Posted by: Rowan | June 28, 2008

Screwing up in style

How about this for an error message, courtesy of WordPress:

Goshdarnit! Something has gone wrong with our servers. It\'s probably Matt\'s fault. We\'ve just been notified of the problem. Hopefully this should be fixed ASAP, so kindly reload in a minute and things should be back to normal.

Given what I do, my first thought was ‘Excellent!’ and my second was ‘Can you imagine getting that from a government web site?’ I’ll bet some poor developer would get spoken to about it :-) .

As it was, it gave me a laugh at Matt’s expense (whoever he is), and by the time I’d shown it to my wife and then hit the reload button things were indeed back to normal – as promised.

The kind of thing that normally annoys the crap out of a user … well, I actually enjoyed it. I got a laugh out of it, gave them a moment to get back to normal and we carried on as if nothing had happened. I don’t mind that at all. It’s about the same thing that would happen if a bloke in the pub accidentally spilt his beer on me.

I’d be forgiving even of a government site that glitched like that – or Air New Zealand, or Stuff.co or anyone else. I don’t expect them to spill their beer on me, but you’ve gotta expect the odd glitch on the web and in this case WordPress handled it brilliantly, IMHO.

But I imagine I’ll more likely get an error message that’s dry and technical and character-less and just annoys the crap out of me. What a shame, when sites like WordPress can handle a glitch with a style that has real people behind it. The kind of people you might have a beer with for example, if they didn’t spill it on you.

On ya, WordPress, for rescuing a negative user experience and turning it into a positive one.

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