When things go wrong it can hurt. People become stressed. Tempers can flare. The pressure increases.
At its best, IT isn’t really known for a sense of humour. Normally the only time you hear mention of humour in relation to IT is if the phrase is prefixed with “lack of a…”
Yet why do we laugh? Why is humour so important to us? If you go online you will find a lot of theories – reading through them to find a meta-understanding, I rapidly came to the conclusion that really no one knows exactly what it is, why we have it. But that it is probably a good thing for our physical, mental and social well-being.
It’s certainly can be used as a way to reduce tension, the sense of the ridiculous and the absurd can take down the stress levels, help people to relax and even bond in a shared experience.
We go online, we start looking for something. Ah! That’s the very thing! We click on the link with the feeling of the ancient hunter finding their prey and bang! 404. Page not found. Our sense of triumph was short-lived, now we feel annoyed and disappointed. 404 pages are some of the most boring and even patronising pages you can get. Some are like a slap in the face – “You did something wrong. Try again” is often the tone. Some at least try to be understanding and show a relaxing picture or put a little message that takes a little of the sting from the error.
Fewer still manage what the Financial Times manages with its 404 page (https://errors-next.ft.com/errors/page/404) which is to hold your attention, have you read and enjoy the text and come away with learning something (or writing a blog post about the experience) By the time I finished reading the 404 page I no longer cared that the page I had one to was missing, instead the FT’s web team had made the whole experience a positive one by using their brand’s depth of analysis to explain what had happened in such a way that they enhanced my awareness of their strengths.
It’s a great example of how to do it right, based around the idea that humour can not only reduce a negative experience but enhance the brand.