The most boring page on your site.

by | Attention to Detail, User Experience, Web Design

We’ve all had that moment when we are surfing through a website, and then suddenly, a 404 page pops up. You either get the message “page not found” or “website error”. Getting these messages can be annoying and confusing. This is an area which is worth some attention and the effort put in here can pay dividends.

Most of us are used to vibrant and eye-popping webpages. So, when a bland 404 page enters our screen, it can be jarring and even off-putting. Considering this, you want to make something special when you are crafting a 404 page.

Some website creators, might scoff and say that 404 pages are insignificant to the overall web traffic of their site. But, this is not the case at all. In fact, 404 pages can either be a blessing or a curse. Think of it this way, if someone is surfing through your website and ends up on a 404 page without a redirect button they might exit your website out of frustration.

On the flip side, if you can craft a creative, fun, and functional 404 page, you will be able to keep visitors on your website and get them back to your main site! This way you don’t lose them to other websites and competitors.

Really, regardless of what pops up on users’ screens, a 404 page needs to work well and it needs to get people redirected and interested in what your website has to offer! 404 pages symbolize the broken parts of a web experience. However, you can turn this around and mend your relationship with your web visitors with an engaging 404 page! 

What Is a 404 Page?

A 404 page is essentially a nonexistent webpage on a website. The user may have pressed a broken link on a webpage or typed something in wrong. Alternatively, the page could have been deleted or it does not exist on the site any longer. This is what leads to an error message, and this is what brings a web user to a 404 page.

404 Best Practice

404 pages can seem unimportant at first. They don’t really do much and they are usually pretty boring. However, if you want to keep users interested in your site it’s worth making the effort to create an engaging and useful 404 experience

if you want to keep users interested in your site it’s worth making the effort to create an engaging and useful 404 experience

1.  Make It Clear That Your Visitor Has Reached A Non-Existent Web Page

Sometimes, your web visitors won’t know what has happened when they arrive at a 404 page. They might assume that your website has crashed or they may think something is wrong with your site. Because of this, you need to make things clear for visitors. Let them know that the page they are on does not exist.

Not everyone is tech-savvy, so it is better to be direct, especially on a 404 page. Again, you don’t want people to leave your site thinking that a web page or website is broken. Help them to understand that the page isn’t there and then redirect them back to your site’s main page!

2. Use Humor To Lighten The Visitors Experience

You can use the 404 page an an opportunity to create a positive impact, and make your 404 page more exciting and inviting. In short, add a little spice to your 404 pages!

A web visitor might be annoyed that they hit a broken link or non-existent page. Humour can help lighten the mood though. It can even change your client’s perspective of your organisation. 

A boring 404 page, on the other hand, won’t help matters. So try to avoid this, and inject some humor into your page. This way they will smile or laugh instead of clicking out of your webpage in a huff.

 3. Provide Useful Information

404 pages should also be informative and useful. Jokes and clarity are good, but if you can’t get your clients the information they need, they will leave your site and find somewhere else to browse.  

if you can’t get visitors the information they are looking for they’ll leave your site.

So, provide large and visible links back to your main web page or the previous page visitors were on. Also, offer alternative links to your FAQ page or customer service page.

You can even add text that tells visitors to click one of the links you have provided or tells them to go back to your homepage or sitemap. This way they know exactly what to do in order to get help or get back to where they were looking!

4. If You Delete Pages, Provide A Redirect Option

Sometimes you have to delete pages on your site. This is generally good practice, as you don’t want incorrect or out of date information taking up space on your site. However, don’t just delete pages without considering whether there may be links to that page.


A look at some other 404 Pages:

Lets finish up with a quick look at a couple of sites who’ve embraced the ideas outlined here and an example of a very well known site that has a surprisingly ineffective 404 page.

 Nz Herald (

Nz Herald is a New Zealand-based newspaper.  A visit to their 404 page shows that they apply many of the principles we have talked about in this article.

They first make it clear that the webpage does not exist, and provide options for visitors to be redirected to a page that does exist. They also add humor and creativity to the 404 page with a large picture of a sheep  with the caption baaaah, this page does not exist. It’s a cute but effective way of letting visitors know that they’re lost.  Links are also provided at the bottom to redirect users.

Google (

Interestingly (and unusually,) Google’s 404 page is pretty boring.  You just get a picture of a broken robot and a caption that says the URL was not found and that there was an error with no option but to press the back button on your browser. As the world’s biggest search engine, they probably don’t really need to work on (

Outside online gives users a sleek but basic 404 page. It doesn’t have any funny pictures or captions. But it does make it clear that the webpage does not exist. And, it uses large text to grab your attention and redirect you to their main page, or their sitemap to help find what you are looking for. .


Attention to detail on elements as mundane as a 404 page is absolutely worth the effort. You can use it to provide visitors with a hint as to the type of organisation they are dealing with and provide information to enable them to find what it was they were looking for when they ended up on a non-existent page – thus keeping them on your site. Remember  many online users have short attention spans and will leave websites that are inconvenient or are not user friendly.

Use humour, navigation and clarity to create a richer, more useful and engaging 404 experience for your visitors.