If the internet were a country, it would be the most cosmopolitan place on the planet. From the language to regional variations in UX, going online is a bit different depending on where you find yourself on a map. And yet, one devilish error code is always the same: 404 page not found.
The “404 page not found” error is one of the most common errors encountered on the World Wide Web. It means the page you requested wasn’t able to be retrieved, because it moved, the URL was mistyped, the link is broken, or, most commonly, the site is down. For example, catch us on a bad day and here’s what you would find:
If you run a website, the 404 error page can be a big problem, but it also presents a big opportunity.
According to a survey carried out by Area 404, a website that helps businesses make the best of their 404 error pages, users reported the following behavior after encountering an error page:
- Thirty-seven percent of people say they hit the back button and forget about that site
- One out of 5 people try to navigate to the homepage of the missing page
- Three percent of users say they reach out to the webmaster
TAKEAWAY: If you run a website, you should design a custom 404 error page to address the one-third of users who immediately leave your site upon encountering a 404. A creative 404 error page can soften the blow of a “page not found” error and make a positive impression on your site’s visitors.
10 Inspiring 404 error pages from around the world
For inspiration to create your own custom 404 error page, check out these 10 error page examples from countries around the world.
1. China: Tencent QQ
Along with its social network, WeChat, Tencent QQ offers services for antivirus solutions, online shopping, mobile games, and virtual payment. Tencent QQ has a hand in almost all aspects of modern Chinese tech life.
But as much as technology has become China’s greatest pastime, the lives of most people in China revolve around their child. Don’t forget—China is the birthplace of the “little emperor” phenomenon.
Tencent QQ’s error page is the most serious of all examples you’ll see in this article. It shares the information of a missing child: their name, time of last contact, last known whereabouts, and features. If you refresh the page, the image will cycle to another missing person. With over a billion Tencent QQ accounts, flyers like these save lives.
TAKEAWAY: Let this be a proof of concept for your own site, and consider ways you can better the world by committing part of your site design to a humanitarian cause.
2. France: PagesJaunes
Losing your socks to a clothes dryer is a lot like falling down the wormhole of a 404. PagesJaunes’ 404 page was designed to charm a frustrated visitor, but it also conceals a call to action.
If you took out the copy, you wouldn’t be able to tell if this page was a 404 error or the homepage. What remains is the search bar, and its placement draws attention and guides visitors to the next desired action: to find the next page.
TAKEAWAY: Ensure your 404 page is having its intended affect and couple it with a call to action.
3. India: INDIATIMES
Digital, artsy-fartsy masterwork or a 404 page? Why not both? Personally I like the stylized icons, themed wrappings, typeface, and thoroughfare motif. But whether you love it or hate it, this art direction is present on every page of the Indiatimes site including the 404 error page.
It’s actually a good idea to keep your 404 page consistent with your core site design for one main reason: A 404 error is typically an ambush. Visitors aren’t expecting the numbers “404” to jump out at them.
By maintaining parity between the look and feel of your core site with your 404 error page, you can manage your users’ confusion.
Some sites neglect even the most basic 404 error page. This causes visitors to be shown the default browser 404. Feeling abandoned, many begin to troubleshoot their local settings or internet connections; it’s chaos, and takes the attention off your site.
TAKEAWAY: Use the 404 error page to give your visitors confidence that this 404 is nothing to worry about—your site has everything under control.
4. Japan: NTT DoCoMo
This 404 page is remarkable for how vanilla it is. NTT DoCoMo keeps it clean and simple: a slightly cloudy skyline with a clear message above it that says “your page could not be found.” This 404 page isn’t memorable, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Sometimes it’s better not to reinvent the wheel. Simplicity can be right for your site, especially if your needs are similar to NTT DoCoMo and don’t require a 404 to produce a cannonball splash. The only thing needed is a 404 that serves its purpose, and serves it well.
TAKEAWAY: A good 404 should usher the visitor along to a working page as quickly as possible. Leverage a simple, functional 404 page, in the style of DoCoMo, to banish your site’s slip-up as far in the rearview mirror as possible. Get your users on their way—hopefully to the better pages of your site.
5. Germany: Tagesschau
The Tagesschau 404 mirrors the look and feel of a standard Tagesschau article—click here to see what I mean. It begins “Dear users,” and continues in like style as though the IT director wrote it personally.
