Smashing Magazine’s 404 Project is a Bit Shady

A recent post at Smashing shows off a lot of great 404 pages before asking users to create their own and submit it to the site. But, to prove it’s theirs, add the words Smashing Magazine, without a link, to your 404 page.

Does this strike anyone else as odd?

My first question: Why prove it’s yours? What’s the point?

We’d like you to create a beautiful, functional and user-friendly 404 error page for your own web-site. We’ll collect the most creative, usable and elegant solutions and review them in one of our next posts.

I don’t understand why there is a necessity for the website to be your own. I’m trying to think of a reason that this would be necessary, but I can’t. Whatever the site is will get the credit, not the person who made it. And I’m sure no one would be upset if someone other than themselves submitted their 404 page to some sort of awesome directory.

Why Smashing? Why?

So the next question is: Why would they want people to put “Smashing Magazine” on their 404 page?


Now, I’m not a SEO expert by any means, but I imagine it couldn’t hurt your search engine listing if you were named on lots (and lots) of 404 pages. Would it improve your ranking? I don’t know. Without a link, it’s probably hard to say.

But maybe that’s the reason they’re doing it. Maybe they want to find out what will happen if they get a lot of responses and “Smashing Magazine” is written everywhere, like graffiti on bathroom walls. Then there’s the number of people who will forget to take it off. Already a simple search for 404 pages on Google sets them on the first page.

I’m not sure whether to be mad at Smashing or congratulate them on a clever ploy. What do you think?

3 thoughts on “Smashing Magazine’s 404 Project is a Bit Shady

  1. If someone wants to advertise a third party on their 404 page then by all means go for it. It’s not something I’d do, but it’s not like anyone’s forcing anyone against their will.

    Interesting post though, Ryan. I wasn’t aware they asked that.

  2. Dear Ryan,

    thank you for your comment and your criticism. The basic reason for putting the text “Smashing Magazine” on 404-pages was quite simple: we wanted designers to create something new, new 404 pages, not just post the links to the old ones which were already in use used for several years.

    Thank you,

    Vitaly Friedman,
    chief-editor of

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