A sea of proverbs to live by have been created with regards to dealing with mistakes and, quite frankly, they serve humanity with so much goodness. One of my favourite, I must say is this: If you fall, fall with grace. But before I begin my litany of life’s drama, let’s talk about this inevitable deadly mistake that could happen to your website: Error 404.
What is Error 404 and why is it deadly?
Simply put, you’ll get an error if the webpage you’re trying to reach couldn’t be found on the server. Now there can be several reasons why you got that error, and we’ll be explaining that in a bit. But here’s what you should keep in mind: Error 404 is a client-side mistake that you should not ignore.
Here’s why: An error 404 will most likely result in the drop of customer satisfaction levels. And you know what could most likely happen next? The increase of your bounce rate. What is a bounce rate? It is when your customers head over to your competitors’ sites. And if that isn’t scary enough, here’s the scariest consequence: they will most likely end up purchasing from there instead. And there goes your hope for conversions! And just like a lever effect, the higher your bounce rate is, the lower your conversion rate becomes.
Why do Error 404 happen?
For several reasons. And here are the most common:
Most of the time, an error 404 message appears because of a typographical error. Probably just one misspelled word.
This happens too. Sometimes. Your visitor may have missed highlighting all the characters in the URL page before copying them which leads to an error.
Broken links are just that – BROKEN. They don’t work. This happens when a link leads to a content that has either been moved or deleted. For e-commerce stores, this occurs when a visitor checks on a link from an old campaign or a product that is no longer sold in your market. Again, there is only so much you can do about this.
TIP: For a moved content, make sure to provide the new link to a new URL instead of leading your customers to page 404.
Do not confuse this with a broken link. Truncated link is the short URL in place of a longer one.
How to counter the effects Error 404:
Good thing, just as another adage goes, errors do not define someone; it’s how he deals with them. Hence, define your Magento Ecommerce Store positively by dealing with Error 404 with grace. A few tweaks to the design of your error 404 page goes a long way in avoiding the plague of bounce rates. You may even turn this error into a stepping stone to a probable conversion! Read on to learn how.
1. Be transparent
Because you owe them a sorry for postponed expectations. Do not make your visitors feel stupid for clicking on a broken link. By owning the error as a lapse of oversight on your end, they will appreciate your modesty and good sense of accountability. It’s your choice to be either fancy or professional, depending on your company theme. Coupled with your apology in your error page must be an explanation about the possible reasons for what went wrong. By listing down possible reasons for the error, as mentioned above, your visitors may be directed accordingly.
TIP: Another way to apologize, which could lead to more activities and most likely a conversion, is by giving a special offer to go perfectly with your page’s content. You may provide a link to a good promotion or discounts to your current campaigns. Let’s learn more about this approach as we read on.
Avoid the jargon
Unless your page specifically targets a certain profession, avoid using words unbeknownst to the common people. By using expressions such as “this page does not exist” rather than “the link is broken,” your visitors can easily understand what’s going on and wouldn’t have to waste time wondering what a broken link is about and how they can fix it. I personally love this errorpage approach from apple. Although not much on entertainment, it remains effectively simple and sleek, living up to its name, as always:
Also, to appeal to your visitors, venture a little bit on word play common to your target demographic. This needs a careful research on your end about the words and expressions used in a certain culture. For instance, while you avoid addressing your French visitors “mate,” you may pitch in a creative Trudeau joke to our Canadian friends.
2. Keep your design theme
One way to be creative with your error 404 page is to be consistent with your website design. Do not make your error page an unfamiliar jungle to your visitors. All the pages in your website has to carry the image your company promotes. And by all pages, error 404 is among them. Design your error page with the same line of branding as you do with the rest. For instance, if you thrive on a friendly image in your homepage, dealing the the same concept in your error page design gives your visitors that feeling that your website has a substance. This will further arouse curiosity to first time visitors and will most likely end up checking your homepage to know what your store is about.
