Learning from Social Media: How to Deal with Downtime

If your website is going to be down for maintenance, redesign or major updates, it is important to not leave your visitors hanging. Think of it this way: Would you close your office without leaving any kind of indication of where you were or why you were closed?

First, here are a few examples of how social media and social networking sites deal with downtime. After that, I’ll list a few things you should keep in mind when scheduling downtime.

  • As Myspace has done, be sure to offer advice on how to solve the issue, if it is technical in nature.
  • You can offer something entertaining, as Mixx has done above. If you experience significant or frequent downtime (you shouldn’t!) consider changing this up every once in a while. A video of a baby eating lemons is only funny once or twice before it gets annoying.
  • Reddit offers the entertaining WTF alien, as well as a few suggestions for what you could be reading instead.
  • Don’t do what Twitter does: Frequent downtime and a useless (boring, no links) service outage page.
  • Digg is perhaps the best, with infrequent downtime and a page with suggested links from dozens of staff members.

Other things to keep in mind:

  • Consider including an apology and an explanation of why the site is down. This could include information about the new content or functionality you will be adding to the site.
  • Linking to partner organizations or other valuable resources is a nice gesture. This way, your visitors still may be able to find the type of information they are looking for.
  • Most importantly, minimize your downtime. If I go to a website for the first time and it is down, I am unlikely to return. Likewise, if a site I like is down frequently (twitter!), I am far less likely to use it on a regular basis.

Did I leave anything out? What other ideas do you have to minimize the inconvenience of website downtime?


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