Better Error Handling & Recovery

Context: A site of mine was recently corrupted during a 'restore backup', making it impossible to publish, unpublish, load the designer, or do just about anything with the site.

Now, it goes without saying, I cannot thank the Webflow Support Team enough for their resolving the issue promptly, especially as this issue was rare.

However, what would be even better is if the issue was preempted in the first place.

As such, I would like to make the following recommendations in light of my experience:

  1. Show Error Tracebacks from Browser Console

  2. Downloadable Bug Reports

  3. Communicate Failed Restores

  4. Validate Before Publishing

  5. More In Depth Error Explanations

  6. Ensure Webflow Support Is Reachable

Recommendation 1: Show Error Tracebacks from Browser Console

When the site crashed, I was met with a prompt of "Something went wrong while trying to open your site. If you are unable to access your project after clearing your browser cache, please visit for assistance." which, in itself, is a good start.

Recommendation: The prompt should display what code triggered the error from the browser console, and provide a layman's explanation of what it means. For example:

Something went wrong while trying to open your site.

The issue that arose was 'TypeError: r is null'.

This likely means '<insert lay explanation of why this kind of error might occur>'.

If you are unable to access your project...

Recommendation 2: Downloadable Bug Reports

The prompt showed attachments for the bug report, but didn't allow for the bug report to be downloaded.

Recommendation: Let users download the bug report, so users can forward it to the support team when they contact them.

Recommendation 3: Communicate Failed Restorations

When I went to restore an earlier backup, nothing indicated that the restoration had failed. It was only through going to the browser console that I was notified that the process had failed due to a Syntax Error.

Recommendation: Communicate through either a prompt, or a change in the button style, that a site backup has failed.

Recommendation 4: Validate Before Publishing

Similarly, when going to publish, the site feedback was “Publish could not be completed, please try again.” However, the publishing of the site was successful, it just resulted in a blank page.

Recommendation: Validate that sites don't raise errors before publishing. If the site is somehow invalid, do not push the new site out. Instead, show that the publish has failed and raise the error then.

Recommendation 5: More In Depth Error Explanations

To that previous point, “Publish could not be completed, please try again.” did not communicate why it had failed. And, when I went to unpublish, the site communicated “Failed to unpublish. Please try again!” which was unhelpful.

Recommendation: Offer more in depth error explanations when critical activities like publishing and unpublishing fail. The errors should include:

  • A traceback to the code causing the error

  • A layman's explanation of the error

  • A downloadable bug report

  • A direct, mailto link to Webflow's Support Zendesk. Ideally, it should prepopulate some of the email with the desired template/form of the email.

Recommendation 6: Ensure Webflow Support Is Reachable

The biggest painpoint was determining how to contact Webflow support directly. The webflow support page does not contain a valid link to contact support. I had to look up a prior email I had sent months before to recollect the proper link.

Recommendation: Fix the link at Leaving it as a blank link is, dare I say, crueler than having no link at all.

  • John Fallot
  • Jun 8 2023