Monday, September 17, 2007

When Things Break, Don't Be Cute

There's a trend among Web 2.0 sites (in particular) to be cute when things aren't working. You know what? It's obnoxious. This morning, while doing some research (for a client!) I came across a couple of examples of this.

Here's one from Technorati, where frankly, something's always broken. (Here's an opportunity: create a site like Technorati that actually works and you can kick their butts into oblivion, somebody. Are you listening, Google? Add some features to your blog search and Technorati becomes a Web 2.0 footnote, and nobody will shed a tear.)Ha ha. The Technorati monster. Judging from my experience with the site, the Technorati monster has left the building, bought a ticket to Tahiti, and is sitting on the beach with a nice cocktail laughing his monster ass off at you.

And then this one:

Wow, cute and obtuse. So helpful.

Yes, I know that things break. And I know that I'm using free sites and my expectations should be lower.

But I'd like an error message that tells me what the error is and even better, when I might want to try it again. These messages give me the sense that behind the curtain, there are a bunch of 17 year olds giggling and saying, "OMG, Betty spilled her Diet Coke in the server again!"

No, really, this kind of stuff is the engine of a business revolution. Really. Trust them!


Mary Schmidt said...

Technorati works? (heh). But seriously, I was just over there and the page just doesn't load. Seems is slowing things down. Aaarggghhh...

And I seem to recall that Technorati has some snide error messages (oops! you must be clueless) or some such.

Mark Cahill said...

My former employers website (put up in a hurry mid-July) will swear at you in Swedish if you enter anything in a form it doesn't like.

The best error messages are those that actually help you find what you want - a simple message that there was a problem, a link to the search function (you have one, right?) and also a link to email a real human if all else fails.

I was always a stickler in the corporate world that the sites I managed all had webmaster@ email addresses, and they went to me. Utter spam magnates, but it did allow me to help users in trouble.