Have you ever been browsing the web, minding your own business, when bam, a dreaded 404 page appears. Annoyed you most likely navigate to back to the last page you visited and forget all about it. Renny Gleeson’s Ted talk “404, the story of a page not found” is all about how we should not be wasting the opportunity of a 404 and instead, use it as a way to build a better relationship. This post kicks off a brand new theme week in 365 Days of Ted : Ted talks on marketing
What is a 404 page
A 404 page is the default error page that a website brings up when it can’t find what you are looking for. The page you are looking for might have been moved or it could have been deleted all together. It’s kind of like a nightclub bouncer refusing you entry.
404 pages suck
I hate 404 pages. I mean really hate. They are an interruption to my web browsing experience. I also hate how I feel punked every time I reach one of these pages. I click on a link that promises me some great content or resource that I really want to check out and then it’s a major disappointment when I get that empty 404 page. It also makes me wonder, “what did I just miss out on?”
I like how Renny frames it. Renny says that 404 page is a feeling of a broken relationship and I guess that’s true. If I visit someone’s website for the very first time and I am met with a 404, I will navigate away from that page with an empty feeling and on the receiving end of a broken promise. The next time I see that 404 listed amongst search results I might think twice before clicking.
That 404 feeling
Renny tells us to imagine walking into a Starbucks and asking the guy behind the counter to bring out the skim milk. Simple enough request right? Well now imagine the barista walks out from behind the counter and is wearing no pants. Renny says we would be thinking “Oh, I didn’t want to see that.” That, Renny says, is the 404 feeling. I’m never going to be able to ask for a skim milk at Starbucks again without thinking of that analogy!
The 404 opportunity
Renny talks about an spotting website Athletepath that has a pretty clever 404 page. Their 404 page features a video clip of cyclocross racing event going horribly wrong. Renny says that this specific 404 page was a light bulb moment because “finally there was a page that actually felt like what it felt like to hit a 404.”
Renny says that these 404 moments essentially come down to two things ” a simple mistake can tell me what you’re not,or it can remind me of why I should love you.” Having a boring standard 404 page is basically telling your site visitors, “who care’s” but if you get clever and inject some, personality, usefulness or some humour into your 404 page you will leave an impression and might just win another fan.
My main takeaway from watching Renny Gleeson’s Ted talk
Website Confetti’s 404 page is awful. It’s the generic page that came with this theme and whilst it does offer a search box I have to say it is pretty boring – Id be ticked off if I landed on it. The action step I am going to talk away from this talk is to redesign my 404 page. I will update the results here.
Have you ever seen some unique and creative 404 pages? I would love to check it out! Please share in the comments below. How would you describe your 404 feeling?