"Funny" Error Pages Suck

One of the more annoying trends in "Web 2.0" apps is the (mis)use of humor in error pages.

Many of my readers know what I’m talking about – you logon to your favorite social web app, feed search engine, photo site, etc., only to see an upside-down bird or some other goofy picture alongside a "funny" error message.

I hate this. With a passion.

It’s like the creators of the site are saying, "Hey, it’s a Web 2.0 app, so it goes down all the time – isn’t it funny?!"

No, it’s not funny when a site you’re relying on to do your job or communicate with others goes down. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want my operating system, word processor, or development tool to tell me jokes when they crash.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind a light-hearted error page on a site that rarely has problems. But many of the sites that have goofy error pages are among the least reliable. They go down all the time, so you end up seeing the same tired attempt at humor over and over and over. It’s like that drunk idiot you see at some parties who keeps telling the same joke to everyone within earshot. The joke might be funny the first time you hear it, but by the end of the night you want to decapitate the annoying bastard.

So here’s the rule: any site that goes down more than twice a week has to replace funny error messages with a page that lists the home phone numbers of the people in charge. Not only would that guarantee that more effort would be taken to keep the site running smoothly, but it would also give us someone to call when we want to share a joke we just heard ("Hey, sorry for the interruption, but didja hear the one about…")

10 thoughts on “"Funny" Error Pages Suck

  1. I was thinking that you were referring to Twitter, which as far as I know is a synonym for up some of the time, down regularly. Though since I use Twitterific I can’t tell if the server is returning anything funny, or instead it is returning nothing whatsoever. But I agree that services should be up so much that we can actually find humor in an error page we seldom see.

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  2. So which is the more annoying Twitter error: the current upside-down bird, or the old lolcat?
    Personally, I think they ought to use the whole-game Zork error page. Since Twitter errors so damn often, we may as well have the chance to have a little fun.

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  3. I’m less fussed about the humour, and more about the missed opportunity. Mistakes are your chance to make a great impression via how you deal with them. I think all 404 pages should act like Google when you search for a typo: chances are someone’s just typed the URL in wrong, so guess what I was probably looking for.
    For server error pages, information about what’s wrong and when it’s likely to be fixed would, I think, be the most appreciated. Tricky to do, especially when you’re in the Twitter situation of being bomarded by twice the number of users you had last Tuesday, but people will love you if do well when things go bad.

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  4. Well “Bloglines.com” has a funny plumber holding a wrench but they are rarely “down” so to speak – I think I’ve seen him twice, maybe three times over the years. And these guys are definately working towards Web 2.0 with their new beta.

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