Don’t make your users suffer through error messages

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If you use a web service and encounter an error, it’s bad enough as it is. Don’t make your users guests suffer even more by giving them a cryptic error page with technobabble. Most people won’t mind an error if they’re offered a helping hand. Here’s a few nice examples of great error page designs:

istockphoto: error page (maintenance) istockphoto.com: Maintenance page. Awesome.

picnic network's file not found page Picnic Network has this great File Not Found page, themed accordingly. Screenshot by willem_velthoven.

Twitter: Service Down One of Twitter’s many awesome error pages that make it almost enjoyable to watch the service during downtimes. Screenshot courtesy of Peter Glyman.

Twitter: Service Down Another error screen by Twitter, also great. Screenshot by ijustine.

All of these have one thing in common: They’re all beautiful, smart & funny. What more can you ask from a bad news message?

Ps. As usual, he who complains so loud isn’t much better than the folks he criticizes: My own file not found page could use a little overhaul as well. What did I try to do with all the stuff going on there? First, a link back to the start page. Then I opened up a communication channel, in that case by asking for email feedback. My brief video message comes by the way of a personal greeting, but admittedly was also a good excuse to play around with Seesmic. Finally, at the bottom there’s a brief video I hope is entertaining: Technology, Phooey” featuring The Ant and The Aardvark.

Ideas, recommendations or other really god (or bad) examples? Please share.

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