Five killer ways to use contingency

This article first appeared in issue 227 of .net magazine – the world's best-selling magazine for web designers and developers.

Way back in 2002, 37signals wrote a white paper about ‘Contingency Design’. Thousands of applications and websites have been built since then, but it’s still an important concept to keep in mind today.

Contingency design accepts the fact that anything you build will fail at some point and focuses on failing well. A failure may be the user’s fault, a system fault or something else entirely.

It doesn’t matter what caused it. What matters is that the person trying to use your site was unable to, resulting in frustration on their end and more than likely a lost customer. So, as people who build tools that will inevitably fail, we must focus on allowing them to fail well, so that we keep users on our sites and create satisfied customers.

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