It can be very frustrating for your visitors when they encounter a 404 error page on your website. This can happen when they try to access a page or content that doesn’t exist on your site or a mistyped address or maybe you recently changed your permalinks, It can leave them feeling lost and confused. You might not know it your 404 error page might result in you losing a lot of your visitors.
The WordPress 404 page is handled by a template file called 404.php which in my opinion is completely unhelpful to visitors.
Here is a simple way to create a helpful custom 404 page in your WordPress website.
I am assuming you have basic WordPress skills and know what you are doing.
Remember to first “backup” your WordPress website before proceeding
Login to the admin dashboard of your WordPress website, Go to the menu at the left hand side of WordPress website and click on pages and then add new or look for the easy menu at the top of the site, click on new page.
Think of an interesting title for your error page, something like “Oops! Wrong Turn” or whatever catches your fancy.
Put in the content, you have to get creative here. If you sell stuff on your website, you can put a discount code here to let them know you are sorry, or something you think is interesting, also look for a funny or practical image to use, your choice but don’t forget to put in a search form and links to your home page and other pages, posts and products you have on your website.
If you are happy with your work, publish it and preview it to see what it looks like. Will your visitors find it interesting? If your answer is Yes, then you can proceed with the next step, if No, then you got to get more creative.
Now you have created your very own beautiful 404 error page, but it is just that; a page and will not really replace the default WordPress error page unless you point to it. To do this you have to install a small Plugin called “404page – your smart custom 404 error page”. Type this in the Plugin search form and it will appear, install and activate it.
Now go to the Appearance menu on the left hand side of your WordPress website, click on it and you will see an extra option that wasn’t there before if you notice such things. It is called 404 Error Page, click on it to go to where you change the setting. It is set my default to the original WordPress 404 error page, here you can select that beautiful page you created to show as your error page and click on Save Changes.
Voila, you have succeeded in changing your WordPress 404 error page from that drab, annoying default to the helpful page you created.
Remember, most visitors will simple abandon a website once they hit the error page so it is important to customize it in such a way that it offers the visitor options on how to look for what they want or similar contents to what they are looking for.