How Semantic Nudges Can Humanize Your Website

This is what happens when you let an engineer write your website copy:

“Sorry, this page isn’t available. The link you followed may be broken, or the page may have been removed.”

Gee, thanks, Facebook. Couldn’t you at least have displayed a list of similar pages? Maybe linked to some frequently asked questions? At the least, you could have conveyed a witty apology or summoned a brand-appropriate quote. And, if all else fails, bring forth a kitten pic!

Sadly, Google is no better than its neighbor to the north. Here’s what the minds of Mountain View deign to tell the poor soul who gets lost on

“404. That’s an error. The requested URL was not found on this server. That’s all we know.”

Really—that’s all? That’s the best message a company known for its NSA-like amount of data, along with its whimsical and beloved doodles, can conjure up?

Surely, you jest.

Hundreds of millions of people use Facebook and Google every day. If even a quarter of one percent of them slip into this no-man’s-land, that’s an awful lot of frustrated folk.

These junctures are reason #639 why every website needs a wordsmith: to convert errors and necessary evils and other common, often-overlooked functions into opportunities. To turn frowns upside down.

Check out the presentation above for more examples, including tip jars, donation forms, and e-newsletter sign-ups and unsubscribe requests.

A version of this blog post appeared on the Hub on September 2, 2014.

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