Throughout the years, website administrators have been able to distance themselves from the problems associated with their web applications. But as the reliance on and understanding of web-based applications grows, the “sweep it under the rug” approach will no longer suffice. Users demand transparency regarding uptime and downtime issues, meaning that you should be completely honest about any problems that can occur with your web sites or APIs. A great blog from Lenny Rachitsky details a few specific issues, how they can affect your presence on the web, and why it is important to maintain transparency. These events can include:
- Server downtime
- Performance issues
- Bugs in your API and website
- Any scheduled maintenance times
You should be fully honest with your users regarding these issues when they occur or when they are planned to occur. This will improve their experience on your site and leave a better impression for them. Eventually, users are bound to begin requesting this, and if you can begin implementing measures to fulfill their needs before they have to ask, they will become much happier with your service. Some of the largest web-based corporations have implemented systems that provide this level of transparency to their customers. Take Amazon AWS, Twitter, and FourSquare for example.
One key to transparency is to stay ahead of the issues — to acknowledge them before the users complain. Basic communication involving 3rd party reporting of SLAs and proactive outage notification can go a long way in building trust with your users in the light of inevitable downtime.