Are 404 errors a missed marketing opportunity for most web designers, or should they be left as a ‘page not found’ marker and nothing more?

Certainly the vast majority of sites would appear to point to nothing more useful than the Apache or ISS default error page, which strikes me as being one heck of a missed opportunity. Any reason you can think of for not using a custom 404 that points back to the home page, a site index, a site search, something, anything other than a large boot with which to kick a potential visitor away?

Free marketing opportunities are few and far between at the best of times, so why aren’t more people using custom 404’s? Is it down to ignorance on behalf of the customer or the web design company?

Finally, what information would you suggest including on a custom 404 page?

I think it is either down to laziness or ignorance. I think we should have custom error messages if you have the ability to, because on some servers you can't. I own a server that hosts multiple domains and I am pretty sure I can't have custom 404.

I have noticed recently that there are some error pages that are standard but just with some ads on them.

On a 404 page I would include

  • A Message that says that the page can't be found.
  • A logo.
  • A bit of information about your site.
  • A big link to the homepage.
  • A Search for your site.
  • A small link back to google.

I think those would create a good user experience. But just on a very simple but clean page.

BTW, the daniweb 404 page is very well done, you could include a search though, or a list of the forum categories.

I do not think that many people really consider the opportunity in using 404 in any other way that its superfacial definition. I have redirected it back to my homepage in most cases.

This has both kept people in my site and improved my CTR

No, I'm not sure about redirecting. Because people may then think that it is what they were looking for to find that it is actually nothing to do with it. I think a link is the best choice.

hi ,
Some times such errors occur because some of the plugins required to view that particular pages are not available.. Like if u donoit have Ther required flash players for the site u may not be able to view that page...

I came across such aproblem and i found that this problem is coming bacause i have not installed Flash player 9...

So this is also a reason why 404 error is displayed

on my personal website if the page is not found they get a sorry message and are taken back to the previous page in 3 seconds