Five Fresh Approaches to 500 Server Error Pages

Despite your developer’s sophisticated automated tests, and your tester’s thoroughness, eventually your application will encounter something it doesn’t like and spit out an error to the user.  This page varies in ugliness depending on how your application is built:

Ouch.  But interupting the aesthetics of your application is not the biggest problem here:  the biggest problem is that your user is now confused and probably annoyed.  To salvage the situation, you need to control the experience.  Here are five great examples of taking control of server errors.

1. Take Responsibility

I love this page created by designer Caroline Wiryadinata – the apology is made more sincere by taking responsibility for the problem.  (See this excellent article about writing effective apologies when crafting your own.)

2. Lighten the Mood

Most error pages are dry and optuse, so humor can be a welcome surprise to frustrated users.  Choose the language and images that fit with your brand humor.  This github page is a great example.

3. Ask for Feedback

Every time you engage with an unhappy customer is an opportunity to reshape their perception of both your product and your company.  Someone who is willing to enter a few sentences is opening the door to a conversation.  Here is a great example from Carsonified.

4. Provide a Way Forward

When users encounter a 500 error, they ask “what now?”  Help them make that decision by providing navigation around your application.  The Food Network‘s page, while a bit dry, does a great job of giving the user options.

5. Promise to Fix the Problem

Maybe you can’t exactly promise—but you can promise to try.  Communicating your intent to the user makes them feel better about the situation.  Here’s an example from Red Monocle Convey.

Clearly 500 pages can be both fun and a great opportunity to engage with your customers.  Do you have any good examples of great 500 pages?