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404 Page Not Found – Making an error handsomely

When we type in the wrong address or click on a ‘dead’ link on a website, it should produce the standard HTTP response code – Not Found or ‘Error 404’. But a well-designed page (in terms of design and usability) can cheer up the user and tell them what to do next.

Today we’ll tell you what this error is, why you need a 404 page and show you some examples of successful four hundred and four pages that will inspire you to create a creative page.

What does error 404 mean?

This error has many names:

  • 404 Not Found
  • 404 Error
  • HTTP 404 Not Found
  • The page cannot be found
  • The requested URL was not found on this server

A 404 page gets its name from the 404 response code, which means the server could not find anything at the given URL. Typically, this error occurs when a person enters an incorrect site address or goes to a link that does not exist (for example, when you removed the old link, but it remains in the search engine indexing).

A 404 page opens automatically if the requested site cannot be found. Such a page can occur on any site because it can not be fully controlled.
Why do I need a 404 page?

It seems that you can do without your own error page design? But in fact, everyone needs a 404 page for several reasons:

  • You can’t prevent all accidental errors and typos. For example, your potential customer may miss a letter, not find what they are looking for and just leave.
  • If you have a multi-page site, keeping track of all the addresses is quite challenging. For example, some section of the site has been removed, and the address may have been replaced to improve SEO indicators.
  • When you have a lot of unformatted 404 pages from which users can’t go to the home page or other sections, your site is losing ground in organic search. So thinking about a 404-page design is good for SEO.

When do 404 errors occur?

There really aren’t that many reasons. Here are some of the most common examples:

  • deleting a page from your site;
  • Transferring a resource to another URL without a redirect;
  • Temporary unavailability of the site;
  • Wrong URL;
  • viruses on the site.

Incorrect redirects can also cause an error, so you should always check if everything is working correctly when setting up a redirect.

A more detailed article about 404 errors and what they mean, can be found here.

A note about creating a 404 page – what to keep in mind

Good 404-page design is how to have a human conversation with your users and keep them on the site. So when creating a 404 error page, keep a few rules in mind.

Explain to the user what is even going on

First, reassure the person on the 404 page. Explain what happened. For example, you can list the reasons for the error: the link is out of date and was removed from the site, there was an error in the address bar, the section has moved to another page, etc.

Entertain and amuse

The design of such a page can be convenient and funny. So you can try to distract users with humour and relieve them of their sense of loss. Images, videos, and animations (amusing ones) do an excellent job with this.

Of course, the tone of the message on the error page depends on your brand positioning, but if you can make a joke, why not?

Bring the user back to the site.

Humour and pretty pictures are great. But don’t forget that you need to get the 404-page visitor back to the site as soon as possible. For example, place a “Back to Home” button, so you don’t lose a potential customer. You could also put a menu, search or help section so that the person can pick and choose where to go.

Maintain your style

The 404 page is part of your website, so it should be designed in your brand’s style. This applies to colours, fonts, characters and other content.

Stay ahead

The best way to ensure your users don’t end up on a 404 page is to constantly check for “broken links” on your site. If you check for lost articles, videos, pictures and so on once a month, your users will be less and less likely to end up on a 404 page.

By the way, Google has free services for webmasters to help find broken links.

Some creative examples of 404 pages

Now let’s look at what we think are some excellent examples of 404 pages.

Look at the incredible animation from the Bench website. Is it a mistake? There is no such page, just like there is no Bigfoot, unicorn or Loch Ness monster. …Or does it exist?

Or the email service MailChimp will not only delight the user with a remarkable illustration but will also take them back to the homepage.

MailChimp 404 Page

The Amphibian website has an entire mini-game with frogs.

Amphibian 404 page

How about the famous “Docker“, where a distraught whale looks at a sunken ship. Do you like this kind of animation?

Docker 404 page

There is, of course, no perfect formula for a 404 page. It’s all individual and business-specific – be creative, but don’t forget about the benefits for the website visitor.

Stay tuned for more exciting articles and inspiring picks.