Every once in a while we have to take our site down for upgrades, or god forbid something breaks and we have to fix it and we don’t want to leave the broken version for our users to see.
I was inspired to write this after seeing the funny Technorati maintenance page this morning:
Maintenance pages are important for many reasons, but one of the most important reasons is to make people remember to come back. If someone is visiting your site for the first time and you are currently working on your site and have placed it in maintenance mode typically you will replace your index with a page explaining the downtime and encouraging users to check back later (giving a specific time frame is good practice).
When designing your maintenance page you must keep in mind that people see dozens, maybe hundreds of websites a day. And if you’ve taken your site down for upgrades you definitely want these people to remember your site and to return later on.
A few tips to a better maintenance page:
1. Keep the general design close to your site’s design. It doesn’t necessarily need to be an exact duplicate of your layout – but it is wise to use the same colors and feeling as the original.
2. Make it simple. No need to go into exact details about WHAT your working on. Just let people know you’re working on it.
3. Give a time frame for people to return. Best is something like “Please try again in 30 minutes!”.
4. Make static content available. Have a few popular articles mirrored statically and link to them through your maintenance page. Give visitors a taste of what you have so they remember to come back for more great content.
WordPress users can download a plugin for when they are making adjustments, upgrades or fixing their blogs called “Maintenance Mod Plugin“. When activated a maintenance page will show for any users NOT logged in. If you are logged in you can view all content on the front and backend and work as needed.
The sample page that comes with the plugin is fully customizable:
Here are some examples of maintenance pages from some popular sites (click to enlarge):
Feedburner – not exactly a maintenance page – but good demonstration of an error page.
As you can see some of the best pages here stay true to the site brand, while making it a little fun. They also offer information about what is happening and when you can return to the site for it’s regular content.
Do you have a favorite/memorable maintenance page? If so leave a comment and I can add it to this post. Want to show off your own personal maintenance page? Leave a comment!
You may also be interested in an article published on 5/23/2011 – Even More Memorable Maintenance & 404 Error Pages.