Role of 404 Page and Sitemap page in Online Branding and User Experience

Hi All! Welcome again.

I was working on Enhanced Sitemap and developing a creative smart error page while I thought the role of 404 and Sitemap in Branding. So many webmaster take it as a routine procedure but is it really like this? I am going to define the role of these pages and further I’ll show how these are most important factor in online branding and show reliability of your website.

Smart Error Page: 404
A Web sites 404 error page can be one of the most widely accessed pages on a Web site. The 404 error page can also act as an important navigational tool, helping users to quickly find the resource they were looking for. It is therefore important that 404 error pages provide adequate navigational facilities. In addition, since the page is likely to be accessed by many users, it is desirable that the page has an attractive design which reflects the Web sites look-and-feel.

Functionality of 404 Error Pages

Server Default

The server default 404 message is very basic. It will not carry any branding or navigational features which are relevant to the Web site.

Simple Branding, Navigational Features or Help Information

The simplest approach to configuring a 404 page is to add some simple branding (such as the name of the Web site) or basic navigation features (link to the home page) or help information (an email address).

Richer Branding, Navigational Features, Help Information or Additional Features

Some 404 pages will make use of the Web sites visual identity (such as a logo) and will contain a navigational bar which provides access to several areas of the Web site In addition more complete help information may be provided as well as additional features such as a search facility.

Full Branding, Navigational Features, Help Information and Additional Features

A comprehensive 404 page will ensure that all aspects of branding, navigational features, help information and additional features such as a search facility are provided.

As Above plus Enhanced Functionality

It is possible to provide enhanced functionality for 404 pages such as context sensitive help information or navigational facilities, feedback mechanisms to the page author, etc.

Often you will see that there is a little link on the front page of a website that is labeled Sitemap. So, what is a Sitemap? Basically, it is a graphical representation of the structural and hierarchical linkage of a web site. A sitemap is often considered as unnecessary and a waste of time in the process of building a website. This is, however, far from the truth. In the following writing, we will see why a sitemap is a must for any decently competent website

Using sitemaps has many benefits, not only easier navigation and better visibility by search engines. Sitemaps offer the opportunity to inform search engines and more of this to user immediately about any changes on your site. Of course, you cannot expect that search engines will rush right away to index your changed pages but certainly the changes will be indexed faster, compared to when you don’t have a sitemap.

Also, when you have a sitemap and submit it to the search engines, you rely less on external links that will bring search engines to your site. Sitemaps can even help with messy internal links – for instance if you by accident have broken internal links or orphaned pages that cannot be reached in other way (though there is no doubt that it is much better to fix your errors than rely on a sitemap).

Combination of 404 and Sitemap.html for branding:
Consider you are navigating a site and not getting result. So, is there any option for user to get relevant information? I know you’ll say site search. But I say it’s ok but it’ll be great if you show sitemap along with site search. The reason is quite simple. Sitemap is a hierarchical linkage of a web site and hence contain all content of a website in a very well defined manner. Now it’s up to your Graphic Designer and Development guy that how they can make it more interactive in simple HTML format.

The very same case implies with 404 smart error page. I typed a wrong url and I’ve a server default massage saying that URL is not valid. Now what should I do? I’ll go to home page and then use either sitemap or site search for my desired page or simply navigate the website. But in a different case I’ve typed a wrong url for any domain and now I’ve a customized 404 saying that url may be changed or modified as well as this page provides alternate options like Sitemap, Site Search, Most Relative pages link and few center point of site. Now you can decide which one is better.

So, I was talking about branding. Whenever we use above describe elements in an interactive mode the visitor feel comfortable in surfing through your site and as I told multiple times in my previous blog that for Online branding you must engage and entertain your user rather than showing him a warning or error. These are very tiny factors but drops make an ocean. While talking of branding every web page and every web2.0 channel you are using carry your enterprise image and it could be worst in case of online marketing. Remember what happened to MacD’s blog and website few years ago.

So, be prepare and use every element wisely. Wishing you a happy branding journey 🙂


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