Little Things: Tone of Error Messages

Ah, the little things which make a big difference, such as error messages when a piece of software doesn’t work.

Andy Sack points out this error page Google gave him:

The bad news is that Google Docs has just encountered an error.

The good news is that you’ve helped us find a bug, which we are now looking into.

We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused you.

Awesome! Andy says he walks away feeling better about Google than before, even though the software didn’t work.

FeedBurner and PbWiki are two other web sites which have great copy on their product pages — it feels fun and personal to use those products.

4 comments on “Little Things: Tone of Error Messages
  • Hey Ben,

    Pretty cool – not just because of its tone and syntax, but because of the utility element hidden in those messages. The vendor by acknowledging the buggy patch puts many a user at ease by sparing him the trouble of having to scout around and hire a costly engineer to fix it.

    By citing Google docs, Andy Sack has indirectly cast his vote in favor of externally hosted, on-demand, pay as you use, SaaS
    applications over high cost licensed software that are hosted on-premise and desktop dependent -like MS-Office suite. The enterprise vendors keep gouging the buyers as much as they can by selling it at the same price levels fixed for its initial installations, despite those licenses have now been installed over a million computers, the amortized costs of which would have now been negligible in their balance sheet. The economies of such scale are never passed on to the future buyers. This is precisely why TCO of the software users never came down.

    You can’t get a comforting message like that if your MS-Windows application acts up because you are expected to fix it yourself incurring additional costs by having an AMC with Microsoft. If you avoid that route, you could be staring at its enterprise equivalent; an instant BSOD .

  • Wow. I just did a search for a band on the Hype Machine and the system was so overloaded they had to display an error screen. What I got instead was a picture of a drunk guy passed out on the floor with copy that read “Sorry, we’re so loaded right now we couldn’t process your request.” Then I switched to Google Reader and read this post. What a coincidence. I wish I had captured the screen. Priceless.

  • I was able to hit the back button and get a shot of the screen. If you want a copy let me know because it would make a great addendum to this post.

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