Monica Javanainen

404 – the page that offers opportunities for design and information

A 404 page is the most usual error of internet browsing. Basically it’s what you get to see if the page you’re looking for isn’t there for some reason.

Even the best designed sites will not avoid a 404 error page, regardless of ensuring there are no broken links at all. A visitor may always type a link wrongly and there it is: the 404 landing, usually to a system-generated page. Such landings are very frequent as it can be seen in any web statistics panel.

Since a significant portion of a site’s traffic will certainly reach at some point the 404 page, for a variety of reasons, its value has long been recognised by web designers and businesses alike. Nowadays 404 pages are made to be impressive and fun, offering an excellent opportunity to show creativity and promote one’s brand.

This is why it is important to always take time to design a custom 404 page, giving visitors something more than a boring system message. A visually attractive, user-friendly 404 error page demonstrates to visitors, and potential customers, that you care about them and you are interested in keeping them browsing your site.

If done well, a 404 page can give a memorable experience to the visitors and serve as a mini-ambassador for the site itself. Humour, beautiful design, or enhanced user experience are some of the ways commonly employed to catch the visitors’ attention and highlight a company’s unique aspects.

However, keep in mind that a 404 page also has to be functional and help your visitors navigate to their desired destination. Provide a variety of choices, for example integrate the main menu bar or include a home link, add a search box, a short list with the site’s most important resources, or footer links to popular pages of the site.

Let’s have a look at some effective and creative examples of 404
error pages

With an elegant design, portraying the company’s line of business and image, this 404 helps customers get back on track, and continue booking a flight.

A creative image use for depicting the 404 error, while the informative site menu, login panel, search bar, and footer with links are all included.

Internet Movie Database’s 404 page employs quotes from famous films adapted with humour to fit the error. The page redirects the user to the home page or to the film page, where the quote came from.

Bitly

The well-known URL shortening service creates a scene in its 404 page to tell a story, with cursor animation effects and soothing colours. A short explanation and a discreet menu bar in the bottom are of course included.

Kualo

This web hosting company offers a funny interactive game in the 404, where one can score high and earn a discount in their hosting services. The innovative page caught much attention, proving to be a successful promotion idea.

This popular image hosting service, chose for its 404 to include some amusing animal portraits dressed in clothes from a few centuries ago. The eyes in the paintings follow the cursor as it is moved around the page.

Even if the custom 404 page theme does not match the main website theme, another theme or scene from a popular movie can be used to attract attention. In this case, a Star Wars theme is used that moves when you roll over the mouse over it.

Superoperator is the pioneer in the car wash industry helping operators to benefit from digitalisation in their car wash businesses. The 404 page is simple yet effective.

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Monica Javanainen