My website is broken. Please fix it.
Added on: 01.09.11, by Jeremy Girard
When you have a problem with your car and you need to get it repaired, you bring it to a mechanic and you explain what you think is wrong. You tell them what noises you may have heard or anything unusual you have noticed, giving them insight into the problem so they can work on finding a solution. As the person who actually uses the car, you are the best one to give them that preliminary intel.
What you do not do is pull your car up to their garage, step out and say only, “My car is broken. Please fix it.”
In contrast, when people report issues that are happening on their websites, they often say little more than, “It’s broken.” This scant information gives your “web mechanics” little to no insight into what the problem actually is and no idea where we should start looking to address the issue.
Here are a few tips on how you can more effectively report issues with your website, allowing your web development team to address and correct those issues as fast, and cost effectively, as possible!
You Have Problems, We Have Questions
If you tell a Web developer that your “site is broken”, they will inevitably respond with a series of questions. Answering these questions at the time that you report the issue will give us the information we need right from the start - which means we can actually being addressing the problem that much quicker!
1. Has this happened before?
Many clients do not report an issue the first time it happens, assuming that they did something wrong or that the issue will correct itself. While this may be the case, letting us know if this is a new issue, or something you have experienced before (or heard about someone else experiencing) will help us identify when the issue started.
By letting your web team know the time and day of the error, it can also help identify whether some unrelated factor was affecting your site.
2. What browser are you using?
Oftentimes, site problem are caused by older or outdated browsers. Knowing whether you are using a current browser like Google Chrome 8 or a dinosaur like Internet Explorer 6 is helpful.
The easiest way to find out what browser, and what version of that browser, you are using is to go to www.thismachine.info. This web page will give you the information you need to report your browser information to your web team (as well as other details about your computer and operating system).
3. What pages caused the error?
How did you get to that page and what did you do once you were there?
Remember, we do not use your website the same way that you do, so we may not know how to access the page that caused the problem or how to recreate the issue.
In some cases, the problem is on a secure page that is only for site admins and is not accessible to the general public. By letting us know what page caused the error and how you got to that page (including any login information we will need or any links you clicked along the way), we can try to recreate the issue for ourselves and see what is going wrong.
At the very least, sending us a link to the page in question will get us started in the right direction.
4. Can you send us a screenshot of it (and if not, what is the actual error text)?
This is the most critical piece of information you can report, and even better than you just telling us what the error said is if you can actually show us the error page with a screen shot! Your web team can see exactly what page you were on, and what time you were there. Here’s how to do this if you are on a PC:
As soon as you get to the ‘error page’, take a screen cap of that page. You do this by pressing the ‘Print Screen’ key on your keyboard.
The ‘Print Screen’ button is in different locations on different keyboards, but for normal desktop keyboards, it is typically in the very top row, to the right of the Function keys. On many laptops, it will actually be one of the function keys. In any case, it should be labeled ‘Print Screen’ or something like ‘PrtScr’.
Pressing this key takes a snapshot of whatever is on your screen at the time – the entire screen – and places it on your computer’s clipboard (you can also press the ‘Alt’ key + ‘Print Screen’ at the same time to grab just the active window).
You can now open your email program and paste the screenshot into the email itself. Right click in the email’s body and select ‘Paste’ from the menu that appear. This will paste the screenshot that is on your clipboard directly into the email so you can send it to your Web team.
But wait…that’s so easy?
It’s true, these questions are pretty easy to answer and there are many other questions that could (and may need to) be asked, but these basic answers will get us started and in many instances it will be enough to identify and resolve the issue entirely. Oftentimes, it takes us longer to figure out what the issue is than it does to fix it, so the more information you can provide up-front, the more effectively we can respond to the situation.
A better relationship between website owners and web designers and developers begins with better communication. Hopefully, these tips will allow you to communicate with your Web team more effectively.
Now, if we could just find a way to translate “web coder-speak” into normal English, we would really be rocking and rolling!