging 404 page that matches their content and tone of voice. The page displays the message “The Ball is Out! It looks like this page missed the court” and includes helpful links and a search bar to get users “back in the game”.

Screenshot of ISC 404

Helpful Navigation

Once someone understands why they are seeing this page, tell them how to continue their journey by providing links that direct them to relevant pages. You can also include a search bar allowing users to find their desired content. By doing so, you can provide them with helpful resources without requiring them to leave your website.

Brand Personality

Use your brand personality, look and feel consistently across all pages to forge a stronger connection with your users. Even if they land on an error page (404), you can take advantage of the opportunity to re-engage them with your brand. Adding humour, if it aligns with your brand identity, can be an effective way to do so.

Be Engaging

Landing on a 404 error page is frustrating for users, but you can make your 404 page stand out. Consider creating something visual for your users, such as a video, something funny, something to inspire, or even a helpful article like this one.

Some of my favourite 404 pages

Steve Lambert

Screenshot of Steve Lamberts 404 page

If you are a fan of awkward humour, you will love the 404 page on Steve Lambert’s website. The page is titled “The Most Awkward 404 Not Found Pages on the Internet,” and it features a video of Steve in an empty room talking to the camera.

Visit Steve’s 404 page

GitHub

Screenshot of Github 404 error page

GitHub has cleverly tailored its page to appeal to its audience with its Star Wars inspired 404 page. They have incorporated the Octocat mascot and the famous quote “This is not the web page you are looking for.” They have also made navigation easy by placing the search bar at the centre of the page.

Visit GitHub’s 404 page

The New Yorker

Screenshot of The New York 404

This example from The New Yorker demonstrates how to use a brand asset that is already humorous and related to getting lost and feature it on a 404 page. The cartoon, which features a mouse wearing a GPS, was originally published in a 2011 issue and is the perfect choice to use on a ‘page not found’ page.

Visit The New Yorker’s 404 page

Smashing Magazine

Smashing Magazine’s 404 page features a playful illustration of its cat mascot. In their message, they accept responsibility for losing the page and provide some useful links to help users get back on track.

Visit Smashing magazine’s 404 page

Helping you turn lost users into loyal customers.

By incorporating your brand personality and values into your 404 page, we can turn a setback into an engaging brand opportunity. If you would like our expertise in turning your 404 page into an opportunity to showcase your brand, please get in touch with us.

About Angie Vale

Angie is technical director at Studio Brand Up and has over 10 years experience in UX, web design and web accessibility.