This is a guest post by Ken Hattori. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the writing guidelines here.
We’ve all been there: You type a URL into your browser of choice, wait with anticipation for the page to load (although, since this is 2011 rather than 1991, it should only take about 2 seconds), and then… nothing.
Nothing? What gives? Well, it’s like this. You, my friend, have broken the Internet. Of course, what your visitors see at this point is the infamous 404 – Page Not Found error, which is often simply a boring, white, unappealing placeholder where whatever they were looking for should be. But fear not! Assuming you own and / or operate at least one website, a 404 error, far from being the kiss of death, can be almost anything you want it to be – if you play your cards right, that is.
For instance, rather than being a simple “Nothing’s here, go away!” type message for your visitors, a properly designed 404 error can give the people looking at it a sense of who you are, and what you’re trying to say. It can make them laugh, cry, or simply scratch their heads in confusion… but what’s important is that they DIDN’T LEAVE YOUR WEBSITE, which brings us to the next advantage of a cool 404 page…
It keeps eyes on your site – eyes that will instinctively look for directions on what to do next. Humanity, as a whole, is a social animal, and it’s up to you to give them clues on how to react. So they’ve landed on your 404 page? Great! Send them back to your homepage, or to one of your affiliate offers (if you’re partnered with AdSense or Amazon, for instance), or to a “Top 10 posts” section… the sky’s the limit. The point is to keep your visitors on-site and engaged, because an engaged visitor is a return visitor.
With all that in mind, let’s take a look at some examples – 40, to be exact – of cool / funny / quirky custom 404 error pages that other folks are using to give their sites a touch of panache.
Just click on the links below, and you’ll be taken to their respective pages.
WALK WITH YOU
AFRICAN BUDGET SAFARIS
INCAN.CO.UK (This page actually lets you play SPACE INVADERS! Time well spent, if you ask me…)
APARTMENT HOME LIVING
SURFING ON STATIC
A LIST APART
And there you have it – 40 examples of the best 404 error pages for your inspiration.
It’s your site… do what you feel. When it comes to your audience, though, just remember one thing: Never let ‘em go away bored.
Ken Hattori is a technology writer. He has a passion for design, photography, letterpress, and just about anything that is appealing to the eye. Having spent some time living in Japan, he has developed a fascination with minimalistic and clean designs.