WiscWeb - Creating a Custom 404 Page

This document will walk you through setting up a custom 404 page for your site.

In this document:

Purpose and use

Custom 404 pages can be used to inform users of the fact that a URL on your site has changed or no longer exists. They are also helpful when redesigning a website, where many page paths may change. Rather than getting the standard 404 message indicating that the page does not exist, or setting up numerous 1-to-1 redirects, they can land on this page. Here is where you can add key information for the user that will help them find what they need and make it clear that the location of the content has permanently changed. This solution is preferred over directly redirecting the user, as it informs them that there has been a change and therefore gives them an opportunity to update any out-of-date bookmarks they may have in their browser. 

When an end-user enters a URL for your site that does not exist, they will get a generic 404 error. This is the common system message for a page not found. This can be very confusing for customers who:

  • Have old bookmarks to pages but do not know they are outdated or have changed
  • Have old links in communications (emails, brochures, etc.) that are not being redirected to the new link

The UW Theme offers a way to customize the 404 error page that appears for customers when a broken link is accessed. This allows you to add more information about why the link may have broken, provide helpful documentation and links for where to find the page now, and a reminder for folks to update their redirects.


Custom 404 page example from the WiscWeb site

Creating a Custom 404 Page

  1. Login to your WordPress site.
  2. Create a new page with the content you want for your 404 page. We recommend naming it "404 Error"
    • Be sure to Publish this page. Draft pages cannot be used for this purpose.
  3. In your Dashboard, click on Appearance > Customize.
  4. Click on Custom 404 Page.
  5. You will see a drop down with all of your published pages. Select the page you created previously.
  6. Click Publish at the top of the section.

    Example of setting the custom 404 error page

Example Content for a Custom 404 Page

The following is an example of the type of content you could include in a custom 404 page (in a text block). The bolded content will need to be updated with your site's info:
"The page you are trying to view has either been removed or is temporarily unavailable. If you have reached this page while navigating the [your website name here] website or submitting a form, your browser cache may need to be cleared. 
If you believe you have received this message in error, please email [email address] and include your name, contact information and information about how you reached this page. We will analyze the issue and will get back to you on the status."

Alternative to Custom 404 Message

If a custom 404 does not meet your needs, WiscWeb offers a redirect plugin called Redirection that can be applied to the site. This must be activated by a member of the WiscWeb team. To request activation, please fill out the Support Request form and choose the Plugin Activation Request option.

Keywordserror, does not exist, navigate, broken link, redirect, page, not, found, page not found   Doc ID73229
OwnerMatt G.GroupWiscWeb
Created2017-05-10 14:10:38Updated2023-07-31 16:10:22
SitesDoIT Help Desk, WiscWeb
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