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Optimize Your WordPress 404 Page for Better User Experience

A well-designed WordPress 404 page can make a significant difference in retaining visitors who stumble upon broken links or non-existent pages on your website. In this article, we’ll examine different approaches to enhancing your custom 404 page and making it a chance to connect with users.

What is a WordPress 404 Error?

The 404 error is a message sent by the web hosting server when it fails to locate the file or page requested by the user. This HTTP response code notifies users that the content they are looking for cannot be found. The WordPress 404 error usually occurs due to this reason.

  • Your website has recently been moved to a different hosting service.
  • If you have modified the permalink structure of your website’s URLs and haven’t set up any redirects for the old URLs, then it can cause issues.
  • You do not possess the necessary permissions to access the file.
  • You have opened an incorrect URL.
  • Poorly coded plugin/theme.

Numerous WordPress themes provide innovative designs and content alternatives for showcasing the 404 error page.

How to Fix 404 Error on WordPress 

This tutorial will show you how to fix the 404 Not Found status code quickly. So let’s get started!

1. Clear Browser History & Cookies

One of the initial steps to resolve website issues is to clear the cache and cookies in your browser. Alternatively, you can try accessing your site in incognito mode.

2. Set Up Your Permalink

To fix the issue of getting a 404 error page not found on your WordPress website pages, you can modify your permalink settings. This can be done by implementing the steps mentioned below:

  • Access your WordPress Dashboard by logging in.
  • Navigate to the “Permalinks” option in the “Settings” section.
  • Select the Default settings.
  • Click the Save Changes button.
  • Change the settings to the previous configuration (the one you selected before Default). Put the custom structure back if you had one.
  • Click Save Settings.

To resolve the issue of WordPress 404 not found or the “WordPress permalinks not working” error, a possible solution is available. However, if it doesn’t work, you may have to manually modify the .htaccess file in the primary directory where your WordPress installation’s main index.php file is present. Generally, misconfigured .htaccess files or problems related to file permissions can cause 404 errors.

3. Restore Your .httaccess File

To access the .htaccess file, you need to make all files visible in your FTP as it is a hidden file. To do this, follow these steps: First, log in to your server using an FTP client and download the .htaccess file from its location (usually located with folders like /wp-content/, /wp-admin/, /wp-includes/). Then open the downloaded file in any text editor and visit the WordPress .htaccess support page where you can copy/paste the code that suits your website best. Once done, save the modified .htaccess file and upload it back to the live server.

4. Setup a 301 Redirect

If you have modified the URL of a particular page and haven’t implemented a redirection yet, it is necessary to redirect the old URL to the new one. This can be done through a plugin or by editing your website’s .htaccess file. If you are familiar with working on .htaccess files, simply add the code below while replacing the URLs with those of your own website.

  • Redirect 301 /oldpage.html https://www.mywebsite.com/newpage.html

If you prefer the easy way, you may use a plugin to set up a 301 redirect. Follow the steps below:

  • Install the Redirection Plugin.
  • Go to the WordPress Dashboard.
  • Click Tools > Redirection.
  • Complete the setup and Add new redirection.

5. Disabling Plugins/Theme

To troubleshoot the 404 error on your WordPress site, you can try deactivating all plugins and changing your current theme. This is because an outdated or poorly coded plugin may be causing the issue. It’s important to note that all WordPress themes have a 404.php file, but not necessarily a custom 404 error template file. If a 404 error occurs, WordPress will automatically use the 404.php page. You can access your WordPress files using an FTP like FileZilla and navigate to public_html > wp-content to change the name of the plugins folder to something like myplugins. Then check if your website is working properly in your browser. If this resolves the issue, then one of your plugins could be causing it. To identify which plugin(s) are responsible, change the myplugins folder name back to plugins and follow further troubleshooting steps. However, if it doesn’t resolve the issue, simply change back from myplugins to plugins and move on to another troubleshooting method.

  • Go to your WordPress dashboard.
  • Go to Plugins > Installed Plugins.
  • Activate each plugin one by one and check if your website is working.
  • When you encounter the 404 error, you’d know which plugin caused it.
  • Update the plugin or remove it to get rid of the error.

Regularly Check for Broken Links 

Prevention is key when it comes to 404 error pages. Make sure to regularly check your WordPress site for broken links and add redirects whenever you delete content or update URLs. This will help minimize the chances of users encountering a 404 page, keeping them engaged with your website.

Tools for Identifying Broken Links on Your Site

Finding broken links can be time-consuming if done manually. Fortunately, there are automated tools available that can make the process of identifying broken links more efficient. Some popular options include Broken Link Checker, Screaming Frog SEO Spider, and Broken Link Checker Plugin for WordPress. These tools crawl your website, identify any broken links, and provide reports so you can easily fix them.

