What’s a 404 page?
404 pages are those “Page not found” messages that pop up on websites from time to time.
Their main purpose in life is to alert users of that website that the link they clicked on doesn’t work anymore or wasn’t typed in correctly. Ideally, a 404 page will give the user other links that can help them find what they’re looking for.
But they also represent an opportunity to build a relationship that charities really need to take.
Why they’re important
Think about it. When you’re looking for something on a website, click a link and a big “We can’t find what you’re looking for” message jumps out at you, how do you feel – irritated? Annoyed?
If a website can alleviate that irritation and keep the user on the website instead of bouncing off to a competitor, they might just build a really important relationship.
Here’s a few examples of charities who do just that.
It’s a picture of a snake, with a little “Sssssorry!” message. It’s unrelated to the cause, and it’s still fun!
This little guy is stressed, just like the user. But he’s also super cute.
SSE are also mad keen to help the user find what they want, even giving out their phone number. Such a helpful approach is bound to win fans.
Have you ever seen a better expression on an owl’s face? Me neither.
Extra points for relating the image to the cause.
Beyond humour, your 404 page is also a chance to deliver an on-brand message that unfortunately plenty of people will see.
These charities relate their 404 pages to their cause.
As well as the mind-bending concept of a page going for a walk, the “Where do you want to go next?” copy is subtle and links to what Ramblers (and ramblers) do.
As a pun lover, I find this glorious. Also kudos for the beautiful full screen image.
This might be my favourite.
Instead of leading with the “Page not found” message, they lead with the delighted little boy declaring that you found something even better!
Leaving the apology till after the positive image and headline almost makes the mistake feel like a happy accident.
This is both funny and related to the cause. Animal charities definitely have an advantage by being able to include cute pics in their 404 pages.
A bit of toilet humour from Wateraid. The grinning supporter adds to the feel-good factor of the page. I’m already more likely to stick around.
Missing people link
Beyond being cause related, there is a great initiative called Not Found. It allows any organisation to ‘donate’ their 404 pages to the search for people who have gone missing.
Missing People are the most obvious UK charity to use it.
I’d definitely like to see them lead with the Not Found embed though, which is such a brilliant link for them. They leave it till after their apology, by which time the user might already have bounced.
How’s your 404 page looking? Is there a chance to build a better relationship with the user than you do now?
For more examples outside the sector, check out this great TED Talk – 404, the story of a page not found.