What is a 404 Error?

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Ever tried to access a page on a website and been greeted by a cute kitten, or a confused robot begging your forgiveness? That’s a 404 error! But why has this happened and what does it mean?

The 404 error or Not Found error message is a standard response code indicating that the website user was able to communicate with the website’s server, but the server could not find what was requested. A 404 error is the standardised HTTP status code. Links to depreciated pages on a website are referred to as ‘dead links’ or ‘broken links’.

Why can’t the page be found?
A website’s structure and page names change all the time, however the links leading to these pages do not always change along with them. The page may have been moved to another URL or removed entirely, usually the old pages are set to redirect to the new, but sometimes 404s slip through. There are also other reasons why an error message could appear. These include:

  • The page or its content was either deleted or moved
  • The web address was written incorrectly, linked incorrectly, or typed into the browser incorrectly
  • The server responsible for the website is not running or the connection is broken
  • The requested domain name can’t be converted to an IP by the domain name system (DNS)
  • The entered domain name doesn’t exist anymore

Fixing a 404 Error

As entertaining as a creative 404 page design can be, a page not found error is never a good sign for a website, it signals a failure in providing a smooth and uninterrupted user experience. Although hard to avoid with larger more complex site structures, it’s important to minimise the prevalence of these mistakes. It’s important for website operators to prevent HTTP 404 pages. This applies to internal 404 error pages on their own website as well as external 404 error pages on other sites. There are numerous free tools available to help you find these broken links more easily. Three of the best and most well-known are:

Best 404 Page Designs

However frustrating, 404 pages can be fun, here are some of the best 404 page designs I could find.

CSS Tricks 

The superb tips, tutorials and advice blog CSS-Tricks is loved by all in the web design community because despite its dry subject matter, it manages to exude enthusiasm, humour and personality. And this cheeky 404 page is an excellent example of that.


One of the best examples of a newspaper metaphor, Dave Barton’s personal site manages to inject a little humour into its error message.


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