In short, it says that because of the 12th Rundfunkänderungsstaatsvertrag (German broadcasting regulation agreement) some content on this site is no longer available. The 404 goes on to offer up solutions to help users on their way.
I like the formal style of this 404 because it effectively deals with complicated subject matter, and it’s likely that most Tagesschau visitors have no interest in broadcasting laws.
TAKEAWAY: In the wake of radical government regulations—take the GDPR for example—a 404 of this nature could be an effective way to inform visitors of the changed situation.
6. Russia: Odnoklassniki
Every day, 45 million users come to Odnoklassniki (OK.ru) to rekindle friendships with classmates and old connections. Users from Ukraine to Uzbekistan share online content with their networks and customize their personal profiles.
Odnoklassniki operates through membership. Although it’s free to register, before using Odnoklassniki to find acquaintances and access the full features of the site, you’ll need to first create an account. OK.ru’s business model is entirely reliant on getting users to sign up, with the value proposition being entrance to this exclusive club of members just behind the curtain.
It doesn’t look like much, but OK.ru’s 404 gets right to the point. It says “This page does not exist on OK” and “But you will find many others if you log in or Sign up.” It’s not the flashiest or the funniest, but arguably, OK.Ru’s 404 has a higher chance to lead to conversions, because it drives users to sign up or join the site.
TAKEAWAY: Marrying your 404 error page with your company’s core business priorities is a winning strategy.
7. South Africa: Absa
The Absa Group is one of the largest financial service providers in South Africa (Source)
Here, on Absa’s 404 error page, the site lets its hair down in an important way: It greets its wayward visitors with a sarcastic quip. “Well done! You have found a rare broken link,” the copy reads. It continues with a smothering of compliments (“David Attenborough would be proud”) and absurd steps Absa will take to fix the problem (“our recovery team…is on the way via super secret submarine”).
TAKEAWAY: Absa’s sarcastic 404 is disarming for anyone who is put off by the site’s failings. I’d recommend cushioning your 404 errors with similar treatment of personality and wit.
8. South Korea: The Dong-A Ilbo
This 404 error page immediately gets the Dong-A Ilbo website into my good graces. Any frustration evaporate sinstantly, because the second line is an earnest apology. 서비스 이용에 불편을 드려 대단히 죄송합니다 roughly translates as “we apologize for any inconvenience you may have experienced.”
TAKEAWAY: Taking responsible for your missteps with your 404 page is an effective tactic and could help create some goodwill with your site visitors after letting them down.
9. Spain: Marca
Spain’s love affair with football is legendary. Home to La Liga, the top flight of Spanish league football and where the demi-gods—Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann, and until recently, Cristiano Ronaldo—of this beautiful game face-off.
The site reads “You’ve been close, but what you’re looking for is no longer here.” It’s a play on a deflected shot off the woodwork, or one that runs just wide of glory. Site visitors who deflect off a link to a 404 page are not unlike a badly regretted miss.
TAKEAWAY: Seamlessly tying your 404 page to your core site’s subject matter keeps users immersed even in times when your site loses possession.
10. USA: General Motors
Here we have the American pastoral: never-ending country roads and not a soul in sight. Is this the lonely feeling of veering off course into a 404?
I like this error page for two reasons:
1. Chevy’s larger than life font type in Page Not Found, seems to say “this error is not a mistake, but the intended course down one of life’s many roads.” The error page holds a perfect note with Chevy’s brand, and even without getting to the place they were headed, site visitors may be convinced that Chevy is the right place for them based on the 404 alone.
2. In the bottom right corner is also a prompt to open up chat with a live agent. Only 3 percent of users say they contact the webmaster about 404s, but a more convenient way to call for help could change that.
TAKEAWAY: Consider adding a chat prompt or email link on your 404 error pages to help visitors report errors.
Serve 404s only in emergencies: Your first priority should be to never need to serve a 404 error page. Downtime is a major drag, and in 2016, small businesses put the price tag of an hourlong outage at $8,600. To maintain reliable site performance consider network monitoring software.
Be data driven in design: Gauge the performance of your custom 404 error pages with A/B Testing, and determine what page designs resonate best with your visitors.
Think outside the webpage: Transform the ordinary or tedious moments of your site to delight your visitors. The 404 error page is just the beginning: Explore creative ways to inject the personality of your brand to provide a unique experience. This helps differentiate you from competitors and drives repeat visitors.
Pro Tip: For a look at how other websites handle the 404 dilemma, type “/404” after the homepage URL.