Keep Users Engaged with Helpful Navigation Options

To prevent users from leaving after encountering a 404 error, it’s essential to provide helpful navigation options on your custom error page. Incorporating a search box and offering connections to common content or webpages on your custom error page can help visitors locate what they’re after without having to go elsewhere.

Adding Relevant Internal Links within the Text

An effective way to keep users engaged is by adding relevant internal links within the text of your 404 page. Including internal links within the 404 page can assist in navigating back to other parts of your website and give users a chance to explore fresh content that could capture their attention. For example, consider linking to:

  • Your blog’s homepage
  • Your product catalog or services overview
  • An about us section that shares more information about your company and team members
  • A contact form where they can reach out directly if needed

Incorporating a Search Box into the Design

Apart from providing useful internal links, integrating a search box in the design of your WordPress 404 page is another excellent strategy for keeping users engaged. With this feature readily available on the error page itself, visitors can quickly perform searches related specifically to their interests – increasing the likelihood they’ll stay longer and explore further.

To add a search box onto any part of your WordPress site (including custom error pages), simply insert the following shortcode wherever the desired placement should be: [search]. If your preferred method involves using widgets instead, drag the “Search” widget from the available options within the Appearance > Widgets menu area onto the designated location, such as the sidebar or footer.

By implementing these helpful navigation options on your custom error page, you can minimize the chances of users leaving your site due to frustration and maximize their engagement with your content. Remember that a well-designed error page not only helps maintain user satisfaction but also contributes positively towards the overall website performance in terms of SEO rankings – making it an essential aspect to consider when optimizing your WordPress site for both visitors and search engines alike.

Maintain Consistent Web Design Elements

Although not directly accessible through regular menus, keep in mind that your custom WordPress 404 page is still part of your overall web design style. Ensure consistency across all elements including fonts, color schemes, images, or illustrations used throughout other parts of the site – this way user experience remains cohesive even during unexpected errors like these.

Aligning Typography Styles with Rest-of-Site Aesthetics

To ensure a consistent user experience, the same typographic styles should be employed on the 404 error page as throughout other parts of your website. This includes font families, sizes, weights, and line spacing. By doing so, users will have a seamless browsing experience despite encountering an error.

If you’re unsure about which fonts are being used on your site or how to implement them within the HTML code for a custom 404 page in WordPress, this guide can help.

Using Consistent Color Palettes & Imagery

  • Color Palette: Just like with typography styles, maintaining a consistent color palette is crucial for creating cohesion between different pages on your website. Make sure to use the same primary and secondary colors from other sections of your site when designing background colors or text highlights for the error message displayed on the 404 page.
  • Imagery: Whether you choose to include photographs or illustrations as part of your visual branding strategy online – ensure they remain consistent throughout every aspect (including any graphics featured within custom-built WordPress templates). For example: if most imagery features flat-style vector art then stick with similar designs when adding visuals onto this specific page too.

By maintaining consistency in web design elements across your entire WordPress site, including the 404 error page, you’ll create a more cohesive and enjoyable user experience. This will not only help retain visitors who encounter errors but also reinforce your brand identity throughout their browsing journey.

Balancing Fun with Usability and Brand Identity

Incorporating creativity in your custom WordPress 404 page should not come at the expense of usability or detract from your overall brand identity. Ensure that any humorous messages, illustrations, or interactive elements align well with your existing branding guidelines so they don’t feel out-of-place or confusing to users who may already be frustrated by encountering an error page. Additionally, make sure these creative additions do not overshadow the essential navigation options and helpful information that users need to continue browsing your site.

For example, MailChimp maintains a balance between creativity and usability by incorporating their mascot, Freddie, into an interactive game on their 404 page. This not only adds a fun element but also stays true to their brand identity while still providing easy access to important links such as “Home” and “Support.”

Incorporating these tips will help you create a custom WordPress 404 error page that showcases your creative side while maintaining user engagement and staying true to your overall web design style. Don’t forget – prevention is key. Regularly check for broken links and add redirects whenever necessary so that users encounter fewer errors in the first place.


Creating an effective 404 page on your WordPress website can help retain visitors and improve user experience. By regularly checking for broken links, crafting empathetic messages, providing helpful navigation options, maintaining consistent design elements, and showcasing creativity, you can turn a frustrating error into a positive interaction with your brand.

By designing your WordPress 404 page with the user experience in mind, you can demonstrate that you value their time and effort. Remember to always put yourself in the user’s shoes when designing this important page.

If you need assistance creating or improving your WordPress 404 page or any other web development needs, contact Amadeus Consulting today for expert guidance and support.

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