We’ve all been there, on the internet investigating a security product or learning about new ways to help our customer protect their critical assets, you click on the product information link and ker plunk…you end up on a 404-error page. Just the mention of a 404 can stricken a product marketer with an intense fear, as the person browsing the web site, you are typically left a little frustrated at not finding the information you were looking for. The good news is 404 pages are not bad things, but the security industry could do a better job at embracing them. Let’s take a quick look.
First off, let’s all get on the same page, so to speak. Why do 404 pages even exist? 404 pages serve as an alert to the visitor trying to access a page that it no longer exists, and to (hopefully) redirect them to another part of your site. Quite often 404 pages are overlooked and treated as an afterthought, especially in markets dealing with serious customer problems like security. You spend hours placing information on your website, checking the key words, creating attractive informative images and diagrams, but when it comes to your 404 page we drop the ball. I suspect most security marketing folks have no idea what their 404 page looks like and leave it to the web guy to use a generic error code version or an automatic redirect to the home page, hoping the user won’t notice.
To ensure I wasn’t over stepping my bounds when making these statements, I did a quick study of 404 web pages in the security industry, including integrators, video management system providers and various types of security solution manufacturers, both big and small. Of the companies I looked at only 83% had 404 error pages and some of those were very large respectable companies. (If you are a “big security company” this would be the time where you quickly check your 404 page!) Of those that had 404 pages, 64% used a basic default error page indicating the page didn’t exist. Fair enough, but not much creativity. I didn’t find any 404 pages that really stood out as exciting, but 20% had at least taken the time to create their own 404 page including a custom message or image.
Having a custom (and / or creative) 404 page is a discovery for visitors in itself. It typically makes light of an unfortunate situation and helps guide the users to a location on your web site where they might gain the information they were seeking.
In the security world we create products and solutions that help protect assets and save lives, so being creative, funny, or even “punny” isn’t our go to design style. That being said, the 404 page is a perfect time to let some of that creativity show. Hopefully no one will ever see your 404 page, but in the rare case that a page gets deleted, or a user fat fingers a url, having an interesting and information 404 page can go a long way in mitigating the situation.
A couple of things to consider when making your 404 page:
- First, check that you actually have a 404 page! Yes, I’m speaking to the 17% that didn’t take the time to even create a page.
- Secondly, this is a good place to add a little humor to lighten the event. The closer you can link that humor to your product or market, the better.
- Consider using large interesting images. Telling me that something went wrong isn’t a great message, but doing so merely using Helvetic 28 pt. font is worse. Let your user see something interesting about your company or our industry.
- Don’t automatically route the user to your home page, instead give them some choices as to the most popular places to get information on your site. Or give them a free white paper or tool guide.
Even though we operate in a serious industry, there is no reason we shouldn’t all have a 404 page that conveys some personality and tone. Done well, a 404 page can become a valuable resource on your web page and a helpful customer service tool, routing users to achieve their information needs. Even if you aren’t the web guru or the product marketing person, type in www.yourcompanyname.com/oops and check out your 404 page. If its lacking some personality, let your marketing team know about it.
Know a great 404 page in the security or defense market? Email us at marketing [at] puretechsystem [dot] com and let us know about it so we can share!