Three rules for a good 404 page: Have fun, be helpful, stay on brand

Posted & filed under Branding, Social Media, Web.

When you’re building a new website to replace an old worn-out model, don’t forget about the “404 page.”

That’s the page you see if you navigate to a URL that doesn’t exist. It’s a detail that matters. You can give somebody this:


Or something a little more fun:


This is a 404 page we created for our client Jackson Whole Grocer.
Why bother with this?

Well, it’s especially important if you revamp an old site and that exist out there on the Web – on other sites, in social media or in someone’s browser bookmarks – go to a page that doesn’t exist on the new site.

Your web developer can and should try to anticipate this and “redirect” people to the appropriate page on the new site – so the user never notices a problem. But you might not catch everything. So your 404 page is your fallback.

I’d say three things go into a good 404 page: Have fun and give a viewer a little surprise or a smile. Be helpful in getting them the information they were really looking for. Keep the voice and design in tune with your brand.

Here are 404 pages from some of the most popular websites in the world:
Facebook keeps it simple, with a cute twist on an iconic graphic:

Facebook 404 page

True to its brand, Google is spare and goofy:

google 404 page

YouTube has some fun with its logo and makes it easy to try again with a search:

YouTube 404 page

LinkedIn is buttoned-down and all business:

Linkedin 404 page is an amazing thing, but I often find it wanting in user-friendliness. And that holds true on their 404 page, too:

Amazon 404 page

In contrast, The New York Times takes the 404 error as an opportunity, and serves up a few of today’s highlights:

NYT 404 page

Twitter also tries to be helpful, with search:

Twitter 404 page

Pinterest, known for lots of little photos, gives us … lots of little photos:

Pinterest 404 page

And finally, talk about staying true to your brand. Craigslist wavers not from its old school roots:

Craigslist 404 page
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