How to Craft a Dynamic 404 Page with Search and Suggestions in WordPress

In this detailed tutorial, we’ll guide you through the process of crafting a visually appealing and SEO-friendly 404 page for your WordPress website. Beyond just addressing errors, our goal is to engage users with helpful suggestions and an integrated search bar. Discover the steps to build a dynamic 404 page using a child theme, enhancing both user experience and site aesthetics. If you prefer a more straightforward approach, explore our guide on How to Create a Custom 404 Page in WordPress.

Create a Custom 404 Page Template

Begin by navigating to your child theme folder (typically found at ‘wp-content/themes/your-child-theme’). Create a new file named ‘404.php' within this directory. This file will serve as your unique 404 page template.

<?php
get_header(); // Include the header template

// Insert your custom content for the 404 page here

get_footer(); // Include the footer template
?>
Code language: PHP (php)

Design the Custom 404 Page

Take your 404 page to the next level by incorporating dynamic content suggestions and a search bar. Utilize HTML and CSS to shape the layout and styling. The following example combines both design and functionality:

<?php get_header(); ?>

<div id="primary" class="content-area">
	<main id="main" class="site-main">
		<section class="error-404 not-found">
			<header class="page-header">
				<h1 class="page-title">Oops! Page not found.</h1>
			</header>
		<div class="page-content">
			<p>It appears the page you were looking for does not exist.</p>
			<p>Don't worry, you can <a href="<?php echo esc_url( home_url( '/' ) ); ?>">return to the homepage</a> or try searching for the content you need.</p>
		</div>
		<div class="page-search">
			<?php get_search_form(); // Embed the search bar ?>
		</div>

		<?php
		// Display dynamic content suggestions
		$dynamic_posts = get_posts(
			array(
				'orderby' => 'comment_count',
				'order'   => 'desc',
			)
		);
		foreach ( $dynamic_posts as $dynamic_post ) {
			// Display post titles or excerpts as suggestions.
			echo '<a href="' . esc_url( get_permalink( $dynamic_post->ID ) ) . '">' . esc_html( $dynamic_post->post_title ) . '</a><br>';
		}
		?>
		</section>
	</main>
</div>

<?php get_footer(); ?>

Code language: PHP (php)

Enhance Dynamic Content Suggestions

To make your dynamic content suggestions even more engaging, consider displaying featured images alongside post titles. Update the dynamic content section as follows:

<?php
// Display dynamic content suggestions with featured images
$dynamic_posts = get_posts(
	array(
		'orderby' => 'comment_count',
		'order'   => 'desc',
	)
);

foreach ( $dynamic_posts as $dynamic_post ) {
	// Get the post thumbnail URL
	$thumbnail = get_the_post_thumbnail_url( $dynamic_post->ID, 'thumbnail' );

	// Display post titles, featured images, or excerpts as suggestions.
	echo '<div class="suggestion">';
	echo '<a href="' . esc_url( get_permalink( $dynamic_post->ID ) ) . '">' . esc_html( $dynamic_post->post_title ) . '</a>';

	if ( $thumbnail ) {
		echo '<div class="thumbnail"><img src="' . esc_url( $thumbnail ) . '" alt="Thumbnail"></div>';
	}

	echo '</div>';
}
Code language: PHP (php)

Explanation:

  • We introduced a new class ‘suggestion’ for each suggestion, enhancing the styling capabilities.
  • Utilized get_the_post_thumbnail_url() to fetch the post thumbnail URL.
  • Added a <div> to display the thumbnail image if available, improving the visual appeal.
  • The enhanced dynamic content suggestions now provide a more engaging and visually appealing user experience.

Test Your Custom 404 Page

Ensure the functionality of your custom 404 page by simulating a 404 error. Visit a nonexistent page on your website, and witness your enhanced custom design in action.

Update Permalinks

Mitigate any potential permalink issues by updating the permalink structure in your WordPress dashboard. Head to ‘Settings’ > ‘Permalinks‘ and click ‘Save Changes.’ This ensures that WordPress recognizes the custom 404 page.

That’s it! You’ve successfully crafted a dynamic custom 404 page for your WordPress website using a child theme. This tutorial delivers both an aesthetically pleasing design and valuable suggestions for users. Remember to test your custom 404 page after implementing any changes.

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