Creating 404 pages may not be at the top of your list of tasks when designing a website, and hopefully, it won't be what users see most often when they're browsing. But good 404 pages can be very effective for conveying brand identity, keeping visitors entertained – and keeping them on the site. Ideally, you don't want users to ever land the 404 page at all, but adding some personality and clever design can turn an error into an advantage.
The best bespoke 404 pages use great UX, humour, stunning design or even games to soften the irritation for the user. They can be memorable, shareable, and even function as ambassadors for the brand. CSS animation or cool parallax scrolling are just some of the ways to liven up your 404 error pages, but sometimes all it takes is some sharp copy. We've chosen our favourite examples below to provide inspiration to help you think outside the box with your own designs.
The best 404 pages
A good 404 page should convey a brand's personality. Marie Kondo has become hugely popular for her cleaning and organisation tips and products, and the copy on her site's 404 page humorously espouses that same philosophy of clearing out clutter. It's a small, concise detail that fans will immediately recognise.
Marvel's has multiple versions of its 404 pages, which are (of course) all themed around the MCU. We've spotted references to Hydra (one of which is above) and the eye of Utau, to name just a couple. Check out the page to see which one you get.
The Lego 404 page is pretty simple but exudes personality. The Lego man's horrified expression, plus the push on a brand tagline ('everything is still awesome') creates an error page experience you're not sorry you stumbled into.
A play on words will get you far, which is why we appreciate Omlet's approach to its 404 page. The creative company's page says 'this page is eggstinct' as an animated egg crack takes over the screen. The bright red colour shows that this a 'warning' while the egg theme fits in with Omlet's name. What's not to like?
05. Mantra Labs
This 404 page from Mantra Labs is simple yet effective. An illustration of a space person floating into the '404' accompanies text saying 'Oops! You ran out of oxygen'. There's also a timer counting down to you being directed back to the homepage. If you blinked, you might even miss this 404 page, though it's worth going wrong on purpose just to visit it.
06. Ready to go survival
We all love a good movie reference within a 404 page (and there are several of them included in our list). This survival site refers to The Matrix in its 404 page and gives you two options: clicking the red or the blue pill. Naturally, both keep you on the site.
This car buying comparison site helps you find the perfect car, but when you go off course, its 404 page provides a clever on-theme way to keep you on site. Visitors are presented with an 8-bit game style screen. All you need to do is hit the Start text to enjoy the simple horizontal scrolling game, where all you need to do is avoid obstacles and other cars. Give it a try.
Ueno is a full-service agency with a standout 404 page. What you're seeing above doesn't capture the full effort that's gone into it: the hotdog is animated so it runs in an infinite loop through a surreal landscape, and there are several hilarious explanatory messages to explore. It's bonkers and totally unique – visit the error page here.
Gym Box is a gym company that aims to offer "the most unique and diverse classes in London". The limits of that claim might be the kind of magnificent '80s fitness spectacle that appears on its 404 page. Short shorts, crop tops and pelvic thrusting – what more could you want from an error page?
It's only a slight exaggeration to say that Slack's 2019 logo update was met with widespread horror, and its super-saccharine 404 page is sure to have its fair share of haters too. Go wrong in Slack, and you're directed to a magical landscape of lush foliage, mountains and rainbows, where butterflies, chickens and tiny little pigs roam free. The scene scrolls horizontally with your mouse movement, too (try it here).
11. Purée Maison
Purée Maison is a creative agency specialising in communication strategy, and its characterful website is full of delightful animations (we'd recommend taking a look around). We're particular fans of this surreal 404 page, which somehow manages to perfectly capture the pain of hitting a digital wall.
Some people can take things just a little too much to heart. Pixar's 404 page, featuring Sadness from 2015's hugely popular Inside Out, is simple, straightforward and does the job. If it's representative of your reaction to getting a 404 error, though, then maybe you need to re-examine your life a little.
13. 20th Century Studios
Can't find the film you want? The newly rebranded 20th Century Studios (previously 20th Century Fox) has a great way to inspire you for when you get a URL wrong; its 404 page pops up with a still from a cult movie, with a pithy caption and a selection of other films you might like to watch. We've spotted snippets from Edward Scissorhands, Revenge of the Nerds and Napoleon Dynamite, amongst others (take a look to see which one you get).
14. Cloud Sigma
Cloud Sigma is a cloud server and cloud hosting service operating in the US, Europe and Asia-Pacific region. While flexible cloud servers are useful, they're not exactly fun, which we guess is why the company has made a little extra effort to inject some humour into its tongue-in-cheek 404 error page. We wonder how long it'll be before this helpful-looking junior developer gets poached by the competition.
Another website to use humour on its 404 error page is Atlanta-based data strategy consulting firm BluePath. The page shows a map of Atlanta, with a dot on the other side of the page indicating the visitor is 'Wayyyy off the map'. In an extremely tenuous link, the map also includes data-driven info showing reported crimes in the area. "Why? Because it’s a crime you haven’t hired us for yet!" Ah, these whacky data analysts.
Web hosting company Kualo has been in business for over 15 years – an eternity in internet time – and its 404 page harks back to yesteryear by treating visitors 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. Play it here.
Its inclusion in this article has also inspired US pest control company Pointe Pest Control to include its own Pest Invaders game on its 404 error page, complete with different flying and crawling bugs to spray.
As Chloe Zollinger from Pointe says: "Reaching a 404 error page is most often frustrating for a site user. We understand how important user experience on a webpage is. To better our visitors' experience, our team dedicated themselves to creating an interactive game on our 404 page."
18. 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 of his video without any part of your body clenching.
Next page: More inspiring 404 pages to explore