What do visitors see when they click on a link to your site and the page they were looking for is missing, or the URL has changed? The 404 page is easy to customize, but it’s something that is often overlooked in the quest to make a site “stickier”. You have about half a second to engage the visitor who has ended up at your 404 page. How are you going to do it? I think a little humor goes a long way, and certainly an apology for the inconvenience. Douglas Karr has a nice solution using the Related Posts plugin that pulls the words in the URL that was entered in error, and brings back related entries on your site that might be of interest. Even if you don’t use that solution, it’s a good idea to point the person towards some other content on your site. Since I have the most popular posts near the top of my sidebar, I point them to those and the categories in hopes they’ll not hit the Back button.

Some good reads on 404 page customization:

Site Point has an in-depth article on error handling that is very thorough, as does the Venture Skills Blog.

Smashing Magazine just posted an article that contains some good examples, including the hilarious one at Kottke.

One of the best 404 pages I’ve seen recently is at Theme Playground. They provide lots of options, in particular the search box right at the top is a great idea.

Do you have a good way of handling 404 pages? Share it with us in the comment box.