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If there is one thing that I have learned in this business it is that your website is going to fail at some point in time or another. It is inevitable that a link will go no where, a database record will not execute, a css definition will not render or an image will not display. Somewhere along the line I heard the term 'fail gracefully' and I think it is a wonderful term.

There are things that we as web developers can do to provide the end user with a not all together terrible experience should the website not perform as expected.

SiteCM out of the box does many of these things such as:

  • Provides friendly 404 pages within the context of the site

  • Not displaying the cryptic error codes should an application crash

  • Instead provides the end user with helpful messages

As web designers and developers we can take this one step further and consider the design elements of a site. IE6 immediately comes to mind. I no longer want to spend hours coding for a browser that was first released almost a decade ago. As more and more of the major players drop their support of it I gleefully await the day when I can too. But for now I can't just not support IE6 users. However, what I can do is code the site in such a way that when IE6 inevitably fails to display my webpage as intended it will do so in a manner that does not impede the users experience. In other words it will fail gracefully.

When I code a newsletter I know that Gmail is going to tear it apart and toss out my css. That Outlook Express users who have MS Word as their editor are going to add cryptic definitions to my code rendering borders and backgrounds useless. Because I know this I can code the site using a foundation of reliable methods which I know are going to translate well in even the most archaic of mail clients or web browsers and then I make the shiny and glossy parts a bonus for those who have shiny new software.

I suppose that this principle could even be applied to business and to life in general. When we enter into something go in knowing that the potential to fail is always there. And accept that fact. It is ok to fail gracefully; to be prepared to do it in such a way that everything we have worked to achieve doesn't completely fall apart should that happen.
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