timeforcake: The dreaded 404 Error page
When your customer clicks what turns out to be a broken link in your site and – gasp – gets a 404 Error (page does not exist) error message, it’s instant frustration. He didn’t get what he wanted, and he doesn’t know how to fix it. Getting a generic, default error message that you didn’t customize is even more frustrating, as default 404 error messages offer little guidance to help your visitors deal with the problem your site caused.
Creating a custom error message with a few soothing words for your visitors can decrease frustration and potentially improve their opinions of you as a business – despite the fact they didn’t get what they wanted. Sympathetic error messages can help make your users feel like their frustrations are being heard, and funny error messages can make them smile and show them your sense of humor is at play even at the worst of times.
Please note: When I use a word like “frustration” when describing users’ web-related experiences and emotions, I’m not talking about people ripping their hair out and banging their heads against their desks. I’m speaking of subtle emotions. Think heavy sigh, eye roll, or a quiet “aucghkch.”
Friendly error messages containing links back to the home page or other key pages in your site or even instructions on what to try next can keep your visitors moving, ensure more fluid experiences, and prevent your visitors from reaching abrupt dead ends.
Woot.com has a brilliant error message; take a look: http://tinyurl.com/lqcjpj). It’s compassionate, it offers two links to return to the homepage (the logo and blue underlined link), and it gives the user the immediate opportunity to write the company and mention what happened so it can be fixed (or so the user can vent his frustration).
If you’d like to check out some of the web’s funnier error pages, take a look at Mashable’s list of 35 Entertaining 404 Error pages here: http://tinyurl.com/399shxk.
1. http://www.timbuktu.me/ – The first iPad magazine for children has made its debut. Surprise! It’s gorgeously designed.
2. http://tinyurl.com/4ydc6ly – Five new features in Google Analytics version 5.
3. http://www.backupify.com – An “all-in-one” archiving, search and restore solution” for services including Twitter, Facebook, and Picassa.
4. http://www.yournextread.com/us/ – Receive book recommendations far more customized and interesting that those you can find on Amazon, based on your favorite books. For each book you specify you’ll receive eight suggestions. The more you fine-tune your preferences, the better your recommendations. (Click the “About Us” link at the bottom of the page to learn about the site’s benefits.)
5. http://tinyurl.com/6y7x37z – Head for the hills. We now have robots that can catch two balls thrown to them at the same time. (Yep, go ahead and insert a playing catch with dad or robots talking over Major League Baseball quip here.)
erin pheil is the owner of timeforcake (www.timeforcake.com), a web design/development studio in Frisco, CO. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.
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