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Best practices for creative 404 error pages with web design page examples

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Oh no, where did that page go?

Ever got lost in a mall looking for your favorite store?

You’re 100% sure it’s supposed to be right around the corner, but oops! Dead end.

Instead of finding that cool gadget store, you end up staring at a blank wall.

Why was that door even there if it led nowhere?

Websites can feel like mazes sometimes.

You might be looking for a product, a service, or a free resource they offer, but when you click the link, it leads you to an error page:

“404 page not found.”

Where do you go?

A clever 404 page can make this better. Imagine a friendly guide popping up with a funny message, leading you back on track.

As someone who’s kept websites running for years, I can tell you one thing for sure: you’ll hit a few walls.

Things change. Links break. There’s just nothing we can do.

But the goodies are still in there somewhere!

A creative 404 page transforms user frustration into a fun, brand-building moment. It guides visitors back to what they need with a smile.

Come with me and let’s explore how to turn these lost moments into wins, boosting your site’s user experience and brand image.

Advantages of custom 404 pages

When you have a well-designed and witty 404 error page, it’s not just a dead end anymore; it’s a chance to show users that you care about their experience.

Here are some advantages of having well-designed error pages:

Effective 404 page: redirect users and improve user experience (UX)

What do you usually do when you hit an error on a site?

Personally, I usually just leave.

It tells me that the site is either not updated or the developer doesn’t care enough about my time on their site.

If I spent too long on the site trying to look for something only to end up on an error page, I would even be frustrated and probably complain about it.

I don’t want that. You don’t want that.

A well-designed 404 page can provide alternative navigation paths, reducing bounce rates and keeping users engaged with your site.

This not only improves UX but also improves your search engine optimization (SEO), as more engaged users can help you rank higher in search results.

On-brand 404 pages: reinforce your identity

Generic 404 pages that just say the page doesn’t exist do nothing to differentiate your brand.

Your 404 page is one of the many pages on your site you can customize to reflect your brand’s tone, style, and values, leaving a lasting impression even when something goes wrong.

This is a great time to reinforce your brand’s identity and messaging.

Make your users feel that you care about them and their experience with your brand.

Funny 404 pages: showcase your creativity

An error page is often an unexpected negative experience, but you can still turn this into a positive surprise instead.

Who doesn’t want a fun little joke or a witty illustration?

Having these on your 404 pages is a great way to ease your visitors’ frustration and also showcase your creativity as a brand.

Instead of feeling lost, they can feel like they dug too deep into your site and found an unexpected treasure.

How do you create a custom 404 error page?

Are you looking for ideas to create your witty 404 pages?

Here are some elements you can add to your page:

Create a 404 page that says sorry

Your 404 page should be empathetic yet informative.

It should acknowledge the error and reassure users that they are on the right track.

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Errors happen; make sure to be empathetic and informative to your lost users.

Ease their frustration with a witty and welcoming apology, such as:

“Oops! It looks like you’ve taken a wrong turn.”

“Looks like you dug too deep. Sorry, this page doesn’t exist anymore.”

“Sorry, this seems to be a missing page.”

Designing a 404 page with visual elements of your brand

You can use any of the following visual elements to reinforce your brand identity and offer a fun experience for your users:

  • Illustrations
  • Humorous Graphics
  • Memes (if appropriate for your audience)

Interactive 404 pages

You can add interactive elements to your 404 page.

It can be a fun game like Google’s offline dinosaur game or an interactive animation.

A gallery or search bar are also great ideas, as they can also redirect your users to other areas of your site.

Users can directly search for the content they were trying to find.

Redirect them to a landing page

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Your 404 page can help redirect your users to other parts of your site.

Provide clear instructions or options for users to continue their journey on your site, such as:

“Let’s get you back to safety. Here are a few options:”

“Are you looking for any of the following?”

Offer links to popular pages, categories, or the homepage to help users find what they’re looking for.

Some common categories include:

  • Home page
  • Popular products
  • Blog
  • Contact us

Encourage interaction with a call-to-action (CTA)

You can engage users further by incorporating a CTA that encourages them to explore more or contact support.

Here are some examples:

“Explore our latest collections.”

“Need help? Contact our support team.”

“Return to the homepage.”

Examples of the best 404 pages

We’re an on-demand design service so of course, we won’t let you go through an article without design examples of the best 404 pages out there!

Here are some of the wittier pages you can take inspiration from:

Matra Lab’s space-themed 404 page design

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Mantra Labs, the product engineering and web development company, stays consistent with their space-themed branding with this 404 page.

They have taken you to space with them and are ushering you back to safety (the rest of their site).

Mailchimp’s creative 404 page

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Mailchimp, the email marketing platform, makes use of their unique brand-exclusive illustration style to send you a witty message.

Don’t you feel bad for them?

This horse is searching high and low to look for the page you were looking for!

AirBNB’s funny 404 page

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There goes their illustration’s ice cream.

AirBNB shows that they are as confused as you are when you land on a 404 code.

They also recommend a bunch of helpful links you can go to.

Bitly’s great 404 page

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Bitly, the URL shortener is definitely no stranger to their shortened links not working.

Other than this relaxing illustration, they offer a bunch of reasons your link might not work and some solutions you can use to troubleshoot.

The little reminder about case-sensitive links sure does help. (I’ve been a victim of this a bunch of times too!)

Deer Designer’s forest-themed 404 page

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We surely wouldn’t forget to showcase our very own 404 page at Deer Designer.

Our 404 page follows our branding and gives you the feeling of being lost in the woods, with a little redirect message to guide you back to the right path.

Best practices to create a custom 404 page

Do you have everything you need to create a great 404 page?

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Stay consistent with your overall brand identity, not only in terms of visuals but also with your brand’s tone. If you’re going for a more professional tone, you can still be witty without being over the top.
  • While creativity is key, avoid clutter. A clean layout with intuitive navigation options is essential. You don’t want to overwhelm your already frustrated visitors.
  • Use language that’s friendly and helpful. Using error codes and technical jargon without explanation may confuse users further.

404 error messages and page examples

A well-crafted 404 page is more than just a safety net for lost users; it’s a powerful tool to reinforce brand loyalty and enhance the user experience.

By investing in creativity and empathy when designing your 404 page, you not only mitigate user frustration but also seize an opportunity to leave a positive impression.

Remember, in the world of web design, even errors can be turned into memorable moments that strengthen your brand’s identity and engagement.

Embracing the potential of your 404 page is key to crafting a cohesive and compelling online presence.

Let’s make every error count towards building better digital experiences.

Need more help with the rest of your site?

Here are some useful guides to website design:

➡️Building a website from scratch? 5 pages every website needs

➡️The importance of creating a website wireframe in web design: A step-by-step guide with wireframe examples

➡️Everything you need to learn about SEO for web design to create a high-ranking website

Are you feeling stressed thinking of all the pages you need to make for your site?

Make your web design experience easier with Deer Designer!

Just request your design and we’ll make the layout and illustrations for you.

Book a client-fit call today.

Key takeaways

  • Finding a 404 message is often a negative experience, but having a creative error page design can turn this into a positive experience for users.
  • A site’s 404 page may affect its UX and SEO. Search engines are more likely to recommend it to users if your website visitors engage with your site better.
  • An error 404 page can also be a great way to showcase your brand identity and a bit of your own creativity.
  • There are different page features you can add to a 404 page, such as a link back to the home page, links to your help center, a search bar, or interactive elements that match your brand.
  • We feature some of the best 404 page examples, such as Matra Lab, Mailchimp, AirBNB, and Bitly.