You launched your web browser, ready to log on to your favorite page. But as you type in the URL into the address bar and enthusiastically hit ‘enter,’ your bubbly excitement falls into one flat and plain ‘Oh.‘
The site is down because it’s under maintenance. What joy! (feel free to insert your best sarcastic face here).
“Page Under Construction…”
“Website Under Maintenance…”
It doesn’t occur every day, but when it does happen, it’s downright annoying – not to mention off putting.
A website placed under maintenance means visitors won’t be able to get what they need, prompting them to search the net for other alternatives. Probably the worst outcome is losing a customer or a subscriber.
It may not seem like much to others, but for a site owner and his team of seasoned marketers, that’s a nightmare and a mistake that have to be corrected at once.
The Practical Solution
Instead of throwing everything to the wind and just go about maintaining your page at your own pace while simultaneously expecting that nothing would go wrong, why not break out of the lazy box you put yourself in?
You don’t have to lose subscribers or customers. Not if you set your page up to be as radically creative as possible.
A fun fact that’s been around for years – but we could use reminders now and then – is to reinforce your ‘under maintenance’ page with an awesome marketing strategy.
With careful planning and a healthy dose of ingenuity and creativity, you can turn your site’s maintenance mode into a marketing asset rather than a liability.
Do Your Research on Google Analytics
The biggest issue of an unannounced site maintenance is losing customers. Taking a live site down to do maintenance can be quite confusing for your site visitors and loyal customers. So, take measures to keep that from happening.
A tool you can use for this is your Google Analytics report. Find out the least busy hours of your site and use that time frame for maintenance.
Inform. Surprises Aren’t Welcome
There are people who love surprises, but people don’t like to be surprised about website maintenance. No site user wants to be caught off guard, visiting their favorite website only to be hit with a generic 503: Service Unavailable notice.
Don’t risk the ire of your loyal and regular visitors. Before you go about performing much-needed upkeep, send a message to your email list about scheduled maintenance, along with an assurance that the site will be up and running within the announced timeframe.
This way, you won’t disturb anyone with unpleasant surprises.
Reinforce the Brand
Take your maintenance page and keep it consistent with the rest of your site’s branding. From the font and the colors to the images and logos. Every part of your customized maintenance page should align with your site identity.
It may not make much sense to some people but reinforcing the brand through the visual compositions that are related directly to it, further entrenches the distinctiveness of your brand into prospects, new customers, and even the regular ones.
Scientific research aptly backs this claim by showing people logo designs they’re familiar with. This activates the parts of the brain that are associated with rewards — namely, the emotional parts of your brain.
So, when you consistently show your visitors and regular customers an image related to the brand that they are familiar with, even in something like a maintenance page, you are subconsciously connecting your brand with an emotional reward.
Don’t you just love psychology?
Point Them in the Right Direction
One page under maintenance is fine – especially if it’s accompanied with ingenious images or meme-worthy visuals, but you don’t want your regular visitors or the new ones to stay there and leave to find another, do you?
It doesn’t matter how great your maintenance page looks. At some level, your site visitors will still be frustrated because they were expecting to see the original page, and your site obviously failed to deliver that.
Don’t pile on more frustration. Simply be helpful and point them in the right direction. Redirect them to the page that contains all the answers they were originally looking for. The original page may be down, but you can always refer them to another page that’s very similar to the one they were searching for.
Additionally, with a bit of careful guidance, perhaps you’ll even manage to interest them with other products or company offerings.
Don’t overdo it, though. A seasoned marketer knows how to efficiently account for their audience’s persona and what is the right move for them.
Provide Ample Contact Information
A marketer knows what their audiences want. But if you don’t take the time to get to know them, engage them – even indirectly, and hear their feedback – positive or negative, how do you expect to fully understand them?
One important staple of maintenance pages is sufficient contact information, so your loyal visitors and new ones can easily ask questions and tell you their thoughts.
Openness, transparency, and authenticity are a big deal for the new generations. Plain and simple honesty can do wonders.
Engage Your Creativity
Awesome marketing is creative marketing at its very core. Lately, you probably realized that as the digital world continues to evolve, it’s getting more and more difficult to stand out from the rest of the uniformed crowd.
