A 404 page is the webpage served to a user who tries to access a page that cannot be located at the URL provided.
The 404 error indicates that the server where the page should reside has been contacted but that the page is does not exist at that address, at that time. 404 errors can result when sites cease to exist, when pages or files are moved or deleted or when URLS are mistyped.
Web browsers all provide default 404 error pages that explain the error and include a link to the site's home page. However, many websites create custom 404 pages to align with their brand and culture and, possibly, provide more guidance or entertainment for the user.
This haiku error message has been appearing almost as long as 404 errors have:
You step in the stream,
but the water has moved on.
This page is not here.
Here are a few other examples of creative 404 error pages:
- The Association for Computing Machinery's error page types out a lengthy message from the depressed web server.
- The Rolling Stones website provides a video of the band performing their song "You can't always get what you want."
- Magn.com features a Venn diagram with "404 page" in the intersection of "We broke something" and "You can't type."
- The Titleist 404 page is an image of a bunch of golfers searching the roughs with the text, "Sorry, but we can't seem to find the page you are looking for.
- Blue Fountain Media's 404 page apologizes for the unfound page and offers the viewer the opportunity to play a little Pacman instead.
Renny Gleeson explains the importance of a well-designed 404-page in his entertaining TED talk, 404: The Story of a Page Not Found