How to reassure customers when your website is down

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We’ve all been there before – we go to click on a page and are met with the message: “unable to connect to the server,” or “this site is temporarily unavailable.” It’s the source of frustration for many typical internet users, many of whom just want to buy concert tickets or read about the latest trends.

What many people don’t consider, however, is the effect on the website hosts themselves – from a simple annoyance to potentially losing out of thousands in revenue from lost customers. Next time you find yourself in this person’s shoes, make sure you take these essential steps to reassure your customers.

Step 1: Make sure the problem is real

One of the most common misconceptions when being faced with error messages is the legitimacy of the error itself. Of course, with cases like tickets for Glastonbury crashing websites being very real, it’s important to take customers’ complaints seriously, but not before investigating the problem yourself. Refresh your page while holding down shift to ensure you’re not looking at a cached version. If it fails, try a trusted website like Google – if that is down, it could simply be a broadband error with you or your own client.

Step 2: Identify the cause

This can be easier said than done. Often, high traffic is the simple reason for a website crash – for example, if you’re offering customers something they can’t refuse, such as free practice trials on gaming affiliate sites, then you’re likely to experience a site crash. But there are many other errors that can cause a crash, such as a DNS problem, an expired domain, a networking problem or a server crash. A simple programming error can be detected by looking at the status bar on the bottom of your browser. If it says ‘done’ rather than ‘waiting’ or ‘loading’, then it is a programming rather than server error.

Step 3: Check your server

If you’re unfortunate and you are experiencing a server error, you need to look at the root cause. Open up Command prompt and type in the telnet command, which is available on Linux, Windows and Mac. If your server is working properly, the line should end in 80. However, there could be a number of server problems if it’s not working properly, such as a lack of space. Thankfully, this can be rectified with a quick fix, so there’s no need to fret!

Above all, if your website is down, for whatever reason, it’s important not to panic. This will only deter customers from your website and stop you from being proactive in solving the problem. Leave a polite error message and get to work – you may have to call in technical help but it will be more than worth it. Time is money, so they say – the good news is, website crashes often come as a result of high traffic, so if it’s happening, it’s likely yours is a very popular one!