What does the 404 error on your site look like?
- Start with 10 points.
- +5 for a search engine on the page
- +3 points if there’s any ‘sorry’ or empathy expressed
- +2 points if there’s a home page link
- +1 point for any other useful link, up to a maximum of 5
- – 5 points if the layout is confusingly similar to all other pages on your site
- – 5 points if you return to the home page
- + 25 points for any humour or demonstration of your brand values.
- Lose all points if it mentions 404 anywhere on the page
How did you do?
Here’s how some of the smartest brands score, with the page that inspired me to look into this as the final example.
10+5+3+2+0-0-0+25 =45 GOOD
There’s some empathy shown, a search bar, a homepage link, and a cute sketch connected to their origins as a sales platform for craftspeople.
Very boring generic page, looking very similar to every other product page, at least they blame themselves. Nike are such heroes when it comes to branding I’m surprised that this is so dull.
10+5+3+2+1-0-5-everything =0 BAD
The page is text heavy compared to others, and the search is under a link, rather than a simple search box, but they lost all points for saying it was a 404 error. It’s a correct statement, it’s just not helpful.
When I first looked for the 404 page I typed unilever.com/404 into the URL bar, and was automatically redirected to the homepage, this was the only site I found that did this.
As you’d expect from the brand behind every geek’s favourite toy, Lego have a suitable graphic using Lego minifigs. There’s a search engine in the header bar, and a link to the home page. My only quibble is that the explanatory text below the image is tiny, it would make more sense to take that text and replace the “Page not found” text which is slightly technical
A totally simple flat functional page. I wanted to take points off for using the passive voice in the sentence but I haven’t.
Functional, only one action you can take. Amazon are incredibly data driven so the lack of any apparent thought in the design of this page suggests to me that it’s either super low traffic because people use the search box rather than type URLs, or that Amazon don’t see any opportunity for conversion to a sale from this page.
Ben & Jerry’s
10+5+3+0+0-0-0+25 = 43 GOOD
Ben & Jerry’s are a fun-filled brand and it’s spread to their 404 page. Not only have they got the search engine, they’ve suggested a brand name for you to search. Very cute image that matches their text. And, now I want ice cream.
10+5+3+2+1-0-0-0 = 18 MEH
I’ve included Siemens as an example as it has solved an issue many European countries face, a multilingual audience. In their case they’re a German company, but with international customers so the information is presented in English and German.
There is a small joke on the page as well, the coloured pixelated image moves, giving you the impression of a TV screen that’s lost its connection, geek joke.
I deliberately looked for these pages in a browser without an ad blocker. I understand that ads give sites like Tech Crunch the revenue to keep going, but in this case it makes it very difficult to see what I should click on. I’d suggest forgoing the revenue on this page and just helping people find their way. Likewise the most popular article list, obviously I don’t have data and Tech Crunch do, but it’d be interesting to see how many people clicked from this page to a “latest” article.
It’s helpful, easy to read, funny and right on brand.
You can check the “you’re lost” page (aka the 404 page) of any site by typing “companyname.com/anywordyoulike” into the URL bar, so mashable.com/wearefunny for example. See if you find it helpful – that’s the first test – then look at whether it’s on brand or offers some brand experience for any lost visitor.
I just found the Virgin’s 404 message, it’s the cheekiest yet.