Landing on a ‘page not found’ can really drive your visitors nuts.
One of the best ways to keep them motivated and engaged in your site is with a healthy dose of humor. A creative and clever error page goes a long way in turning your visitor’s frown into a smile.
Some companies get real creative when designing 404 pages, by incorporating animation, illustrations, and interactive elements.
That’s all good, but there’s no doubt that the most effective and memorable 404 pages are the funny ones. That’s why I decided to collect the funniest examples of 404 pages on the web.
Humorous not found pages have the advantage of not demanding high budgets, so they are a good fit for freelancers and small companies, not just big brands.
In this post, we’ll explore the most hilarious examples of 404 pages, and analyze what makes each one work. Once you understand the underlying comedic strategies that these pages share, it’ll help you come up with your own original 404 page.
Bluegg - A Play on Words
Visual imagery is common in 404 pages, but relying solely on content can also have just as much impact.
Bluegg made a kind of obituary for ‘the goat’, which apparently refers to their error page. You will see many death-related jokes in 404 pages. The same kind of gags can work for your pages, if you are a fan of dark humor.
Drift - Embed quirky videos
The element of surprise is key to successfully offering novel 404s.
Drift added a low-quality selfie video of Dj Khaled, apparently lost at sea. They turned the situation upside down by showing that things could be much worse – the visitor could be lost at sea like the DJ.
Showing an exaggerated scenario that overshadows the visitor’s current circumstances is a great way to make them feel better.
9Gag - Incorporate Absurd assets
Steve Jobs said, “Creativity is just connecting things”. It’s hard to notice, but 9Gag made a creative connection between one of the most popular gifs, a Confused Travolta, and their 404 page. The result might not be ‘haha’ laugh-out-loud funny, but it is a prime example of relating one of your brand’s visual assets to a ‘not found page’.
Flywheel - Minimal and subtle humor
Flywheel created a 404 page that is a perfect fit for its sophisticated designer-oriented audience. Turning the ‘0’ into a black hole and adding ‘this really sucks’ is a nice spin. It’s simple and avoids trying too hard to jest.
Slack - It’s funny because it’s weird
Slack’s 404 content is straight to the point, but they added a panorama illustrated background animation that is, well… so wacky that it works. You land in a Xanadu dream-like world with hovering farm animals. There’s no relation to a lost page other than the fact that if you’re there – you are surely lost.
Dan Woodger - Sometimes a cute illustration is all it takes
In this example we see a cute hamburger cartoon on skates holding a sorry sign. It’s proof that a picture is worth a thousand words. Using illustration is a great way to make your 404 page witty without words.
Woodger also cleverly connects the visitor to his portfolio with the line ‘You were probably looking for my illustration work…’
Team Coco - Silly gifs
Even though it apparently has some bugs and shows bare HTML, Conan O’brien‘s site doesn’t fail to amuse, using a series of gifs to shine a spotlight on Andy and Conan’s predicament.
Comedy Central - Hysterical yet on-brand
Comedy Central was smart enough to display several characters from their shows, and to attribute a 404 page related quote to each one. For example, The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah appears with a confused face and a quote related to the ‘Moment of Zen’ segment from his show.
NMFH - Dark humor at its best
I just had to show this example, because it’s the 404 page for a small museum of funeral history. I’m sure they don’t have a huge web design budget, yet they still managed to devise a creative 404 page with an open grave, telling visitors: ‘You have made a grave mistake! The page you are looking for has vanished into the afterlife.’
HBO - Use Inside Jokes
HBO’s 404 is one of my favorites. It shows how to use inside jokes to get a chuckle. In this case, they added the ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ image behind the 404 letters, and added the text: ‘Looks like this link is pretty, pretty, pretty broken.’ Anyone who has seen the show will immediately get it.
The New Yorker - Take advantage of what already works
The New Yorker example shows just how to take an already funny brand asset related to getting lost, and featuring it on a 404 page. The cartoon is from a 2011 issue displaying a mouse wearing a GPS – the perfect cartoon to use on a ‘page not found’ page.
Blizzard - Surprise your audience
Here’s another 404 page design that is original and unexpected. Blizzard Entertainment has a broken window, a menu that appears to have fallen off the wall, and an accusation: ‘Great. You broke it.’
Blizzard had the ‘chutzpah’ to turn the tables and blame the visitor. You get a kick out of it because it’s the exact opposite response to the expected apologetic tone you normally read on 404 pages. At the same time it’s a very human trait to accuse someone else of your own mistake. It’s like a little kid getting caught by their parent for spilling milk and then blaming it on their dad.
eharmony - Relate the topic to your service
As we’ve already seen drawing unexpected connections between seemingly unrelated things requires both ingenuity and humor. You wouldn’t normally associate a dating site with a ‘page not found’. eharmony does this well by presenting a message that the ‘page is unavailable’, unlike a million other eharmony singles.
Distilled - Accents are amusing
Distilled’s 404 page has a comic British conversation filled with phrases like ‘old chap’ and ‘blasted’. They call their 404 ‘Four hundred and fourth message of error’, which is funny in itself.
While accents are currently a controversial issue in comedy (as the Simpsons creators can attest), they are still bloody funny. Luckily, a posh English accent is still an accepted laughable target.
Distilled are themselves British, which makes the whole page even sillier. It reminded me of the Four Yorkshiremen sketch by Monty Python, which always cracks me up.
Emailcenter - Make it personal
This error page is one of the funniest, precisely because it’s so personal. It also takes landing on a ‘page not found’ to the extreme by showing the four possible culprits from the development team and offering you the chance to pick the one to be fired for this ‘unacceptable failure’. It’s so off the wall, and it proves this company has a sense of humor and can make fun of themselves.
IMDB - Being funny takes time and effort
IMDB presents a seemingly simple, yet a well-thought-out error page that adapts famous film quotes to error messages. For movie fans that frequent IMDB, it delivers a delightful experience and entices them to refresh the page to see more 404 quotes.
Orangecoat - Add visual charts
While this is not the most compelling 404 page, it does get points for delivering an inventive and interactive experience that is also visual in nature.
Using charts is actually a good idea for these pages. Whether it’s flowcharts, ven-charts, or any other chart you can think of. It works because it’s a completely different way to display the unavailable page. I wonder if a pie chart would also work.
Github - In-jokes
Github’s audience are geeky developers. Their Star Wars inspired scene featuring the Octocat mascot and the quote ‘This is not the web page you are looking for’ is a well-matched message for their audience.
CSS-Tricks - less is more laughs
CSS Tricks manages to surprise visitors by using sheer minimalism. No text, no messages, just a blank page with a rip in it with css code revealed in the background. They successfully deliver a message without words, which is a challenging thing to do. It’s similar to why silent films are still funny because they rely on non-verbal humor.
Mashable - Funny take on lost
Taco Bell - Another silly laugh
Taco Bell is known as a brand that knows how to be funny on social media. Their 404 page also gets a laugh, with a taco animation and a corresponding silly text reading: ‘THE PAGE YOU WERE LOOKING FOR DOES NOT EXIST (Unless you were looking for a page with an animation of a taco tripping and literally spilling the beans. If that’s the case, it definitely exists, and you definitely found it.)’
Steve lambert - Acknowledge the awkwardness
We’ve seen a variety of funny 404 pages. Being humorous is not an easy task, and even the best brands with the highest budgets sometimes fail at it. I hope these examples will inspire you to create your own error pages that will make your visitors burst into laughter.
If you want to create your own 404 page, be sure to check out Elementor’s quick 404 page design feature.