Error page copy - and why it matters

404.  This page cannot be found.

Chances are, you've come across that error message multiple times as you've browsed the Internet.  It's the equivalent of driving down a road and discovering you've reached a dead end.  Instead of being a point of frustration, however, I see it as a way for brands and businesses to show off their creative side.

Here are some examples...

I've scoured the error messages of the Internet and put together some of my favourites.


I went to see the Lego film with a friend and the "Everything Is Awesome" song proved to be a real earworm.  Therefore, this error copy reminds me of the film, makes me smile and puts me in a good mood.  Lego have also included an appropriate CTA, guiding users back to their shopping experience.  

The Word Department

You can always depend on copywriter, Doug Nolan, for stellar copy examples - and his error page copy does not disappoint.  Striking, playful and the button takes you directly to Doug's contact page so that users can "reprimand" him - although the chances are they'll end up telling Doug all about their copywriting requirements.  

Innocent Drinks

Innocent Drinks are known for their playful tone and their error page copy is a joy to behold.  When you arrive, confetti floats down and you're met with the words "Congratulations!  You just found our error 404 page."  This alone makes you feel like you've completed some kind of achievement - but it gets better.  I wasn't able to screenshot the whole page, but scrolling down takes you to some of Innocent Drinks' previous "howlers" and makes for very entertaining reading.  

Caroline Gibson

Caroline is another amazing copywriter and her error page is both playful and to the point.  Caroline also guides her visitors back to the next step of their journey with a search button.

Isle of Skye Copywriting

My website takes its inspiration from glossy magazines - so it made sense that the error copy should do the same.  I asked incredible designer, Jess, to work on a ripped, torn page.  

Does creative error copy really matter?

If you have your own website or you're putting one together for a client, have you put any thought into the error messages?  Does it even matter?  Here are three reasons to inject creativity into your 404 messages.

It showcases your attention to detail

A company that spends timing getting the little details perfect isn't going to skimp when it comes to the things that really matter.  When I see a company that has taken the time to create clear, humorous or on-brand error copy, that relatively few people will see, I feel confident they'll be just as meticilous in other areas of their work.

You get to guide your customers

You have a chance to encourage your customers to take a certain step, whether that's suggesting they get in contact with you directly, browse your goods and services or explore your website.  You have an extra opportunity for an effective CTA that shouldn't be missed.  

It doesn't have to be annoying

Nobody really likes an error message.  It's interrupting you and stopping you getting where you were trying to go.  It's annoying - and nobody wants their customers to be annoyed.  Creative copy can help lighten the mood and even provide site visitors with a few laughs.  

What about you?

Maybe you work in an agency that creates websites for clients.  Or maybe you're looking to refresh the copy in your own website.  Either way, your attention to detail in error copy won't go unappreciated.  

Let's make those 404s fun!  Why not get in touch with me to find out how I can help make your websites or those of your clients shine?