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Jan 2011

Are your website error messages entertaining enough?

Posted in Web 2.0, Web Design and Usability | 0 Comments

Occasionally I run across a really amusing 404 page. Often, it’s a cute mascot who’s sad because he or she can’t find the page. Occasionally it’s a real gem that’ll tell me I got eaten by a grue instead of finding the page. But there was one on WordPress I stumbled onto recently via the most unlikely of routes. Let me paint you a picture.

I’m working on a post, and once I’m done, I let my editor go fiddle about with it till it looks the way it should. However, I forget to close my own version of the page, and when I save (thinking I’m on the CMS for another site entirely, namely this one) it saves over his edits. All of them. A brief moment of guilt ensues, so we attempt to compare versions¬† to find his edits. Out of sheer curiosity (I’ve loved errors ever since zooming in too far in Paint Shop Pro caused an illegal-operation shutdown in Windows), I compared version X to version X.

The screen goes to white, and a small message types itself out on my screen:

Self-comparison detected.
Initiating infinite loop eschewal protocol.
Self destruct in… 3

And the screen goes black. Then, in an ominous but familiar green font, more text appears.

Wake up, Christos Reid…

The Matrix has you…

Follow the white rabbit.

Followed by a short message telling me not to let this happen again, and a link taking me back to the CMS.

What can you say to an error message like that? Personally, I called my entire team over and we watched it several times. There’s never any indication that WordPress admits doing this publicly, and if you already know what you’re looking for it’s only really possible to learn about it via Google. But it made my day, work-wise, and it’s something that other sites (the ed. notably lists Wikipedia as one that should really have a few Easter eggs by now) have yet to fully exploit.

So go compare versions – who knows, it might inspire you to create funnier error messages of your own.

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