Imagine this scenario for a second. You're walking through Barnes & Noble. You've just picked up a hot cup of coffee and now you're ready to browse. You start checking out the new fiction best-sellers and move through the magazine section. Finished there, you head towards the business section picking one of a dozen routes. Just then, BAM, you're standing on the sidewalk. You think to yourself, "what the...?".
This same situation plays itself out every single day when millions of people reach error pages on the web. This typically happens when a user mis-types a link or the link is mislabeled by the site. The errors typically look like this:
First, you need to find out how you're currently handling the problem. Go to your site and type in your URL and then add a "/75;yu" (that's a totally random keystroke). If you see the error message above, you have a little work to do. There are opportunities here for marketers who are smart enough to realize it. Here is how a couple of sites handle these errors.
|Technorati: Here is a basic approach. Technorati gives you an error message, but adds links to quickly find whatever you typed just in case you were guessing.|
|Google: Shame on Google for such a poor error page. The company could easily take you to a search result page similar to Technorati.|
|Greenpeace: Greenpeace takes advantage of the situation and uses it to educate the user on its mission. Click the image for a larger view.|
|Marvel Comics: Marvel uses a touch of Homer Simpson-esque humor.|
|Craigslist: The Craigslist error page is as simple as the site. Very basic, but in line with their voice.|
|The Motley Fool: The Motley Fool has a great little page. A Haiku for the error message with a search embedded on the page to get you back on track.|
|Bloglines: David Berkowitz sent me this one from Bloglines. Nice little bit of humor.|
So, when your customers make a wrong turn, are you going to help them out or kick them to the curb? Do you have an example of a page you like? Let me know in the comments!
[Links: A List Apart has a great article on the perfect 404 page]