by Christine Churchill

Fast way to scare a customer to a competitor

In the rush to get the new site launched, many sites fail to take the time to create a user-friendly customized error page. Potential customers who mistype a file name or click on a link to a page no longer on the web site are served up one of the scariest pages on the Web, the cold, generic, dreaded default “Page Not Found 404 Error” message! No friendly language, no helpful guidance, just personality-less geek speak to drive the visitor straight to the competition.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade…or Key Lime Pie!

A good custom error page takes the bad experience and turns it into a good one. It helps your customer know it’s not their fault they got lost. It takes them to a useful navigation site where they can quickly find what they need. It’s helpful. Comforting. It’s smart marketing.

Think about your experience when you get lost in a multi-storied department store. When you can’t make your way to the Home Goods Department, let alone find a clerk that can help you out, how do you feel? When you’re lost, frustrated, losing time, how do you feel about the store/its manager/its merchandise? A nasty generic 404 page gives the same experience.

Now imagine you’re lost in Home Goods, searching for Beach Gear. Before you have a chance to look for the nearest escalator and store map, a cheery clerk comes up to you and says, “You look lost. Can I help you?” Relief floods in. You bound down the staircase straight to Vacation Island, pick out a bright pink pail and blue shovel and sail off, happy ev…. Ok, you got the point. That, in a nutshell, is the purpose of the custom error page.

Error page checklist

  1. Retain the overall site look and feel to make the visitor feel comfortable.
  2. Use friendly, non-technical language to explain that the page they are looking for is not available.
  3. Be informative without being insulting.
  4. Help the lost visitor to get back on track quickly.
  5. Provide a search option on the custom page.
  6. Include a short contact form on the 404 page 
  7. Include an email link
  8. Design the page to load fast.
  9. Make the file size larger than 512 bytes.
  10. Monitor your logs for error pages.
  11. Think of the error page as a marketing opportunity.
  12. Humor can be effective.Read full article…