Software developers are a clever lot, and prone to bouts of creativity every once in a while. It turns out these are essential traits when building software, but cleverness also needs to be must be tempered when it impacts the user-facing parts of your software.
Case in point: Bugzilla’s search results page. This is what happens when you try searching for something in Bugzilla and it doesn’t find any results. It’s supposed to be funny — the misspelling is, in fact, intentional.
But it’s not funny. It’s really, really not funny. It’s not funny for two very specific and very important reasons.
Reason 1: Usage context. If any Bugzilla user ever sees this message, it’s because he failed at the task he was trying to accomplish. Since the message exists solely to explain to the user that he failed, it’s pretty reasonable to assume that the user might not be in the best of moods already. I know I wasn’t.
Reason 2: Product context. If you’ve not already had the pleasure of using Bugzilla, let me fill you in on its search capabilities: they suck. Like, searching in Bugzilla is not only unpleasant, it’s also unfruitful way too often. It’s the best reminder you’re likely to see about why Google won the search wars — it’s because everything else used to work like Bugzilla. So when your (otherwise excellent) product has a critical flaw, such as searching in Bugzilla, it might be best to not choose that specific part of your product to try to crack a funny. Just sayin’.
The lesson in all this? Somewhere on any product team, there needs to be a voice of reason who’s looking at context stuff like this and deciding when it’s time to be funny, and when it’s not.