Writing for the web: ERRONEOUS!

27 Mar

Another great opportunity to capture your users’ hearts and minds is in the most unlikely of places — on the error page. But just think about it. You’re admitting to a failure of your site, so what better way to extend your apologies then with a bit of witty humility?

Wufoo has a fantastic interface that asks its users submitting a support request how they’re feeling. Samantha Warren of BadAssIdeas goes into describing it in more detail on Viget’s Inspire blog, and it got me thinking; How about something similar for a website’s error page? I mean, I guess the user is probably going to choose “pissed off,” assuming that’s an option, but maybe she’d also consider “amused” if you admit fault for the error but beg forgiveness (in effect, asking for their loyalty).

The hope is that no user would ever find this page, or any “technical difficulty” page in general, but errors are inevitable, I suppose. Attending to this page and capitalizing on its important copy real estate could inevitably convert an annoyed user to a forgiving one.

The Good
We worked to accomplish this notion, complete with an image of Brian in Go-Kart headgear, on the Viget site. (OK so I’m biased, but, hey, at least I practice what I preach.)

Check out a rather hilarious baby theme that permeates Mixx — from a napping error page, to a tear-filled upgrade your browser page, to a we-went-overboard page.  And, don’t forget their video.

The Bad
Nike? Your site is amazing. Why is your error page so blah?

Apple’s error page isn’t really BAD, per se, but it’s information overload. It does the opposite of leaving a dead-end by telling the user to choose among about 50 different potential topics. Not to mention the navigation itself. Utilitarian, yes. Converting disgruntled users with the same smart, simple tactics I see in their marketing? Nah. (But, then again, we Macheads are so loyal anyway, we will probably come back for more of their overpriced amazing goodness.) Sigh.

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3 Responses to “Writing for the web: ERRONEOUS!”

  1. Mark March 27, 2008 at 4:11 pm #

    It is possible to be too cute with your error messages. (Then again, I think Twitter isn’t getting a pass on this one because Twitter is down so often. Maybe if people didn’t see this page so often, they wouldn’t be sick of it?)

  2. Ryan March 27, 2008 at 4:12 pm #

    Maybe I’m just a sucker, but there is something about a wicked-awesome error page that can totally redeem a failed web experience for me.

  3. Jason Garber March 28, 2008 at 12:32 pm #

    Thanks for the tip o’ the hat on the Mixx error pages. Credit for those goes to Martin over at nclud. If you ask him, he’ll proudly cite that as his only worthwhile contribution to Mixx. ;-)

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