404 pages are a pain in the butt.

Often resulting from people typing the wrong thing, a broken link, or other small gremlins lurking in your site, getting a 404 page tells you that what you have attempted to access doesn’t exist.

And usually, they are boring as hell – here’s my old one:

It doesn’t exactly draw you in, does it?!

If someone stumbles across an error page on your site, they’re highly likely to click away, and then boom, you’ve lost a visitor and potential lovely client who was, after all, on your site for a reason.

So why not make it exciting, silly, useful or a combination?

Have a think about how you can make it stand out as yours – really fit in with your branding, and also what your site visitors and potential clients might be looking for.

Think about what your visitors want

What content can you link to so that you don’t lose them from a dull “page not found” result?

I found the 404page plugin really helpful for making mine better without creating unnecessary redirects.

It makes it a really easy process in WordPress – create a new page, put everything you want on your custom 404 page into it, publish the page.

Check it actually looks like you want it to and that the links in it work – it would be too ironic for the links from this custom page to lead to a 404 error, right?!

Then just hop over, install and activate the plugin, and choose your shiny new page from the menu on the settings page:

How to select a page in 404page plugin

So a few tweaks later, here’s my new one – “Oops – that page doesn’t exist :(” seems more fun, and crucially, more me, than 404 ERROR PAGE NOT FOUND, right?

Screenshot of a 404 page with a pink pegboard saying "404 Oops - that page doesn't"

and here’s what else I’ve added to the page, to make it a more useful space for anyone who stumbles across it:

Screenshot of the rest of the 404 page, including some links with images & buttons

I’ve kept it reasonably simple so it’s not overwhelming, starting with an image which is bright, bold & very me. Then there’s links to my most viewed pages, some blog posts to draw people in, and a contact form in case they just want to ask me a question!

The usual footer sits at the bottom of the page, so if people wish to follow me on social media they can – but I’d rather lead them to a direct contact or a page on my website than off to a social media site where they will very probably get distracted and forget they were looking at my work.

Do you have a custom 404 page? Please share it in the comments or by email, I’d love to see!