Thoughts, Stories & Ideas by Aphinya Dechalert

Not so boring 404s: Making 404s that reduces bounce rates

Not so boring 404s: Making 404s that reduces bounce rates
404 page with retro vibe design by Aphinya Dechalert. 

From a user's perspective, 404s are not fun. To be honest, any kind of error message is not fun. It disrupts the user flow and can turn potential users and customers away from your product or app.

A 404 happens every now and then. It is one of the most common errors on the web that signifies that what you are looking for does not exist - or no longer exists. How can this happen?

Sometimes, we take pages down. Sometimes, we move things around. Whatever the case, that thing is no longer there and we need to tell our users somehow.

Many sites just slap up a typical 404 page with a short message for you to go back. But go back to where? What if your user came through Google?

When a 404 is the first thing your users see, it is also the thing that sets their impression on your brand's integrity. The back button basically means that the user may never visit your website ever again. It is also the thing that adds to the bounce rate. So how do you entice them to click forward rather than backward? How do you keep your user interested enough to stay on and explore the rest of your site?

The words you chose for your  404s matter. Sure, you can slap on a page not found message - but that stuff is boring. It doesn't add value to your site, nor does it entice your visitors to keep exploring your product, brand, app, or service.

So what can we do?

The first rule of good 404s: make your words interesting

How do you make things not boring?

Micro-copy matters because it can be used to communicate personality. The words you use matter because it's maybe the only little moment of connection that you ever get to make to your user. Chose your micro-copy wisely, make it sound human -- like there's an actual person that cares about the broken experience and not just another cold and faceless website on the Internet.

The second rule of good 404s: keep your users engaged

Most of the time, 404s is often devoid of anything. Many sites default to just displaying the error and nothing much else.

This is your chance to create a connection by using your empty space productively. Images can be used to alleviate stress. Typography can give the impression that you've thought things through and that their user experience matters. Use a clear call to action to get your user to the right place. Whatever you do, have something that your user can engage with.

The third rule of good 404s: keep it simple, keep it focused

Too many options can result in frustration. If you have minimal options for your user, then it also increases the likelihood of achieving success. Most of the time, you don't know how or why your user ended up on a 404.

A 404 is the blanket page that everyone sees when something goes wrong. You want the next action to be a successful one rather than another 404. To achieve this, if you keep your options focused on one or a few sure to succeed links, it can help reset the negative experience and navigate your user to a space where they can find what they're looking for.

Keeping things simple and focused in a surefire way to achieve this.

Cool 404 ideas

Here's a collection of cool 404 pages to give you some idea and direction on what can be done to spice things up and make your lost page less boring.

Wrapping up

Clever 404s are ones that enhance the brand by giving it a voice. 404s don't have to take up too much space or time. What they do need is a little splash of personality to show that you care. This can be done through the microcopy, the choice of images use, and where you end up directing your users to next.

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Jamie Larson