How to Create a Custom 404 Page in WordPress

In a perfect world, websites would never experience technical issues and links would always lead you to the intended pages.

Well, you can turn this problem into an opportunity, in this case, and we'll show you how.

In this article, we discuss:

  • What is a 404 Error Page
  • Best Approach to Creating a 404 Page
  • How to Create a 404 Page
  • Best 404 Page Plugins
  • Most Unique 404 Page Examples

What is a 404 Error Page?

A 404 Page - also know as HTTP 404, 404 Not Found, 404, 404 Error, Page Not Found - is an error that occurs when a user is trying to reach a non-existent page.

A 404 Error happens when:

  1. A user is typing a domain URL by hand and misspells.
  2. The page user is trying to reach a page that has been deleted, moved, or renamed without redirecting the URL, but there are old or incorrect backlinks still circulating the net.
  3. The website is down, either due to overcapacity (more users coming to a page than the server can handle), under maintenance or crashed for some reason.

In case any of these events take place - visitors land on a 404 page. This is where you can make your website visitor experience better by making the page functional or even beneficial. Similar to landing pages - you can lead users to where you want from there.

Moreso, most likely you will never be able to find & fix all of the broken links, or be able to ensure that users never mistype anything. This is why 404 pages are so important.

Best Approaches to Creating a 404 Page

Like with any error occurring on a website, there is a high chance that users will leave. Our mission is to make sure that the visitors return to the content pages and continue browsing.

The best 404 page practices are:

  • Display an error message that lets the user know that they have reached an unavailable page.
  • Maintain the branding of your site. Don't forget to add a logo and continue with the existing color palette and font styles as in the rest of the website.
  • Add a link back to the home page. Ensure that the user has a place to return or go to next and is not left hanging in an empty space.
  • Add a search bar. This helps the user to navigate to the place they had intended, and you can also add suggestions.
  • Add a menu bar. This can also help users to “return to safety” and find their way back to the content.
  • Add links to social media. It is always a good practice to add ways that users can get in touch with you.
  • Use humor. Astonish your visitors by leaving a little less room for formalities and more for a chance to enlighten their day. They will probably be surprised if they don't reach the standard error page anyway.

There are multiple integrable elements to make your 404 pages functional and stunning. Remember that all of the elements mentioned above are optional - it is up to you how simple or extensive you make it.

Best 404 Page Plugins

In addition, some add-ons offer to do the work for you. 

The best WordPress plugins for managing 404 pages are:

  • A great multi-use plugin that allows to avoid 404 page errors when you move or delete content with their Redirect Manager tool is Yoast SEO. While its main purpose is to keep track of keyword usage and optimize your site for search engines, it is a great redirection tool as well.
  • The most popular regular expression (regex) tool in the WordPress plugin repository is Redirection. It helps to keep track of 404 errors, manage 301 redirections, and tidy up any loose ends your site may have.
  • URL Fixers might also come in handy. For example, Link Fixer detects when WordPress cannot find a permalink. Before it generates a 404 error it locates posts with similar words. As a result, instead of issuing a 404 error, it most likely redirects the user to the intended page.

How to Create a 404 Page with Visual Composer

Thanks to website builders and other handy tools, creating a 404 page becomes a piece of cake. And in this video, we explain the best way to do it (and the easiest).

In case you are looking for an even quicker way to set a 404 page - Visual Composer offers over 300 predefined template solutions that are customizable to fit your brand.

In the Visual Composer Hub, you will find different content elements and add-ons, and also templates. Look for the marketplace icon in the navigation bar.

Visual Composer Hub - The element, template and add-on Cloud

In the search bar, type in what you are looking for (i.e. “404”) and select from either the free or premium templates, depending on the plan you've chosen.

404 page templates in the Visual Composer Hub

Once you are done designing your 404 page, you need to save the template. In this video, we explain how you can manage your 404 pages:

Best 404 Page Examples

Now that you have learned how to set up 404 pages with Visual Composer, we would like to give you some great examples of 404 pages.

Keep it Simple

This 404 page by CharlieShotMe is super simple yet elegant and perfectly matches the feel of the whole website. Remember, that 404 pages are not intended to keep the user for a while and instead to lead them back to content.

Simple 404 page example by CharlieShotMe
404 Page By CharlieShotMe

Be Creative

This is a great example of a creative 404 page design by Bocconcini. Straightforward yet entertaining. Will make the user less if not at all dissatisfied with the fact that they have reached a dead-end page.

Creative 404 page example by Bocconcini
404 Page by Bocconcini

Make it Visually Appealing

While you can never go wrong with simple designs, you can also never make a mistake with beautiful imagery. This great page design by MartiniTime has bypassed creating a 404 page, by simply redirecting all path links straight to the main page. Which by the way, is a one-page site (commonly used for informative purposes).

Visually Appealing 404 page example by MartiniTime
404 Page by MartiniTime

Use Humor

One of the greatest pages was created by Mint, which is still considered to be one of the funniest and overall best 404 page examples.

Funny 404 page example by Mint
404 Page by Mint

Conclusion

Now you know how the create an amazing 404 page for your website visitors, that performs the function of leading users back to your main or previous page, whichever you decide on.

Remember to always keep things simple and fun as possible with 404 pages. That way, you will be sure to keep visitors returning to your website.

Get started and install the multi-purpose Visual Composer Website Builder, to not only build 404 pages but a whole website with everything you could possibly need.

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