“Sorry”, not “Bite Me”: Good versus bad contingency design
Ian Lurie Jun 20 2007
Really stupid error messages on web sites:
- The web site encountered an error. Someone showed me this today. ‘Encountered’ an error? In a dark alley? Not only is this message totally unhelpful, it also manages to sound wishy-washy.
- An error occurred while executing service ‘blah blah’ in category ‘blah blah’. Huh? Should I be scared?
- Web page cannot be displayed. Wow, thanks. I couldn’t figure that out on my own.
- 500 internal server error. Totally unhelpful, like the first three, yet even more ominous.
- And, my personal favorite (this error appears on the web site of one of Seattle’s premier interactive agencies, by the way, if you attempt to reach a page that doesn’t exist):
Errors happen. That’s life on the web. Plan for it, by creating a custom error page that reassures the visitor.
If you want to learn more about contingency design, I highly recommend Defensive Design for the Web:
Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent Inc. He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Forbes.com and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, SIC and ad:Tech. Follow him on Twitter at portentint. He also just published a book about strategy for services businesses: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle. Read More