As much as we web designers and developers try to create websites that run as smoothly as possible, the fact is, sometimes bugs come up. To a certain extent, that’s just how technology is. As a result, one of the services we provide here at Block 81 is monthly website support and maintenance. The support part of that is to help clients—and indirectly, their customers—with issues that may come up with their website.
Whenever we get a support request, we try to get to the bottom of the issue as efficiently as we can. Sometimes it takes a bit longer because we need more information. To put it bluntly, it’s important that the person submitting the support request include relevant information in their support ticket. But how does one do that? Better yet, how do you know what makes a good support request versus a bad one?
While there’s definitely some subjectivity in any conversation involving “good” or “bad”, when it comes to support requests, what really matters is the information provided. With that in mind, here are some tips to help get to a solution to your issue as efficiently as possible.
Before you submit that ticket…
It’s easy to assume that the issue you’re seeing is being seen by everyone. Sometimes that’s not necessarily the case. So before you even send a support request, just do a quick check to determine if the issue is unique to you and your setup. Why? Because sometimes there could be other factors involved that are the cause of the issue. It doesn’t mean what you’re experiencing isn’t valid—it may just be that you’ve discovered a bug that wouldn’t have been found otherwise.
One way to see if the issue is unique to your specific setup is to try a different browser. Not all browsers are the same—each has its quirks or limitations on what is supported. This alone can make a difference.
Another way to verify if it’s just you experiencing the issue is to ask a colleague or friend to repeat the steps you took when you encountered the bug. If they can replicate it there’s obviously something that needs to be fixed.
Write a concise subject line
The subject line of your support request is important simply because it can give us just enough context to get started on helping you.
Take a look at these two subject line examples—which do you think is more helpful?
- Website doesn’t work!
- Our contact page won’t load
The first example is simply too vague. I’ve received support requests like this and my first thought every time is “Really? The entire site doesn’t work?” There’s just not enough context. (Keep in mind that I’ve also received support requests with a subject line similar to “Website is down!”. In that case, that’s even more specific than “it doesn’t work” which could mean something different to one person versus another.)
So, the second example is the most helpful. Why? Because it’s concise and tells us where the issue is happening—all in just five words. Being concise helps us start thinking about the issue faster and makes it easier for us to prioritize it, particularly if it’s a severe or urgent issue.
Provide details—lots of them
It’s easy to assume that we’ll know exactly what you’re referring to because we’ve worked on your site in some capacity. The reality is, we have a lot on our plates, just like you. But far more importantly, the more information we’re given, the better and faster we can help. It’s always better to provide too much information than not enough.
Here are some tips on what a detailed description should include:
- Don’t just say “it doesn’t work”. Instead, write out the steps you took to get to the issue and what you were expecting. For example: “I was doing X so that I could Y but I got Z.”
- Include technical details such as the URL of the page, the error message (if any), the browser you used and what version. Better yet, head over to Support Details to get details on your browser and operating system because sometimes that makes a difference.
- List out what you tried and whether the error message stays the same or changes.
- When did the issue happen? That can be helpful because we can check date and time stamped server or website logs that may help us.
- Include a screenshot or video recording. This can be immensely helpful!
Submit one ticket for the issue
Avoid creating duplicate support requests for the same issue. It simply delays the process. If you have additional information to share or you simply want to check in, just check the ticket you created initially and add the information or question there. And yes, it’s absolutely ok to reach out after a day if you haven’t heard back at all. The last thing we want to do is keep you waiting!
Okay, so this one may seem obvious and shouldn’t have to be said, but you’d be surprised how nasty some people can be when they’re asking for help. (Fortunately we haven’t dealt with that in quite some time, but it’s certainly happened.) Being nice, or at least professional, goes a lot further than being rude, insulting, or super impatient.
In addition to being nice, also try to avoid ALL CAPS for, well, anything. It doesn’t emphasize things in a very positive way. Sure there are exceptions, but they’re few and far between.
It’s easy and tempting to blame the person who built or maintains your site for a bad experience. As service providers, and as customers of technology too, we certainly understand where you’re coming from. But we’re also human—mistakes sometimes happen and we can’t always catch every detail no matter how hard we try. To be efficient and good at solving your website issue or bug, we also need you to help us by writing a support request that has as much information as possible.