I want a 404 goat. You should too.

404 Not Found error

The dreaded 404 Not Found message. Not quite the blue screen of death, but definitely unwelcome when you are trying to find something on the Internet.

The 404 page isn’t something you are looking for—it’s a web page you typically receive when you land on a page that’s been deleted or removed.

From a marketing perspective, why should you care?

The 404 page is actually an opportunity for you to turn a negative into a positive. An inspired 404
improves usability, can reinforce your brand and turns something unwelcome into an informative, even entertaining contact point at a time when a site visitor least expects it

My favorite 404 is The North Face’s 404 goat:

The North Face 404 goat
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The copy:

THE PAGE YOU REQUESTED WAS EATEN

Goats do all sorts of nifty things to keep humans off the mountains, such as sabotaging your favorite gear and apparel website by eating our links and pages. These pages contain valuable information related to state-of-the-art gear, the very gear vital to an athlete’s survival in the harshest of conditions.

Don’t let the goats win, and report to our Web Administrator.

Quite a contrast your typical 404, eh?

For more on creative 404 error pages, check out the following posts from Smashing Magazine:

They’re chock full of creative 404 examples and will give you all the creative inspiration you’ll need.

If your company has an inspired 404 page, or you’d like to share one you’ve seen, please comment below.

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Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Knatchwa says:

    Great insight and a series of fine ideas, better to step it up and personalise it then leave it to the defaults, thanks for the post quite good.

  • Seb2.0 says:

    I do agree that a the default 404 page should not be seen. Metaphorically, it’s the equivalent of a store with an opened stock room. No swinging doors, no dividing walls, just a big dusty area at the back with shelves and boxes. It’s not something customers should be exposed to.

    However, although the North Face approach is working as a brand reinforcer, it’s not perfect. Here’s why.

    1. “Don’t let the goats win, and report to our Web Administrator.”
    Web server reporting and especially Web analytics platforms today are very sophisticated. The Web guy should know when a customer hit’s a 404 page. In fact, he should have some sort of alert set up that sends him an email. As the Web Administrator he should be actively looking for these bad links and eliminating them.

    2. This page does very little
    Other than reinforcing the brand, it serves no functional purpose. Ideally, it should offer the customer alternatives by analyzing the words in the URL and showing product search results. At the least, it should have a navigation menu and search bar so the user doesn’t have to leave the site. Keep’em while you got’em.

  • Seb,

    Great points, and I fully agree. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • I agree that a friendly 404 is critical to end user experience, and an excellent opportunity to “save” a failed visit. 404s will always happen, however we found that most webmasters don’t do enough to track down the errors, their sources and FIX them instead of just making the 404 experience better. We used to install a custom script on 404 pages that would email the webmaster info about the error – but that very quickly LOADED inboxes with errors….so then we built a tool that aggregated errors and allowed you to address them one by one – ultimately that tool turned into http://www.errorlytics.com. We would love your feedback on the tool if you’d care to try it out…and it has fast/easy wordpress and drupal plugins to make integration with those tools a snap.

    Thanks for addressing this age-old web usability issue. DOWN WITH 404s!

    Josh Katinger

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