What’s in an Error Page?


You shouldn’t understate its utility.  Error pages, the 404 in particular, are perhaps the most neglected web design element. When your users, potential leads, or job applicants land on a “Page Not Found”, it can be everything from a major inconvenience to a pleasant surprise. It is a reflection of excellent UX, user empathy, and personality.


My Role

Entering a new company, I always take it upon myself to catalog and audit everything. What are the small wins with minimal effort but high reward. Error pages, of course, don’t often find themselves on the top of a priority list. So, I worked with a contractor on the illustrations.

I provided a brief which entailed the problems, goals, thematic direction, brand strategy, brand voice to evoke the best visuals. We met weekly over the course of 3-4 weeks while other projects were ongoing internally. After coming to some final visuals I provided the language, copy layout and page layout. Now, we’re in the process of nudging engineers to find some time to get these in place.



Our brand colors can really pop with glows, highlights, and space. Everything is better in space, really. Also, this play on a game, Portal™, is wonderfully transporting you, the unauthorized user.


I’m a Michigan Alumnus, and I’m also still snakebitten by the events of the 1993 NCAA Basketball Championship. And what better opportunity to share this event than through the shelter of a 408 error page. Symbolically the steps seem to disappear on our characters path.


None shall pass! Working across many error pages it was important to maintain a design theme. The little circular character is persistent, but his journey through space may discover new, yet similar worlds.


Messaging should always be direct with common language, but also helpful and suggestive of a solution. “We’re preparing to serve you better” shows care and craft for the product. It’s important we take the time fix problems. Measure twice, cut once as they say.



Bad Request!

You want stairs? You got stairs! Oh, not those stores, you should have been more specific. We wanted to be playful and thought provoking without being unprofessional and immature.