Custom 404 Error Pages

Web Design
Custom 404 Error Pages
Article by Maria Martin
Last Updated: March 26, 2024

A "Page Not Found" error can be a frustrating experience for users navigating the internet. Yet, if you’re a website owner, a creative opportunity emerges — the custom 404 error page.

These pages, designed to delight, inform, and guide users who have stumbled upon a dead end, offer a chance for websites to transform a potentially disheartening encounter into an engaging interaction.

In this article, we will talk about 404 pages while exploring some of the finest examples that transcend the ordinary.

The Best 404 Error Page Designs You'll Want To Copy Immediately

After scrolling through the internet in search of errors (as weird as that sounds), there are a few 404 pages that stand out from the others. Take a look -- maybe some of them will inspire your own on-brand design!

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1. The Mapped-Out 404 Error Page: BluePath

BluePath works with their clients to “create and implement automated analytics strategies” which help move users away from spreadsheets. While that awesome in itself, they’ve also kindly taken the time to put together this quirky 404 error page.

The page actually shows a map (which you are not on thanks to your stupidity of navigating “off the map”). The copy on the page also says:

“This [map] shows all the reported crimes in Atlanta over the past couple years. Why? Because it’s a crime you haven’t hired us yet!”

Well played, BluePath. Well played.

2. The Snarky 404 Page Error: The Australian

Australia’s leading national news brand The Australian boasts a range of national and global news and business coverage. However, just like the rest of us, they’re vulnerable to the occasional error. In this case their 404 error page.

But rather than submit to the classic “page not found,” The Australian has opted to use the page as a chance to have a sly dig at several Aussie politicians (Donald Trump and a lump of coal also make the list, strangely). Each politician has a quote associated with them and their thoughts on the broken link.

3. The Gamified 404 Error Page: Kualo

Ok. This is might just be the best 404 error page in the history of the internet. Kualo decided to turn their home for broken links into a game of Space Invaders for users to play. Gamification is a great way to turn the disappointed web surfers into very happy content consumers. 

Plus, users can intentionally come back to this page just to play the classic game. Since search engines see everything (hello,  Big Brother...) they also track users’ time on page. Makes sense – if you spend a lot of time on a page, that means that you really like the content. If you are a repeat user and you keep coming back for more, search engines will map your journey and reward the websites with better ranking!

What’s better? Not only do you get the chance to play the awesome game on Kualo’s website, but you actually have an incentive to do so! If you destroy 1,000 invaders you get a discount on their hosting. All around, this is truly an amazing design and it took me an extra hour to write this article purely because of this page. Hats off to Kualo.

P.S. Can you beat our high score?

4. The Quirky 404 Error Page: The Useless Web Index

The useless web index -- with their highly appropriate name - decided to give us the much-loved meerkat in their 404 error page design. The longer you spend on the page the more meerkats that arrive, so much so that after about 10 seconds there are at least eight of them on the screen.

You almost feel bad for the meerkats who are clearly struggling to find your web page!

Sure, gamification does wonders for your business, but incorporating a video that’s remotely connected to the 404 topics is also a good tactic. People may stay and watch it until the end, making it another great way to increase the time spent on the web page and enhance your overall metrics, even if 404 pages appear.

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5. The Illustrated 404 Error Page: Lego

If you’re a Lego fan you’ll enjoy their 404 error page design. As some companies have already highlighted, the 404 page is actually a great excuse to use an erroneous page to reassert your brand or product to visitors.

Lego is actually famous for using various tactics to increase both their customer base and never missing a chance to remind people that they are relevant. They have a series of animated movies, video games, additional content, and more. Lego is there for people of all ages, starting from the baby Lego Duplo bricks to their Architect boxes that let adults build replicas of most famous landmarks.

We didn’t expect anything less for their 404 page. In this case, Lego's 404 page is very illustrative: the ‘cable’ that connected the link you clicked to the web page is broken, and some poor chap has stumbled across it to his horror!

6. The Punny 404 Error Page: Blue Daniel

As part of his portfolio, Daniel Karcher chose to use the 404 error page to showcase his skills even further. He opted for a subway setting, with billboard advertisements using puns and a play on words for a humorous twist.

In his error message, you’ll notice references to the movie “The Missing” and the TV show “Lost.” The latter has graffiti overlayed to ask users the question "are you LOST?"

Since you have obviously lost your way on this 404 page, you get a chance to go back to the main level. Clever!

7. The Adventurous 404 Error Page: Emirates

As mentioned at the start of the article, some branding companies use a combination of humor and useful information to create a 404 error page that feels more like part of the actual website than a broken section or link.

Emirates are a prime example, who couple an ironic joke with links to their most commonly visited pages. They say, “Sorry, We’ve traveled the globe, but we can’t seem to find this page.” Suggesting that since they’ve been everywhere, the page you’re looking for almost certainly doesn’t exist - d’oh!

Considering the fact that 73.7 percent of people who land on a 404 page leave the site immediately, it’s a great tactic to keep the visitors on your site by offering links to most visited pages. 

When people don’t find what they are looking for, they lose trust. In turn, search engines lose trust. And suffice it to say, you don’t want anyone losing trust in your business. Finding a way to turn a bad situation like a broken link can help you assert your business and even impress your website visitors.

8. The Minimal 404 Error Page: CSS Tricks

It’s probably quite embarrassing for a web development or coding website to have a 404 error. I mean, it is their job to ensure these things don’t happen after all - isn’t it?

