Whenever you visit a website with a page that no longer exists, it serves up some sort of error, and it’s often the hidden place where website staff have some fun.

After stumbling across a missing page the other day, I’ve trawled most of London’s museums to see how their “404” error pages looks. The good, the bad, and the clearly designed by committee.

Not all of them, as frankly, most are pretty bland.

There seems to be a not entirely surprising trend in that the bigger organisations have decent, if often quite boring 404 error pages, while the smaller organisation’s website often fall to the default of whatever software they are using.

Ideally, no one will ever see a 404 error page, but if they do appear, then it’s critical that they help lost people find their way around, but it’s also a rare chance for many websites to have a page with a single message on it, and have a bit of fun with the brand.


Bank of England

Well, it’s functional at least.

Benjamin Franklin House

Functional, and nice touch to include old blog posts as well as the search option.

Bethlem Museum of the Mind

Looks basic from the screenshot, but the 404 sign keeps changing colour, which is a nice touch, even if the average person will have no idea what 404 means.

British Museum

Functional, although the use of the compass for finding your way around is a nice touch.

Design Museum

A very simple, maybe even.. designed, 404 error page. The big downside is that the usability is appalling — where’s the search box or the easy navigation to the rest of the website? oops indeed.

English Heritage

A very simple page, but interesting that they put tickets for Stonehenge on there as a key service.

Francis Crick Institute

A simple page apologizing for things having moved around, but read the caption for the photo which adds a nice touch to the page.

Freud Museum

A simple page, but the quote elevates it somewhat.

National Gallery

A nice idea to put a relevant painting on the background.

National Portrait Gallery

Another good example of a museum using its collection to make their 404 pages more interesting to look at — the emotion shown here being very close to how many people probably feel when a page is missing.

National Trust

Nice bit of humour in this, along with a lovely photo.

Natural History Museum

A clever use of an image of one of their leading skeletons and a comment about the link being dead. The text about the page evolving or being extinct is a nice touch.

(they missed a chance to do a tie in with One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing though)

Queen’s Gallery

A simple message, but the painting is of “misery”, which is quite apt for the situation.

Royal Institution

A simple page but enlivened by the photo, which looks to have been from a Christmas Lecture.

Wellcome Collection

A simple page, but strong on giving people a way of navigating to the part of the website they do want.

Victoria and Albert Museum

Nice and simple, but the mirror adds a bit of humour to the page.


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Article last updated: 14 November 2021 19:29


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  1. Peter G says:

    The Royal Institution one lies – there is no search function above (or indeed anywhere) on that page. Not even convinced their site has a search function.

    I’m guessing the text was kept when their website was redesigned and no-one has realised it references a missing search function.

  2. Piran says:

    The Magic Circle’s 404 page has multiple effects, as well as a humorous tagline. Dragging left reveals the first of them, but there are more.

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