If you're starting a blog or website, don't forget the all-important 404 page – a standard response code in HTTP telling the user, in effect, that they've clicked on a broken link.
It's traditionally been an immense source of frustration. But in recent years, creatives have taken up the challenge of designing bespoke 404 pages that at least sweeten the pill of finding you're in the wrong place.
Done really well, a 404 page can become a mini-ambassador for the website itself. It might even be shared on Twitter or relevant blogs as an example of the site's keenness for customer service or unique approach to design. The 36 we present here have achieved all this and more, so take a look and be inspired to create your own bespoke 404 pages.
Hosting company Kualo has been in business for over 15 years – an eternity in internet time – and its 404 page reflects its venerable status, treating you to a game of Kualo-themed Space Invaders. It's not perfect. The key strategy of picking off the fleet's outer edges to slow the invaders' descent doesn't work, for starters. But it is fun, and it can earn you a discount on your hosting deal if you manage to score over 1,000 points.
Even the world's largest index of useless websites can have an off day. And when the Useless Web Index can't find what you're looking for, it's ready with the next best thing: meerkats, doing meerkat stuff for your amusement.
04. Steve Lambert
New York-based artist Steve Lambert describes this as "the most awkward 404 not found page on the internet", and you know, he may well be right. It features an excruciating piece to camera that just goes on and on. We defy you to get to the end without any part of your body clenching.
05. Dan Woodger
Some 404 pages are technical masterpieces, and some – specifically Dan Woodger's, which features a drawing of a cheeseburger on roller skates – are not. But while it might not push any technical boundaries, it does give you a clear idea of Dan's style, and encourages you to click through to the rest of his work.
Even though we have a copy of Adobe Illustrator right here, and could play with anchor points and Bézier curves literally any time we want, we're still entranced by Figma's 404 page, in which the big 404 is rendered in vectors that you can reshape to your heart's content.
It's hard to resist South West Trains' railway-themed 404 page. The numerals are visualised in train tracks and a dinky little train comes rolling along every few seconds. All aboard!
Bloomberg's 404 page initially looks pretty ordinary, until it suddenly pans out from the 404 error into a bizarre animation involving an off-the-shelf 3D model of a businessman smashing his broken PC into bits.
The 404 page of creative and digital design agency Bluegg is simple, but so effective. Upon loading you're greeted by a goat, which lets out an almighty high-pitched scream, alerting you that the page doesn't exist. Warning: our inner child emerged. We must admit to playing this repeatedly while crying with laughter. Bravo, guys.
Hot Dot Productions has applied its 'where design meets technology' tagline to its impressive 404 page, which features the three numbers made up of hundreds of tiny dots that change direction in response to mouse movements. Seriously cool.
This 404 page from couch-surfing behemoth Airbnb features a delightful animation that holds lessons for us all about the inadvisability of dropping ice cream. It also brings to mind stories about people who have rented out their homes on Airbnb, only to come back to a disaster area. Look, if you drop ice cream on the floor, clean it up, right?
Lego can do no wrong in our eyes. We love this cute 404 page, which proves that you don't need a lot of technical-sounding text to get your error message across.
Magnt enables you to create a business card-themed web page in minutes. Its clever 404 page demonstrates the company's keen sense of wit, while also providing a clear call to action to take you where you need to go.
Coding website GitHub is the home of geeks, and what better way to appeal to geeks than through a simple Star Wars parody with parallax effect when you move your mouse? GitHub also has a nice 500 page for when the server breaks.
It's hard to get over the inevitable disappointment of coming up against a 404 page, but Blue Fountain Media has something that might just cheer you up – in the form of Pac-Man played out in a 404-shaped maze. We'll be honest, the 404 shape doesn't work that well (although it's no worse than Google's Pac-Man doodle), but it didn't stop us from giving this a thorough researching.
16. CSS Ninjas
The web design world loves ninjas. Falling in with the trend, this 404 page features a nice, simple illustration that reflects the site's general approach to design.
This site makes excellent use of animation and sound, and its 404 page employs a beautifully rendered subway station complete with an empty train that rolls in. As with many of the examples here, the page diverges from the overall site aesthetic to great effect.
The designers at ultra-hip email newsletter service MailChimp have morphed the company's well-known monkey into a Hulk-type character – complete with animated smoke – to signify a broken link. The style of the 404 page fits the rest of the site design nicely, reflecting the same lighthearted approach that makes an otherwise boring task into something fun and endearing.
Next page: More brilliant 404 pages...