Website errors and marketers: foes or frenemies?

Website errors happen – broken links, poorly-designed pages, faulty forms and sneaky messed-up JavaScripts. Client-side errors, server-side errors, and plain old business errors – the list goes on. Visitors hate them, website technical stakeholders (like IT) hate them, and they hurt the brand and bottom line.

But where do marketers fit in?

Of course we hate website errors, too. But we also tend to see web site errors as a sort of force majeure – something to be hopefully discovered, and then kicked down the line to be rectified.

This is poised to change, as new and advanced tools in our marketing toolbox means that website errors are no longer beyond our reach. Now, we can discover website errors on our own, and evaluate their potential impact and prioritize remediation. But even more importantly, today’s advanced user experience analysis solutions (like Clicktale) enable marketers to not only play a role in eliminating website errors – but to actually gain from them.

So, does that make us foes or frenemies?

I vote frenemies. Why? First off, because no matter what anyone does, there will always be website errors. We operate in a tremendously complex environment in which there are nearly infinite variables. Mistakes will happen. But beyond this, because even after we’ve identified and prioritized a given error for remediation, there is still a lot we can learn from it. (TIP: Want to skip ahead? Download our free e-book on leveraging website errors here.)

For example, consider something that the traditional technological approach to dealing with errors ignores completely: what does the visitor do next, after receiving the error message or page?

Why is this question important? Because it is the visitor’s behavioral response to errors – as much as the errors themselves – that impact critical site KPIs like conversions and sales, not to mention customer loyalty and return sales.

Taking a behavioral perspective on website errors focuses our attention on what visitors are actually doing on our sites. This lets us catch common behavior patterns of user drop off or abandonment that traditional tools simply cannot see, such as: 

  • When visitors encounter a server-side error on your site, do they generally click away altogether, in disgust? Do they go back to the home page, and work their way through the navigation to the page they were originally looking for? Do they search again, from the error page itself?

  • For JavaScript errors, do visitors try to reload the page multiple times, in frustration? Do they generally abandon the action they were attempting?

Questions like these impact not only how we deal with errors, but also how we look at the user experience as a whole. To get more information, as well as actionable ideas for making the most of website errors, download our e-book here.

In the meantime, remember: just as we can learn from mistakes in life, even as we strive to avoiding making them, we should expect to learn from website errors. Thankfully, the tools to do this are just a Click(tale) away!

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