Show some love on your nonprofit website’s error page


Is your nonprofit website sporting a sad looking error (“404”) page?

If I’ve clicked on a broken link, the last thing I want is an error page that sternly reminds me that my browsing skills need improvement. Help me and the rest of your nonprofit website visitors by transforming your error page into a fun, helpful tool.


Turn a negative experience into a positive one

In a presentation from the Android user interface team, I learned that we must create three positive experiences to balance out one negative experience. When you make a mistake while using your Android phone, it rarely feels like a mistake because the design and development team has built in many positive interactions to offset the negative ones. My favorite is the warm “glow” that I see on my screen once I’ve reached the end of my scrolling options.

When a visitor reaches your website’s error page, they have already tallied up at least one negative experience (“aw man, a broken link!”). You can create positive experiences by adding any of the following elements to your error page:

  • A clever page title (D’oh!, Oops!, or maybe something that relates back to your mission)
  • A beautiful image (Look at Twitter’s old school “fail whale” for inspiration)
  • A light-hearted sentence apologizing for the error (You could even throw in a quick knock knock joke)

Guide your visitor towards a helpful tool

A person who is looking at your error page is already interested in your site’s content. Connect your website visitor to useful information by adding a search box to the error page or by adding a list of your site’s most popular pages. Your goal is to give your visitor a logical, easy to follow next step.


Give visitors a chance to “do something”

Provide visitors with a way to reach you to let you know about the error. If your website uses a content management system such as WordPress or Drupal, you may have access to automated reports that help you track error pages. But nothing replaces the power of a person! Some visitors may also appreciate the opportunity to “do something” about a frustrating experience.


yesenia sotelo

About Yesenia Sotelo

Yesenia Sotelo is a digital skills teacher and web developer.

She elevates ambitious nonprofit professionals by teaching them how to use the technology tools of modern marketing.

Yesenia can teach you how to use website analytics or improve your online marketing results.

Her SmartCause Method for building websites is especially designed for the way nonprofits collaborate, make decisions and grow.

She won the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) for her work teaching digital skills to nonprofit professionals.