Every site needs to perform maintenance at some point in their life. Often small bloggers just do updates on a live site which might not be suitable for larger blogs or sites that needs an update that could take longer to perform. For those updates, you need to take the site down, so you don’t expose broken areas of sites to the users. Recently, we showed you how to redirect your visitors to a temporary maintenance page in WordPress with a plugin and without a plugin while you are performing maintenance. This is the final post of the series which intends to showcase six types of maintenance page practices that is used by some of the known brands. By the end of this post, you should have a good idea on the best practices of maintenance page designs. We are hoping to ask users which method they like the best, so designers and developers can focus on those methods the most.
Short and Simple
Because you are doing maintenance, some folks like to keep it short and simple. Confusing users is the last thing you want to do so short and simple works great for a lot of brands. One of the most popular example of Short & Simple is the Fail Whale for Twitter.
The problem with short and simple, specially in the fail whale case, is that it is not just the maintenance thing. The fail whale is also the 404 page which tends to get annoying for users. You want to keep your maintenance pages a bit different from your 404, so it doesn’t look like a 404 page rather looks like a maintenance page. Now, while twitter changes the heading text, it is not smart to use the same image for both 404 and maintenance.
Every time you do maintenance, you are inconveniencing your users. So being compassionate can keep the user from getting pissed off at you and leaving your service forever. Acknowledge that you know this is wrong, apologize for the issue, and then be compassionate with them. Twitter does a good job with It’s Cool, I can Chill image.
This twitter example is short and simple while still being compassionate to the users.
Humor can really ease up inconvenience and keep the users entertained. So be creative and think of things that may relate to your site or your mascot. Let’s take a look at some of the examples that we think fit in this category:
Youtube has a really neat graphic that brings in their logo with funny text. This is something that is really creative which also explains the situation along with being funny. (Image Source)
This is another example of a funny maintenance page. However more information on it would be helpful.
This is such a funny maintenance page that Flickr has. They have a link for updates to their blog. Because you will be doing it mainly for your blog, perhaps a link to your Twitter page would be helpful. Later in this post, we will show you better examples of how to do that.
Familiar Look and Feel
Sometimes sites try to make their pages too funny, and it looks entirely different from the actual site or product. It is crucial that you keep familiar look and feel to the maintenance page design, so your users know that they are at the right place. Below are some examples of sites that kept it simple and branded.
This design keeps the look of their logo and navigation bar while still keeping it simple and humorous. Love the “Bear With Us” campaign. Also notice, they have their tweet updates embedded in the sidebar of the design. This is very smart because it is live updates, and it can certainly keep the users informed.
While StumbleUpon creates a very creative graphic, they still stick with the same look and feel along with the logo. People use StumbleUpon for time killer and find interesting content, so they are suggesting to “go outside and play for a while” which has humor aspect tied to it.
Countdown for Return
It always help when you let your users know when you will be coming back. Sometimes the site goes down for 1-2 hour, so having a countdown is very helpful. The plugin Maintenance Mode lets you do this easily. Some examples of creative designs:
Progress and Updates
It is always important to keep engaging with your audience as your site is down. One of the ways to do that is by giving regular progress and updates. 37 Signals in the image below does a great job at doing that.
A good way of doing this would be through twitter updates. One way that we would improve this method is by adding Twitter Anywhere Live Tweet Box in it. So you are allowing your users to comment using your site. So you can actually engage even when your site is down.
Which one works for you?
Personally, I love the 37signals type idea as I suggested above with the Live Tweet box and even Facebook Comments. That would keep you engaged with your users which shows that you care for them even when you are experiencing downtime due to maintenance.
What’s your Pick? and Why?
While we were searching for Maintenance Pages, we could not find a good source for these images. Because these popular sites don’t go down as often, so it is hard to grab these images. If it wasn’t for Cameron Chapman’s article on Smashing Magazine, we would not be able to write this article.