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How To Make Your 404 Error Page More User Friendly

Posted on Jul 29th, 2009
Written by Lee Odden
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    It’s never any fun to follow a link just to find out the page you were looking for can’t be found. Chances are, the user may spend a few seconds trying to find the correct page or just bail on the site. To ensure that visitors stay on your site, site owners should ensure that the 404 error page is friendly and helpful.

    I did some research in the WordPress plug-in directory and came up with many plug-ins to enhance the default WordPress error page. However there were only two plug-ins that I could get to work and liked. The fist is Dunstan-style Error Page.

    Dunstan-style Error Page

    Dunstin-Style Error Page

    The Dunstan-style Error Page has a really nice layout that includes recent posts, a quick error report button, and a feedback form. It’s all built into the plug-in and there is nothing that needs to be configured.

    The downside here is that the Dunstan-style Error Page tries to make integration simple but actually makes it complicated. The code did not work right with my design and I had to spend a few minutes modifying the plug-in so the layout was visually correct. This may not be an issue with all themes, but I could see it being a big deterrent; especially if you don’t know code.

    404 SEO Plug-in

    404 SEO Plugin

    The second option I liked was the 404 SEO Plug-in. It’s quick and easy to install and integrate into your design. Once the 404 error page is activated it’ll give suggestions based on what it thinks you were looking for.

    Downsides here are the lack of features.

    Overall, neither plug-in gives me everything that I want. What I’d like to see is more options with a clean layout. Things like a search box, post suggestions, recent posts, and popular posts. I think the Dunstan-style Error Page has a good start, but more could be added.

    404 Error Page Mockup

    For now, I’m sticking with the Dunstan-style Error Page as I like the layout and features. If you choose to use one of the plug-ins above, or choose to make your own creation, remember that information and resources are good on a site’s 404 error page. Without options, the visitor may just bail on your site all together.