How To Ease Website Visitors’ Frustration with Well Designed 404 Pages

In an ideal world, all web pages work correctly, there are no broken link, no typos and no errors when moving a site from one server to another. However, we do not live in an ideal world. We live in a world where human errors and weird malfunctions occur and a person who browses a website may click on a link that leads to nowhere.

There is a standard response from all browsers when this happens – the 404 error code Page Not Found. You must have experienced this quite a few times in your life, and you can certainly remember the frustrating feeling you had, especially if you really needed the information on that web page.

As graphic designers, our job is to turn this bad experience around, and give the visitor something positive, no matter how small. These being said, these are a few ideas to design a 404 page that does not leave the visitor completely deflated.


1. Put a Smile On the Visitor’s Face

No one can resist a funny way of saying that the web page does not exist. If you play it well, you will even make it so memorable, that the web visitor will make a print screen and share it.

For instance, this photographer put Homer Simpson in a grandma dress to tell people that they reached a broken link. I dare you to continue to be upset after seeing this.


Another funny 404 page can be found on the LEGO website (though we suspect you need to be on the lookout to find a broken link there):

lego 404


2. Help the Viewer Understand What Went Wrong

Some people are not very technically savvy. When they encounter a 404 error code, they may think that something is wrong with their computer or internet connection. A helpful and explanatory message, detailing the most probable causes for the error will be much appreciated. Starbucks did a great job in this respect:


Mozilla went a little further, and blended fun with the helpful explanations:


This website took explanations to another level, by creating a funny flowchart explaining how the user got to the missing page:


3. Showcase Your Skills

So, you are a designer, a creative person, right? Well, then be creative about the way you design the whole concept of a 404 page. Some designers make great use of typography and their error pages are works of art in themselves:




Others will design an entire scene which tells a story:



Final Considerations

The best 404 pages are the ones that have a creative and original look, while maintaining their functional role of explaining the web page visitor what happened and how to navigate away from the missing page. It is not easy to design a page that basically tells you that there’s nothing on the page.


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Ionut B
Digital Art Director with an innovative creative thinking able to translate ideas and concepts into useful and memorable interactive marketing campaigns.

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