If you have an online business that drives revenue through your website, be it an e-commerce, SaaS, IT services company or any other online business for that matter, you already are aware how important it is for you that your website or service remains available 24 x 7.
No one likes a website that is unavailable. Neither do your customers nor do you. You don’t want to lose revenues and your brand image.
Every single second your website or service is offline you lose revenue, potential customers, trust and you also lose your place in search engines for prolonged downtimes.
But it isn’t an ideal world and with increase in the number of add-on features and benefits that you offer our customers to beat the competition, the complexity of websites and apps increases multi-fold and this makes downtime inevitable.
Downtime is inevitable. When your website is offline, having a great maintenance page goes a long way in turning that bad experience into a good one for your customers.
Downtime isn’t just about server overloading or critical features crashing. Many a times you just might need to take the website offline for feature upgrade, UI modification, database migration or other routine maintenance. Downtime caused by these factors give you a big advantage over the unplanned ones. Planned downtime gives you an opportunity to turn the situation in your favour.
You might schedule the downtime during non-peak hours when you have minimum traffic so that least number of people are affected. But this doesn’t always help especially if you are a global brand and have customers in different time zones who visit your website at different time of the day.
Such situations are tricky and it is important that you make your customers aware with a proper announcement well before time with information such as:
1. Your website is unavailable.
2. What is the reason behind it and what are you doing about it ?
3. When do you expect to be available again ?
So, what is a maintenance page?
A maintenance page is a web-page that replaces your website or application page when your website is offline. This is to make sure that the visitors don’t get the ugly error message like this.
The maintenance page is used to tell your visitors that your team is working on the website and hence the website isn’t available temporarily.
So, its an error page right ?
No it isn’t. An error page shows up when a visitor is able to locate a server but can’t find the destination website. It happens on its own when something goes wrong with your connection or if you are unable to reach the website due to any reason.
Maintenance page on the other hand is intentional and the IT infrastructure team temporarily puts it up when they have to take the website offline.
But we can have zero downtime during maintenance right ?
Yes we can. With advancement in tech, modern database and web-servers have allowed teams to upgrade their website and systems without actually taking it offline. This has made maintenance pages look like a thing of the past and you might even think of it as unnecessary but believe me it isn’t.
It is always a good idea to keep it handy and on standby while the website is under maintenance. We have seen multiple cases of outages that started with a routine maintenance and not having a maintenance page ready ended up being a pretty bad for them. Even world companies companies like Twitter, Apple, Google etc with world class IT teams use maintenance pages.
So, how should you design your maintenance page ?
The end goal of having a maintenance page is to ensure a great customer experience even when you are offline. It is to make them aware and reduces a large chunk of customer support effort. Here are our top picks of the best maintenance pages we have come across and our tips to create a great one for yourself.
1. Keep it simple, clear and helpful
Your maintenance page should be simple with clear meaningful words that actually help your customers understand that the website is offline and the reason for the same. It also must provide them with an expected time when the website would come up online again.
Maintenance pages that are fun to read are always great and mincing words to make it humorous for your customers is really good as well but the phrases like “website is down for maintenance” must appear very clearly. Confused visitors can become your angry social media outburst enemies pretty quick.
You’ll be amazed what a confusing maintenance page can do to a company’s image on social media.
Twitter maintenance page is a classic example of how a maintenance page should look like. Clear text with illustrative fair whale being carried by twitter birds showing that it is a big job and Twitter’s team is taking care of it.
2. Have some fun and make it humorous
Well, who doesn’t like a good sense of humor. Google has always proven it through their maintenance pages. Take the Google wave maintenance page for instance. Google wave came up in 2009 and was a box full of surprises, short lifespan couldn’t have been the first guess though. It has retired for a better part of a decade now but the maintenance page is still an artifact.
Investopedia is another such example that is humorous as well descriptive at the same time.
The maintenance page should be a reflection of your brand
When visitors land up on your maintenance page, they should feel like they have landed on someone else’s website. The maintenance page should be an extension of your brand and should reflect the same color schemes and similar fonts.
Product hunt has always been known for their tongue in cheek puns and their maintenance page reflects the same.
Here’s one more by SoundCloud, an online audio distribution platform.
Give clear reason behind the required maintenance
Even if your customers may be unaware of tech jargons, it is your obligation to mention it to them. Your customers may not understand “server migration” or “database upgrade” but mentioning it brings out a trust factor in them towards you. They understand that it is for something important.
Providing the benefit along with the reason makes the reason much more convincing to your visitors and leaves a positive impression.
“Performing database upgrade to improve website performance” is a much convincing argument. Isn’t it?
Tell your visitors what to do next with a call for action
When your visitors land on the maintenance page, there are many things that they could do. Leaving your page and getting to your competitors website being one of them.
You can’t control what they do but you can influence it. A clear call to action would help a lot. Providing links to your social media, email list, resources, blogs etc will keep them engaged for some time on your website.
Tip: Make sure that these links are working.
“Soon” isn’t a measure of time
How often have you seen maintenance pages talking about getting online soon ? Probably a lot.
But this doesn’t help your visitors at all. Everyone knows you’ll be back “soon” but how soon? Soon measures differently for different people. For you soon maybe 2 hours, for your visitors it may be just 5 mins.
State the time when you estimate to be back online and keep a buffer.
Maintenance page can do a lot more— Marketing tips
Think maintenance page is just to make your visitors aware you are offline. Well it isn’t and Apple proves it with this.
Maintenance pages can be used for creating a buzz on the internet especially if it coincides with a new feature or product launch. Apple used it before launching their new iPhone. How this affected their launch and product sales is a different question but marketing of such sorts definitely create a lot of buzz around.
We are now aware of the factors that result in creating an amazing maintenance page.
Along with your maintenance page we would recommend you to use Fyipe for providing periodic updates on your statuspage to keep your customers aware.
This is because your customers would want to know when the maintenance takes more time than expected.
Believe us, we have seen many such maintenance downtime scenarios turning into a full blown outage pretty soon. Having Fyipe is extremely helpful in such scenarios.
It’s on free trial. You’ve got nothing to lose. Test it out once and see if it works out for you and your team. Get started here.