Think about it. How many other businesses have the same old “Website Under Renovation” or “We’re housekeeping” messages on their websites? (It’s not exactly like that, but I’m sure you understand what I’m trying to get at). That’s way too overdone!
To ensure success in creating the best maintenance page as a marketing tool, you need to think about cutting edge ideas.
It’s going to sound so cliché, but you have to think outside the box. Distinguish yourself. Take risks. Cement yourself in people’s memories. All the motivational quotes!
How you do it, of course, depends entirely on you and the rest of your team. As you take your target audience into careful consideration with every move you make in the digital marketing world, the same principles you should apply as you create tailored maintenance page designs.
Creative Maintenance Pages by Real Websites
Here are a few maintenance page ideas for your WordPress site, made by real companies.
#1 Product Hunt
You can follow in Product Hunt’s footsteps and inject a bit of humor when running into a maintenance page. Puns like this work well for brands like Product Hunt, showcasing their playful personas.
Keep the “maintenance” notice prominent somewhere, but don’t be afraid to inject a little bit of fun. Keep it short and simple, otherwise you risk confusing your visitors. Check out how Twitter did it. It’s their famous ‘Fail Whale!’
This is also the perfect example of reinforcing the brand mascot. Twitter’s ‘Fail Whale’ is used in their 404 pages and in the overcapacity page too.
Apple reasserts itself as the leader in technology by way of using their maintenance page to build hype and anticipation around a new product. They value their customers’ experience. You can also showcase community content in your maintenance pages.
Whether Apple really needs this kind of message is up for debate, but it does succeed in building the buzz.
Maintenance pages aren’t permanent, and you need to make sure that your visitors and loyal customers are aware of that. One creative way of assuring them – aside from the plainly expected date and time – is to add a countdown timer.
Bonus: Ideas from Pretty 404 Pages
You can also take a page from several companies’ developers’ books and transform your maintenance page into something your audience can cheerily interact with.
Take a look at how these companies did it on their 404 pages. Perhaps you can take some ideas from these and use them on your maintenance page.
Bluegg definitely nailed customizing their error pages. It was so humorous that their 404 page managed to get featured in news outlets and famous blog sites.Unfortunately, the goat isn’t around anymore, but Bluegg replaced it with equally humorous statements, referencing the famous Screaming Goat, of course.
#2 Hot Dot Productions
Hot Dot Productions’ error page stays true to the name of their brand, and the very things they do. The page is animated by hundreds of tiny dots that change viewing angles in response to where you move your cursor.
It’s interactive and incredibly mesmerizing. It’s both creative, and the perfect way to showcase their design capabilities.
#3 Tin Sanity
An animated cup with wide bloodshot eyes, screaming and “running” back and forth across the screen. Couple that visual with an intense bass truck, and you’ve got a comical yet sarcastic way of telling people that 404 errors aren’t such a big deal. Tin Sanity did a great job with this.
Creating Your “Under Maintenance” Page on WordPress
Luckily for you, you can easily create groundbreaking maintenance pages on WordPress, for starters.
– Install and activate the WP Maintenance Mode plugin.
– When it’s activated, visit Settings > WP Maintenance Mode page to configure the plugin’s settings.
In WP Maintenance Mode, you can:
– Add background images
– Choose design options
– Add custom messages
You can also easily find more detailed instructions in WordPress’ step by step guide.
Update and Inform
Never ever leave your visitors hanging. When you have a maintenance page, make sure to include the time of the website’s return. Stick to the time frame you provided. This way, your visitors know when to expect you back.
This won’t remove all traces of frustration, of course, but it does alleviate it.
The prospect of losing loyal visitors because of unannounced site maintenance isn’t the end of your website. You can prevent it, and even turn the odds in your favor.
Pages under maintenance aren’t necessarily obstacles that stand in the way of building healthy relationships with customers. If anything, you’re actually improving your site for better user experience.
Nevertheless, when you think creatively – with your target audience in mind – you can create ingenious maintenance pages that keep your branding consistent, are helpful to your customers, and definitely memorable.
Bio: Al Gomez is the President and Founder of Dlinkers – a company dedicated to providing complete digital marketing services. With more than ten years of experience, he enjoys supporting smartpreneurs like himself to achieve online success.
First photo by rawpixel on Unsplash.