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Custom Error Pages

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Last updated March 22nd, 2011 by Victoria Pal in Tech

Custom 404 error pageAs you most probably know, each year we have several seasonal report periods during which we monitor the leaders in the retailing industry to see if their online performance matches their reputation. This year is no different and last month we published the results for this Valentine’s day online retailer monitoring.

One of the interesting cases that caught our attention is the site of Victoria's Secret. While at first glance their uptime does not strike the user with a 100% uptime percentage, the downtime recorded for their transaction happened regularly (every 2 days), always around 5 am and lasted usually for about 15 minutes. Since 5 a.m. is clearly not the busiest shopping time of the day, it was most likely a regular, scheduled site maintenance. However, this was not indicated either in their error message or elsewhere on their site. Instead, next to the picture of the stunningly beautiful Alessandra Ambrosio stood the awkward downtime excuse "We're sorry, our site is temporarily unavailable." .

This instance got me thinking about the importance of customizing the error pages which your customers will inevitably run into sooner or later, be it due to site maintenance or a navigation error. In the example above, if the company had simply changed the message and informed their customers that this was a planned maintenance, their uptime percentage will have reached the 100% limit.

Customized error pages help you retain your visitors and even help you attract new ones which have landed on your page by sheer force of chance and typing mistakes. Most visitors leave the site when they get to an error page, and only a handful will try a different URL. That is why the custom page should provide the clients with:
  • the correct page that they might be looking for,
  • a search engine that will help them find their required page
  • a sincere and/or fun explanation or image.

The customized error page is a great way to reassure your visitors that they have come to the right place. Furthermore, it gives your future prospects one more reason to remember your website and return to it and even recommend it later.

Aside from helping you save face, a customized error page can help you monitor your visitors behavior and see what kind of information the people are looking for on your website. All that you need to do is to set the error page to submit a broken link to the webmaster. In this way you will be able to fix and upgrade your website accordingly and in a timely manner. Another plus side is that custom 404 pages help the search engines consider these pages not as error pages when they are set to return a 200 OK response in the header. As a result they get indexed and appear in the SERPs. Keep in mind that this is not a very good practice as the 404 status should be indicated in the header in such cases.

Below you can see 15 original and fun examples of custom error pages. If you would like to see even more, we recommend clicking here and here.


Victoria Pal

She doesn't like queuing (particularly at Wimbledon). Likes traveling, tennis and reading. Loves working as a Project Manager at WebSitePulse.

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