Twitter’s Fairy Doors

Jared Spool

June 4th, 2007

Twitter, the social messaging service, has experienced some growing pains lately. Increased popularity and growing demands is putting considerable strain on their servers. As a result, users experience downtime from time to time.

A user arriving at the site, only to find it suddenly unavailable, might become frustrated. To alleviate some of this frustration, the designers programmed the site to put up this message when the site goes offline:

A picture of a cat doing an upgrade to the Twitter.com server.

Recently, to announce a scheduled shutdown, Twitter’s developers posted this amusing message:

Cleaning Hairballs out of Twitter.com

Of course, frequent outages will continue to frustrate users, no matter how cute the messages become. However, adding a little levity into the situation does a nice job of communicating the bad news with personality. Levity and personality are two elements of a successful Fairy Door.

Could you see your organization putting up messages like this?

Related stories:

Best Western’s Fairy Doors

5 Responses to “Twitter’s Fairy Doors”

  1. Daniel Szuc Says:

    For non mission critical services these messages are great! Enjoyed seeing messages like “this service is getting a backrub” etc

    Not sure how well people would respond for more mission critical services.

  2. Jared Spool Says:

    Daniel, I think you’re absolutely right.

    But this is true of offline experiences too. You’re not going to be happy if the trauma room triage nurse is getting a backrub when you’re gushing blood.

    Fun experiences don’t substitute for poor service.

  3. Stephanie Says:

    The guys I work with at my day job would love to put those messages up but in the past management has asked us to change the image on our 404 page because it was insensitive.

    I think it’s important that users get a consistent user experience even when there are problems. A professional website needs professional error messages, a fun website should have fun error messages but both should be helpful and informative :)

  4. Brian Christiansen Says:

    Stephanie, I think that image is just great :-)

  5. Justin D-Z Says:

    I think of the levity as a form of deflection of frustration. On a professional, pay service it might good to accomplish deflection as well but not in a “dodging the blame” or “joking about lost sales” way. I think Backpack did this really well. Their message said something like “There’s a problem. Don’t worry, you didn’t cause it. It’s our job to fix it and we’re on it. Service will be restored shortly.”

    I’ve seen customers have the “what did I do” reaction when they click a link in a web app and suddenly get an error page. Even though it’s obviously a problem on the service provider’s side, it’s natural to feel as if you caused it. In addition to saying “we’re on top of it,” I think it’s good deflection to mind the user that they can relax.

    But, yes Lisa, embiggen is a perfectly cromulent word.

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