How to convince a client they need cool 404s?

It’s been a while since we’ve been at FOWA London. The personal highlight of the event was Geek Dinner in “Bear”, the pub placed somewhere in the London down-town. The pub’s name was a curiosity for the Croatian team – here in Zagreb we also have a chain of popular pubs all under the same name “Medvjed” which literally means Bear…

Even though not the opening presentation at the conference, the things became pretty interesting after Tara Hunt from Citizen Agency talked about Building Online Communities (4,3 MB PDF). Tara covered all the general aspects of building social networking web sites, but the most significant point for me was – “it has to be fun”. Social networking sites have to be fun. Fun to use, fun to read… I encourage you to download the presentation for the examples.

Later on, at the dinner, we all had good time talking about the various industry topics. At some point we discussed about how to convince clients to provide cool, useful, fun and most of all encouraging copy on otherwise boring, but absolutely necessary error pages – 404s and/or 403s. Special care should be taken with social networking applications, where the user-generated content is very dynamic and the pages are lost more often, than anywhere else. Tara advised and I’m sharing (beware! the following is not the exact quote, it’s more what I managed to recall the morning after):

Create a portfolio of cool 404s from sites of the successful companies (Flickr, Threadless,, Twitter and such) and also a portfolio of plain 404s of a few companies nobody ever heard of. When you do, use it as an argument when talking to a client.

Every business wants to be compared to a famous company…

Once you convince your client, go on and make the web more enjoyable place! BTW, see what Flickr says about 404s.

Marko Dugonjić is a designer specialized in user experience design, web typography and web standards. He runs a nanoscale user interface studio Creative Nights and organizes FFWD.PRO, a micro-conference and workshops for web professionals.

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