How to report an issue with your website to your web developer/agency

Doesn’t work” isn’t a bug report

We’ve been helping businesses with their websites since 2001. In that time we’ve had to deal with countless occasions where a client has reported when they think there is an issue on a website.  And in that time we’ve spotted common reporting bug problems which are worth having a chat about as this can help save a lot of time.

What support are you paying for?

One of the first things you (as the person reporting the problem) needs to ask youself is ‘what support agreement is in place?‘; i.e. if you don’t have any form of support agreement set up, then don’t expect support to be free, and don’t expect your issue to be serviced right away as the developer/agency may well be very busy with current projects – you have to pay extra to jump the queue of work already in the studio. Now, if you don’t have a support agreement in place (or it doesn’t match the level of service you think your business needs) then the simple answer is that you need to chat with your developer/agency.

Many companies (including us), will typically have an informal period after a website goes live (if there is no support agreement in place) where things are just fixed, free of charge as this is, in essence, a bedding down period for the website. But please don’t be surprised if the agency makes it clear that this is not a long term, free support option; the bedding in period has to end at some point.

When can I expect a reply?

Again, this depends on what has been agreed. If there is no agreement in place, you’ll more than probably have to wait for your query to be addressed when studio workload allows. If the query is urgent, then all haste will be taken but, again, if there is no support agreement, you’re in a precarious position as you just have to wait your turn; which could be hours, days, or weeks.

How long will it take to be fixed?

It’s pretty much impossible to guarantee how long something will take to be fixed – that’s kind of like trying to guess how long it will take to find your car keys.  Also, unless you’re agreement covers, evenings, weekends, or Bank Holidays, don’t be surprised that people aren’t on call for you during that period; if you want support in place for Christmas Day, best to arrange it (and be prepared to pay for it).

How to phrase the issue

Simply saying “the website is broken” or “it isn’t working” doesn’t help the web developer. The first thing the developer will want to do is to replicate the issue as, when it has been replicated, they can take appropriate steps to fix it (or, at least, explain to you why it is happening). If insufficient information is supplied in the first place, it can often take longer to find out what the client means, than to actually fix it. Not only is this a waste of time but, if support is being paid for, it’s also a waste of the your money.

To help save you support time & money, here are some tips:

1) Be Precise

Please be as clear as possible as to how you are experiencing the error. And please precisely describe the steps someone needs to take to in order to replicate the error. The first thing the developer will do will be to try and reproduce the problem, the quicker they get the information they need, the quicker they’ll fix it.

2) URL

You really, really want to let the developer know the exact web page(s) the issue occurred on. Best it to copy & paste the website address (URL) from your browser address bar. This is such a time saver!

3) Screenshot

Additionally, if you can, why not also email the developer a screenshot of the error? As they say, a picture paints a thousand words. Not sure how to screenshot?

4) Screencast

Even better than a screenshot, why not record a quick screencast? This is where you record a short video of your screen whilst you walk through and demonstrate how to reproduce the error.  Best of all, screencasting is not hard or expensive to do – check out one tool we use to do this.

Note: an alternative to the above would perhaps be a shared screen session using Skype or Zoom (but that does need you both on a call).

5) What browser are you using?

It can be very helpful to know what device you are using – e.g. desktop, laptop, iPhone, tablet etc; better still let us know the browser software you are using. Also, here is a very handy tool for telling your developer lots of interesting information automatically – it’s very useful and saves the developer trying to talk you through how to get this hidden information. It’s called Support Details, don’t worry, it doesn’t send your credit card details, it only knows about your web browser technology and some generic stuff about your operating system.

 

If you follow the above, I’ll bet you’ll get your issue resolved quicker next time.

Happy bug squashing.

 

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