Regardless, the team over at CSS Tricks managed to turn a potentially embarrassing mistake into a nicely designed 404 page. The center of the page is styled like a ripped sheet of paper, behind which sits the code that should have made up the page you’re trying to visit.

9. The Self-Deprecating 404 Error Page: Cloud Sigma

We can relate to what Cloud Sigma have done with their 404 error page. We always say, when in doubt, just use pictures of dogs or cats to ease potentially bad situations. In this case, the site features a picture of a cat (sorry, their junior developer) attempting to use a computer. It’s well-timed. You can’t help but laugh!

But most importantly, the Cloud Sigma site error also offer you a clear method of escape back to their homepage. If you don’t want people to leave the website entirely, make sure that going back to the home page is always easy and just a click away.

10. The Unconventional 404 Error Page: LimpFish

Lastly, Limpfish used a quirky version of a 404 error page to once again bring a smile to every user's face. Granted, I was a little confused when I first saw this as it seems to be a combination of a dating ad and a genuine tech-related request… I’m not sure which is more apparent. But if you think about it, who needs a good match more than a broken link?

However, the newspaper effect adds a little irony, considering we are operating on the internet. The end goal was a success – they made us smile and chuckle, and we didn’t leave the website as soon as we landed on a 404 page.

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What Is a 404 Page?

A 404 page, also known as a "404 error page" or simply "404," is a standard response code in HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) that indicates a client's (usually a web browser) request to the server was successful in terms of communication, but the server could not find the requested resource or webpage.

This typically occurs when the URL entered by the user or clicked on is either:

  • Incorrect
  • Outdated
  • Points to a non-existent page on the server

When a web server encounters a situation where the requested webpage or resource cannot be located, it responds with a 404-status code along with an associated 404 page. This page is designed to inform users that the content they are trying to access is not available and might provide suggestions for what to do next.

While the specific appearance and content of a 404 page can vary, it generally includes:

  • A message explaining the error
  • A search bar for users to try finding what they were looking for
  • Links to the website's homepage or other relevant sections

Customizing 404 pages is common for websites to maintain a consistent branding experience and provide helpful information to users who might have encountered a broken link or an incorrect URL. Additionally, well-designed 404 pages can add a touch of creativity and humor to what would otherwise be a frustrating experience for users encountering errors.

How To Monitor 404 Pages?

  1. Rely on Web Analytics Tools
  2. Use Google Search Console
  3. Monitor Server Logs
  4. Leverage Third-Party Monitoring Tools
  5. Implement Custom JavaScript or Server-Side Tracking
  6. Conduct Regular Site Audits

Monitoring 404 pages is important to identify broken links, missing resources, or incorrect URLs that might negatively affect user experience. Here are a few ways you can keep an eye out for them:

1. Rely on Web Analytics Tools

Use website analytics tools like Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, or other similar platforms. These tools often provide reports on various aspects of your website's performance, including tracking 404 errors. They can show you which URLs generated 404 errors, the sources of those requests, and sometimes even the referring pages.

2. Use Google Search Console

Google Search Console allows you to monitor how Googlebot interacts with your website. It provides information about crawling errors, including 404 errors. You can access a report that shows URLs that returned a 404 error when Googlebot attempted to access them.

3. Monitor Server Logs

Server logs contain a record of all requests made to your web server. Monitoring these logs can help you identify 404 errors in real time. Tools like AWStats or Webalizer can analyze server logs and provide insights into which URLs are generating 404 errors.

4. Leverage Third-Party Monitoring Tools

There are various third-party tools and services designed specifically to monitor website health and performance. Some of these tools can scan your website for broken links, track 404 errors, and provide you with reports and notifications. Examples include Broken Link Checker, Screaming Frog SEO Spider, and Ahrefs.

5. Implement Custom JavaScript or Server-Side Tracking

You can implement custom scripts on your website that track 404 errors. For instance, using JavaScript, you can track when users encounter a 404 error and send this data to your analytics platform. Similarly, server-side scripts can log 404 errors as they occur.

6. Conduct Regular Site Audits

Conduct regular site audits to identify and fix broken links and missing resources. Tools like Screaming Frog SEO Spider and Sitebulb can crawl your website to identify broken links and other issues.

Custom 404 Error Pages Takeaways

Each site's 404 error page design takes the mishap and transforms it into an opportunity to further build brand loyalty. Through creativity, stellar design and a bit of sharp wit, your website design won't have to worry about errors either -- it will all just be an extension of the company's offerings. 

Our final tip: Pull out all the stops for you 404 page because that 73 percent of people that leave after landing on a 404 page represent 74 percent of lost potential customers. Those are your leads getting away, and a custom 404 page just might make them stay and browse more. It’s not whether you should have a custom 404 page or not. The question is, can you afford not to have one?

Custom 404 Error Pages FAQs

1. What is a good 404 page?

A good 404 page informs users about the missing content, provides links to the homepage or relevant sections, and maintains the website's branding.

Ideally, a good 404 page should be creatively designed to engage users with clear messaging, helpful navigation options, and possibly a touch of humor.

2. How do I find all 404 pages on a website?

To find all 404 pages on a website, use website audit tools like Screaming Frog SEO Spider or online broken link checkers. These tools scan your site for broken links, identifying pages returning a 404-status code. Additionally, check Google Search Console's "Coverage" report and analyze server logs to uncover 404 errors.

3. Does Google crawl 404 pages?

Yes, Google crawls 404 pages. When Googlebot encounters a 404 error while crawling a URL, it records the error in its systems. However, the page's content won't be indexed since it's considered unavailable. It's essential to handle 404 errors properly to guide Googlebot and users to relevant content on your website.

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