Resourceful Designer podcast: Offering tips, tricks and advice for starting and growing your graphic or web design business.

Don’t you hate that feeling when you can’t find what you’re looking for? It could be anything. You can’t find your wallet or your car keys. Have you misplaced your phone? Maybe it’s that scrap of paper you scribbled that critical information on that you can’t find.

Regardless of whatever it is you can’t locate, you’re left with an empty feeling inside—a feeling of unfulfillment.

A similar feeling occurs when you land on a website only to see those three words – No Results Found.

It’s so frustrating. Maybe you clicked a link in an article you were reading, anticipating a solution to a problem you’re facing, only to be disappointed by where it brought you. Perhaps you used the search field on a website hoping to find something only to come up short. Or it could happen while navigating a website, and you have no idea how you got there.

Regardless of the circumstances, you’ve landed on the dreaded 404 page. A page that mocks you with those three words – No Results Found. It might as well say – ha, ha, you lose, we don’t have what you’re looking for. It’s so frustrating.

Then what do you do? Do you go back and click the link again, hoping that you get better results this time around? Do you randomly start clicking around, hoping to stumble upon what you were looking for? Or, do you shrug your shoulders in defeat and close the page, or go looking elsewhere for your answer?

It doesn’t matter when or why. Landing on a No Results Found page is never fun unless the person who designed the website makes it fun for you.

You can customize the 404 page.

The 404 page is something that every website in the world has, whether the site owner knows it or not. And it’s a page that’s landed on more often than you would think. And yet, very few websites take advantage of this “popular” page. And you should take advantage of it. Whether it’s your website or sites you create for your clients.

You may or may not know this, but you can customize the 404 page on a website. If you’re a Divi user, it’s as easy as creating a new page layout in the Divi theme builder and assigning it to the 404 page. That’s how I do it for the sites I build.

Other WordPress themes and builders, as well as platforms such as Squarespace Wix, Weebly, etc., should allow you to do so as well. If not, you can install plugins that will enable you to edit the 404 page.

Why should you customize the 404 page?

But what’s the point, you may ask? The fact is, the default 404 page is a stepping-off point for some visitors. When someone arrives at the No Results Found page, it’s a signal for them to leave the site. And no website owner ever wants visitors to leave their site unsatisfied.

But if you customize the 404 page, you can improve visitor retention by giving them something to do other than leaving the page. And this goes for your website too. Do you want visitors to your site who happen to stumble upon your 404 page to leave? Of course, you don’t. So give them an incentive to stay.

Look at the Resourceful Designer 404 page, for example. I’ve designed the 404 page to capture visitors’ interest in the site.

Upon landing on the 404 page, the first thing they see is a whimsical “Oops” image. Followed by the heading: “Looks like someone forgot to proofread.” The paragraph below says, “The page you are looking for is nowhere to be found. Not to worry, there are plenty of other great pages for you to see. Here are some popular posts that may interest you.”

A list follows, showing three popular podcast episodes and three blog posts that may interest visitors to the site. I also ask them if they want a copy of my Four Week Marketing Boost and provide a way to acquire it.

So even though someone arrived on this page because the content they were looking for isn’t available, they still have something to engage with. And you know what? It works. I track where people sign up for my Four Week Marketing Boost, and many of them came from my 404 page.

I made it a bit simpler on my Podcast Branding website. The page shows an image of a man, seen from behind, scratching his head in confusion. The heading reads, “Uh oh!” followed by “I don’t think this is what you were looking for, was it? No worries, if you’re starting a podcast or you’re looking for help with your show’s visual branding, you’re in the right place, just not the right page. Why don’t you click this button to see how Podcast Branding can help you?” Then, a button labelled “LEARN MORE” takes them to the home page. It’s simple, and it works.

Do you get my point? You can make the 404-page look however you want. The point is to give visitors something to do instead of simply leaving the site.

I like to have fun with these pages by making them whimsical. I put a photo of an older woman holding her hand up to her ear on a hearing aid website as if she couldn’t hear. The heading reads, “Say that again, I didn’t quite catch it.” Followed by a search field.

On a tech and electronics site, I wrote, “It looks like we have a broken circuit.” and provided a few links visitors could click.

Give visitors something to do other than leave the site.

Visitors are already frustrated when they land on a 404 page since they’re not finding what they wanted, so why not inject a bit of fun and give them something to do.

If you don’t customize the 404 page on your or your client’s websites, you’re doing the site visitors a disservice. Create something that will engage them, and make them want to stay on the site. After all, isn’t that why you built the site in the first place?

Did you customize your 404 page?

Show it to us by leaving a link in the comments for this episode.

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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at

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