TIP: Some brands choose to include their company mascot to keep up with their brand. This effectively impresses your company’s personality while ushering your visitors away from an undesirable situation. You can also take your inspiration from this cute Classy Magento theme error 404 page:
Here’s another one of my personal favorites from Siotis Magento theme:
Because if you’re going to mess up, do it with your personality and creativity all over the line.
3. Keep customers engaged: provide options for further navigation
Link to your homepage
Some broken links can come from other websites that your visitors previously checked on. Most likely, they haven’t discovered your page yet and this will be their first time to browse on yours. By providing the link to your homepage, you invite them to be familiar with what your website store has to offer.
A customer may get lost in a 404 page because of a product link that is already out of stock. Giving them the option to search for products on general keywords may help them find the items similar to what they came there for. Again, apple page rocks it best:
Providing links to other areas of your web page that you want to show off is also another way to keep your customers engaged within your site. You might have social blogs to advertise or your social media pages may need more promotion. So take this opportunity to reach out on your visitors and expand your advertising scope!
There might be certain products or services that you are more likely to promote than others. Either a product is not on the top saleable list and probably needs further advertising. Why not utilize your this empty 404 page to to advertise these items? During certain times of the year with hectic sales, such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, may items go out of stock and thus increases your chances of more 404 pages in your website. By using this approach, you set your lost shoppers back to the path of conversion! Check on this smooth product promotion from modcloth:
4. Encourage your visitors report the issue
Make a good impression on your visitors by asking them to submit the link that went wrong. This further gives them a sense of importance as you make them feel that they can contribute to resolving the issue. By kindly asking them for a simple report about what happened, you foster an image of good customer service. End point: add a simple contact form on your error 404 page and empower your users to report the problem.
Chances are, you are not aware that a faulty link of your website is being hyperlinked somewhere in the World Wide Web. Of course you need to know about this. By providing your contact information and a form that allows your visitors to easily send you a message, and maybe ask for some information as to which page they found this broken link, you get a better control of your website.
TIP: going back to the principle of simplicity, providing a simple submit button rather than asking the customers to type the link or a wordy script for you encourages them to be more engaged.
5. Make an entertaining error page
An error page is definitely the least of the pages you and your visitors are looking forward to discover. But you can avert this bad impression by providing a fun user experience to your customers. There are plenty of way to do that but here are a few suggestions:
Craft something fun and interactive by adding mini games to entertain your visitors. This can be a clever approach to discourage your visitors from heading over to the exit button. Because let’s face it, who doesn’t like playing games once in awhile? An added benefit to this is that instead of getting irritated by your broken link, they end up associating your website to a fun and experience that they will look forward to on their next visit.
Another engaging way to content to keep your customers in the page is by adding videos. You can have an endless options as to which kind of videos you would like to entertain your visitors with. You may take advantage of your website video advertising, a product promotion, an ad for a cause, a short clip for social awareness, a simple hilariously entertaining viral video that can leave a smile to your about to be disappointed visitor. The list can go on depending on the height of your creatively! Remember though, when choosing for a video, consider your design concept.
Check on this hilarious bluegg 404 page approach:
But here’s a simple caveat: you may have a number of visitors that might be accessing your page from a slow running device and your video might take time to load properly. It is best to take this into consideration. You wouldn’t want your page to look like this instead:
Nope, in the world of e-commerce, number 13 isn’t your bad luck. And if it hasn’t already, soon enough, you’re bound to stumble upon 404. But rather than fret as you watch your bounce rate increase and conversions go down, gracefully dealing with this mistake will give you the upper hand of the game.
We at Ubertheme sincerely hope that this entry, together with all our articles, has provided you a better insight to promote the best design and strategies that ultimately lead to increasing your conversions. By learning how to deal with inevitable website glitches here and there, you render bounce rate powerless over your traffic and conversions.
Do you find this page beneficial? Perhaps, then, you may have other effective error 404 optimization approach in mind that we might have missed. Share your thoughts with us in the comment box below.