404 pages don’t have to suck. Rather than bringing visitors to a standard error page, you can use this as an opportunity to acknowledge the person, apologize for the inconvenience and direct them to a more helpful page on your website.

Not sure how to turn this roadblock into something fun and positive? Below are a few tips for helping you create a fun and clever 404 page that will win people over.

Let the visitor know that there are humans behind your brand.

Visitors are going to be disappointed when they reach a 404 page because they’re not getting what they want. Turn this frustration around by showing that your brand has real humans working behind the scenes – not cold, emotionless robots. To pull this off, here are a few tips.

  • Make a joke. Add some humor to your 404 page by cracking a light joke. Even if it’s a bit corny, a joke can help lighten the mood and diffuse some of the inconvenience. For example, Pixar’s 404 page once featured the character Sadness from the movie Inside Out saying, “Aww…Don’t Cry. It’s just a little 404 error!”

  • Be friendly. Use your design or copy to share a friendly message with the visitor. Let the person know that you acknowledge the disruption and will try to fix it. People tend to be more forgiving when you approach the error with an apology and a personal touch.

  • Incorporate interactivity. People love clicking and scrolling – it comes second nature when using digital devices. Some websites use interactive elements on their 404 pages to keep users engaged. Are there ways to incorporate gamification or interactive quizzes onto your 404 pages?

  • Be educational. If your tone is professional, you can use your 404 page to share educational information. Post resources and links that point the user to other helpful articles on your site.

Support your message with static and interactive visual elements.

The copy on your 404 pages is important, but so are your visuals. People usually recognize the visuals first, so consider some of the ways that you can use visual elements to spruce up your error pages. Static images may be used to emphasize your copy, but they might not be enough to support your message. If you need more, consider adding in light animation or interactive elements.

Provide clear navigation by pointing the user somewhere else on your site.

Even if your page has fun visual cues and friendly copy, it’s only a matter of seconds before the visitor is going to want to get on with their journey. To help users stay on track with their goals, use clear navigation. Direct users to the homepage where they can start fresh. Or, give them a list of links to help them find what they’re looking for. You can also leave an option to contact your team and report the problem. At least this gives the visitor a chance to interact before leaving your site.

404 pages are like potholes. No one is ever going to like them, but they’re always going to be there. The good news is that you can steer visitors in the right direction and help them continue their journey on your site. Our tips above should help you create a clever 404 page that doesn’t have to lose customers.