What is a 404 error page?

We understand that the world wide web is a big, scary thing for most people, so each month we’ll try to take a word, acronym or phrase and explain to you in simple, ‘non-techie’ terms what it all means. This is DBG’s Digital Definition of the Month!

So what is a 404 error page?

Well a ‘404’ is not a trucker’s call.  That would be a “10-4“.

A 404 is an error message displayed by an internet browser, indicating that a particular Internet address cannot be found.  You might have had this happen if you tried to go to a web page that no longer existed.  Yuck:


It could be because there’s some 301 redirects missing, or it could be because you clicked on a link that had a typo, or maybe you typed the wrong address in?   Either way, the best web practitioners out there will have a customised 404 page built into their website.  The website needs to help the user as much as possible here, as they’ve reached somewhat of a dead end and we don’t want to lose them from the site entirely.  So how can we help users?

You could provide links to popular pages within your site, like Web Design Ledger:


Encourage them to search again, like The Iconic:


Or flick them back to the homepage, like Hootsuite:


These are just a few examples of good 404 error pages, but there are a lot more out there.