Today while trying to access Apple’s iOS Developer Portal, I got a message that the service was temporarily down. Or at least that’s what I assumed the very terse message to mean:
That’s fine—I’m not complaining that the site is down; these things happen. The problem is how Apple handles this situation. In particular, rather than returning the message as the response for the requested url, Apple actually redirects you to a static error page (take a look at the url bar in the screenshot).
Now the problem here is that when I’m faced with a “service temporarily unavailable” message, my first instinct is to just keep the page open and occasionally hit the Refresh button to see if it’s up yet. But this won’t work here. As it stands, I’m going to see this static message no matter how many times I refresh the page because that’s actually the page I’m looking at! In fact, the only way for me to properly “try again” is to hit Back on the browser and re-click the link that took me to the error page in the first place, or open up my bookmark again, if I happen to have the page bookmarked. Now neither of these is outrageously more tedious than hitting Refresh, but the point is Refresh is still the simplest and most obvious course of action, and therefore is the more likely action users will take.
Furthermore, there’s no indication to the user (outside of the url) that this is the case. Granted, this is a developer site and its users are likely to be more observant of such things, but that’s not really an excuse to design things wrong in the first place, and I have a feeling if it’s done wrong here, it’s probably done wrong elsewhere as well, including Apple’s consumer-facing pages.
Is this a big deal? Am I going to lose sleep over it? No, of course not, but it is another example of poor UI. Thanks for listening.