Using creative designs in 404 pages is one way to make people talking about your website, but “creative” does not always the same with bold and busy. Simple, fresh, minimalist designs are equally attractive, perfect for soothing disappointed website visitors when they cannot the pages they look for.
The question is: how do you prevent your simple design from looking boring?
Here are seven ideas to make your 404 page look attractive and interesting while keeping its simplicity.
Use Exclamation Remarks
Exclamation remarks are short but impactful. They inject emotion even to the simplest 404 pages, filing up the empty spaces from minimalist designs. Imagine a solid background in a neutral color, with a giant “OOPS!” in bold color. Your eyes will immediately get drawn by that simple remark, won’t they?
To make your page pop without taking the message clarity away, design the exclamation remark in a slightly larger font with attractive color. Add the description with a more conventional, readable font.
Incorporate The Company’s Visual Elements
Make your 404 pages more noticeable by incorporating visual elements of your business. They can be illustrations, patterns, or designs that are incorporated in the fonts. Google is a good example, incorporating its name and a simple illustration of a robot over a white background. They accompany standard message text that reflects Google’s function: helping people finding the things they look for quickly and accurately.
Another good example is Figma, which uses a slightly fancy font for the 404 on a white background. What makes it unique is the use of anchor points to adorn the edges of the font. Despite the simplicity, these anchor points show visitors that Figma is a design tool.
Use Expressive Faces or Images
Adding expressive faces or figures will make even the simplest 404 page more attractive. The expressive faces can appeal to disappointed visitors. Pixar’s current design is a good example. It only uses a simple white background and simple text. However, it uses the crying figure of Sadness, an adorably sad character from the popular 2015 animated movie, Inside Out.
Add Humorous Elements
Humorous elements do not need to be complicated. Many 404 pages show a good sense of humor without clunking the designs. For example, The National Museum of Funeral History uses a picture of a coffin on their page, with a funny message that says the page you are looking for has “vanished into afterlife.” Meanwhile, Template Monster has a cute, purple monster on simple white background eating the webpage.
Flywheel uses simple but creative humor. It only consists of a light blue background, white company name, and black outline design, but it uses a vortex illustration as the “0” and uses the word “this sucks”— simple but effective humor.
Play with Colors and Textures
Sometimes, you can create the most interesting design just by combining unique colors or textures. For example, you can mimic physical textures as the background of a standard error message. Textures like crumpled paper, fabric, sand, or water, for example, can make a simple error page look interesting.
You can also play with colors without making the design look overwhelming. For example, you can focus on the “404” by creating a bold typeface with interesting color combinations. Leave the background neutral or just white, so the main part of the message becomes the highlight.
Reword the Message
You can see a lot of 404 pages reword their messages, making them look more interesting. For example, SeedProd uses a simple but beautiful sunset view image, saying that “the sun has set” to describe the missing page. Meanwhile, Mantra Labs uses a space-themed design and the words “ran out of oxygen” to describe the error message.
Go Super Minimalistic
Finally, sometimes the thing you need the most is the simplest. Creative and bold error pages make the minimalist design become more interesting. You can try using sans serif fonts with thin strokes, only size differences to make the message easy to read. Alternatively, instead of white background, use dark grey, black, navy blue, or other darker colors. You can also take the most drastic step and just use the 404 number!
404 pages do not have to be complicated as long as the message is delivered. However, it does not mean that your simple design should be boring. Try these tips to make the page attractive without being excessive!