When Twitter (Web 2.0’s current spotlight darling) goes down, its users see what has become known as The Fail Whale. The Fail Whale has been shown so much, that it’s threatening to take over the Twitter brand, if it already hasn’t. What happens when your users see your cutesy-tongue-in-cheek 404 page more than they see your home page?
- People start sculpting it.
- It gets a spot on radio shows.
- It gets its own line of t-shirts.
- A 3,279 member Facebook profile is built around it.
- It can lift an obscure artist into the spotlight.
- It becomes an inseparable part of your brand.
So is this good or bad? I’m not sure.
On one hand, it means that your product is so beloved by your users that they chose to hope and long for its return instead of just moving on. Considering the ground that there is to cover for most web surfers, this may be the highest compliment a user can give.
On the other hand, when your brand becomes a part of the zeitgeist as a synonym for failure, it can’t be good. I for one, am hesitant to buy into the service too much lest I come to rely on it and it fails me at an innoportune moment. And what of potential users whose first contact with the service is via Fail Whale? You never get the chance to make that impression again.
They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity, and it brings a tear to any modern marketer’s eye to see user generated community spring up around a brand like Twitter’s Fail Whale lovers have done. But when the first seconds a customer is in contact with your product, the only thing they know is that it doesn’t work a lot of the time, then you’ve got a whale of a problem.