When redesigning a site and moving to a new Content Management System, we try our best to preserve the old sites URL structure so that search engine and link traffic is preserved.  If that isn’t possible, we set up what are called 301 redirects, which basically tell search engines that a page has moved permanently to a new location.  But no matter what you do, sometimes users are going to come across bad links and see your sites 404 error page, which tells visitors and search engines that the page they are looking for can’t be found.

Most sites do very little with their 404 error pages, simply telling users the page can’t be found and that’s it.  These 404 pages for Organizing from America and the New York Times are pretty good examples of the kind of thing you usually see.  In my opinion, this strictly technical approach misses an opportunity for you to communicate with your site visitors.

We recently launched a website for Panthera, a non-profit working to save the worlds wild cats.  We transitioned the site from straight HTML to the Content Management System Drupal.  This is a pretty dramatic change in terms of URL structure, so we knew during the first few weeks the new site was live the 404 error page would be seen fairly frequently.  Instead of simply creating a “Page Not Found” version of the 404 page, we wanted to take the opportunity to communicate Panthera’s overall mission and ask visitors to join with us.  Below is what we came up with.


Great websites use every opportunity that is presented to create a compelling experience for their visitors.  Designing a custom 404 page is a great example of a small detail that can have a big impact on the user experience.

Update: We drafted another post with additional examples.

About the Author
Todd Zeigler
Todd Zeigler serves as the Brick Factory’s chief strategist and oversees the operations of the firm. In his sixteen year career in digital, he has planned and implemented campaigns for clients including the Pickens Plan, International Youth Foundation, Panthera, Edison Electric Institute, and the American Chemistry Council. Todd develops ambitious online advocacy programs, manages crises, implements online marketing strategies, and develops custom applications and software. He is bad at golf though.