Few things are more frustrating than when your website – or a part of it – doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. Even for the most skilled web developers, sometimes website issues require a bit of research to get to the solution. And even then it might require reaching out for help.
In this article I’m going to list a few ways to help you get help faster. While this is primarily focused on getting help with your website, much of it applies to other types of tech or support scenarios.
Before you submit a support request
When your website stops doing something it’s been doing fine for a while, it’s super easy to get frustrated and just submit a support request. Honestly, that’s okay. But support can take a bit to get back to you, so it’s good to try a few things out beforehand.
Is it just you?
Check to see if the issue you’re seeing is unique to you. Ask a coworker or a friend to replicate your steps and see what result they get. If it’s the same as you (which can often be the case), then there’s clearly a bug or something else going on that needs attention from your developer.
Is it your browser?
I know it sounds weird but sometimes issues crop up as a result of a browser issue. Often it’s just the way a browser renders something on a website, which means code needs to be adjusted. And other times it’s just a matter of clearing your browser cache or restarting your browser entirely.
If you’ve determined that the issue isn’t unique to you or your browser, then it’s time to send in a support request.
Start with a concise subject line
Admittedly this probably sounds kind of obvious, but a good, concise subject line is important.
Take for example these two subject lines:
- “Site doesn’t work”
- “Error occurs when submitting the contact form”
Obviously the second example subject line is clearer than the first. A clear and concise subject line gives the person receiving your support request just enough information to start thinking about what could be going on. It also has the added benefit of helping to remember what the issue is when going over a long list of support requests.
Give a detailed description of the issue
For those receiving and responding to support requests, it’s difficult to help or get to a resolution when the request contains little more than “It doesn’t work.” That implies is an assumption that we know exactly what you’re having issues with. If your developer hasn’t worked on your site in a while – even a specific section of it – it can be difficult for them to remember what a feature does, let alone how the code was written. Admittedly, in a few cases an issue is simple enough that saying “it doesn’t work” isn’t a big deal. For example, “the link in the footer doesn’t work.” That doesn’t need a whole lot more explaining. Beyond simple issues like that though, more information is necessary and will help you get a solution faster.
That all said, if a particular feature isn’t working or is behaving oddly, it’s crucial that you describe the steps you took and what you expected to happen. Knowing the path of your actions and the desired outcome is important in figuring out where to look as much as finding the issue. It’s also helpful to note if the error or issue is persistent or if it only shows up at certain times. Sometimes things can get lost in translation though, so screenshots or screen recordings of the issue can provide additional context.
Additionally, it’s incredibly helpful when you include technical details such as:
- the URL of the page you’re having issues with
- any error messages
- the browser you used and what version
- your computer’s operating system (Mac vs Windows vs Linux)
If you’re not sure about these kinds of details or where to find them, you can head over to supportdetails.com to get all of it.
Keep the issue to one support request
Don’t submit a new support request for the same issue. It just delays the process and requires searching in more than one spot for previous, potentially important, information.
Akin to this is keeping separate issues, well, separate. If you’re having an error pop up on page A and a different (possibly similar) issue on page B, even if you think they’re the same, it’s probably best to submit a new support request. If they end up being the same issue your website developer will let you know.
Keep it friendly and professional
This really shouldn’t have to be said, but you’d be surprised what will come out of someone’s keyboard when they’re frustrated with a technical issue. Writing in ALL CAPS doesn’t do what you may think it does, nor does complaining about how much you pay or worse, using insults or thinly veiled threats. (Yes, I’ve experienced all of these.)
Just remember that the person trying to help is 1) human and 2) genuinely trying to help you. Being courteous and professional will go a lot further.1
I get it – websites can be super frustrating when they aren’t working quite right, especially when you can’t or don’t know how to fix the issue. Still, it’s important to try what you can to remedy the issue. If that doesn’t work, calling on professional help will get you to a fix, but be sure to include as much detail as you can provide. There are just so many variables and moving pieces to your website, the more info we have when troubleshooting, the better off we are to get to a fix quickly.
- Pro-tip: being friendly and even dropping a thank you will help you get prioritized. 😉 ↩