Modern approaches to university 404 error pages

Trying to get a snapshot of UK university homepages last week, I inadvertently screengrabbed the error page generated by 133 of them. 404 error pages have for a long time been an opportunity for websites to try something different. Here’s a few approaches that stood out:

1. Birkbeck and Chester suggest an alternative

Birkbeck give suggestions based on your query. For example, an incorrect url of, provided links to events, images and articles related to ‘football’. Chester also do something very similar, explicitly generating a set of results from their internal search.

We're sorry, but that page doesn't exist

2. BCU remind you ‘do not panic!’…

Birmingham City University page not found

3. …whilst Bedfordshire are embarrassed

University of Bedfordshire 404 error page

4. Cambridge ‘need time to evolve’

Page not found: we need time to evolve

5. A chance to perform

We often see a different approach from the performing arts institutions. Royal Central School of Speech & Drama and the Royal College of Music take the opportunity to illustrate their error messages with images from student performances.

Page not found

6. St Andrews look to the sea

Perhaps it floated out to sea

7. Big and Bold

Gloucestershire have one of the brightest and boldest site designs in the sector and they use their 404 page to further stamp their personality.

404 Page not found

8. Soften the message with a handwritten note

Portsmouth go for a handwritten typeface (Tekton?) to deliver the bad news.

404 error message in a handwritten typeface

9. Enlist the help of meerkats

University of South Wales use a photo of meerkats. Everyone likes meerkats.

404 error page with a photograph of meerkats

10. Swansea hit a brick wall

An image of a brick wall behind an open door

11. Spell it out

UCLAN seem particularly pleased to be letting you know you’ve generated an error.

ooops... 404 page not found

12. Uh oh! Echo!

Both Bournemouth and Wolverhampton go down the ‘Uh oh’ route.

404 error pages from Bournemouth and Wolverhampton

13. Aston are puzzled

mmm... that's puzzling

14. Bath and Edinburgh Napier lose their way

Wrong way

You've taken a wrong turn somewhere



Web Manager for the College of Arts and Law at the University of Birmingham.

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