Your website’s 404 Not Found page may seem like a meaningless detail, but it is a page that many of your potential customers will unfortunately encounter as they explore your ecommerce website. However streamlined and updated you keep your website, user error and other issues will conspire to ensure that a percentage of your customers end up with this message. What they encounter on your 404 Not Found page will largely determine whether they leave your site or continue looking for the products and information they are seeking. Here are a few do’s and don’ts for these pages.
Do: Create a custom 404 Not Found page. In some instances, this page might just be your potential customers’ landing page, so make it as good as it can be. Include your name and logo design, and frame the error message so that it feels like any other part of your website. Make sure visitors know where they are and how they should proceed. This may keep them from leaving your website.
Don’t: Blame the customer. You see this all the time: 404 pages that tell the customer ‘You have typed in the wrong URL’ or similar nonsense. Do you type in the addresses for deep internal pages you are visiting? Of course not. The customer merely clicked on a link. Don’t add insult to injury by first taking the customer to a destination they did not want to visit and then telling them that it is their own fault. Make your message apologetic and assume full responsibility. Anything else is just plain annoying.
Do: Redirect immediately. You can redirect in one of two ways. First, you can use an automatic redirect and send them to your product catalog or your homepage. Alternately, you can offer options for the customer to find what they are seeking. Include a search bar, a list of most popular products, or links back to your product catalog. Give customers a game plan for finding what they need.
Don’t: Write a novel explaining the situation. An unfortunately large number of 404 Not Found pages feature long explanations or lists of possible causes. Your customers are smart enough to grasp that the page they are looking for either does not exist or isn’t where they expected it to be. They get that. So let them move on rather than delving through paragraphs of text.
Do: Link to customer service. Sometimes a customer will reach your 404 Not Found page several times—often through their own error, but the cause is irrelevant. These customers will be very frustrated and in need of a little guidance. We recommend that you place a link to your customer service on your 404 Not Found page to help these people and keep them from leaving your site forever.
Don’t: Use jargon. You might know enough IT speak to make yourself sound really smart (and explain what really caused the error as well) but your customers aren’t visiting your website to sample your impressive vocabulary. Use everyday language that your grandmother could understand.