Bugs. They happen on every site. It’s impossible to avoid them. But with the right reporting, you can get them fixed quickly and cleanly, and your developer will thank you for it. Here’s how to make the process easier for everyone involved:
1. Do it twice
Sometimes when you try something and it doesn’t work, the first response is to fire off an email to your developer. “This thing isn’t working!” you shout in all-caps. “Fix it!”. The developer has a look and it’s working fine – and this is the biggest time killer there is. We’re inclined to believe you when you say something doesn’t work. We’ll try to make it not work as well. We’ll try every browser we have access to – dusting off old laptops in the process – and keep going until we can break it like you did. Finally we give up and email you back admitting defeat only to find that the first time you tried it a field was left empty or the wrong button clicked. Try it twice before you report it just to be sure.
1a. Hard refresh
Often, the error comes from caching – pages being stored on your computer or with your ISP. When we say we’ve fixed a style error and you can’t see that it’s fixed, try a hard refresh, which reloads the page without using any caches. On a PC, that’s Ctrl + f5 on most browsers. Then try it again.
2. Tell us everything you can
Lots of things can affect the way a website works. The browser you’re using is the main one, but lots of other things matter too. When you report a bug, make sure you include the following:
- What browser – and what version of that browser – are you using? Is it Internet Explorer 8 (which is probably the cause of the issue!)? FireFox? Safari? If it’s Internet Explorer, do you have “compatibility mode” turned on?
- What operating system are you using? Are you on a Mac or PC or an obscure Linux box? On a phone or tablet?
- What screen resolution are you using?
Also, simply saying “there’s an error” isn’t helpful. What is the error? Does it give you a message you can send us? Is it a 404 page not found? Is it a 500 Internal Server Error? Is it just a blank screen? Is there a pop-up with an error? Even if the error means nothing to you, copy and paste it into an email with all the other information you send.
3. Take a screenshot
Taking a screenshot can immediately tell us almost everything I’ve listed above – the browser, your operating system, the error you’re seeing.
4. What steps did you take?
If you can tell us what you did immediately in the run-up to the error occurring, we can replicate what you did and have a better chance of making it happen ourselves. If you’ve filled in a form, what fields did you include and which did you skip? Have you inserted an image into a page? Did you copy some text from Word before pasting it in to something? If you’ve tried putting a file or image on a website, what’s the file? How big is it? Can you send it to us?
5. Send a link
I’ve lost track of the number of errors I’ve had reported as simply “a page on my site didn’t work”. OK…. which page? On which site? Send a link to the page which isn’t working. If it’s an admin page in WordPress or other system, you can still send a link to it – even if we can’t access a page directly by clicking that link, there’s a load of information we can still get from that link.
The more information you can provide your developer, the quicker we can get it fixed. Remember that an email trail of error reports can be much, much more helpful than a phone call, because you can include exact error messages and images, and it’s not open to interpretation. You also have a record of when you’ve reported an error, and we have a record of when we’ve responded to you.