I Want to Help You Help Me Help You

I imagine the software developers I work with at my full-time job will ask for a commission once they see this post, because without them, I’d still be clueless about the significance of the following terms when trying to troubleshoot computer, Internet and blogging issues:

  • bug-tracking
  • development sandboxes
  • screenshots
  • browsers
  • caches

Over seven years of working together, they’ve trained me pretty well to do a little bit of homework before saying:

“WHY WON’T THIS WORK????”

Payback’s a bee-yatch, I guess, because as much as I love (love love) getting questions from all of you who come read this little ol’ blog, I find myself having to spend a lot of time asking follow-up questions before I can help. So I thought I’d share some of the things that are extremely helpful to include any time you’re asking for help with a blogging or computer problem. It will help you get answers faster, and save some of the back-and-forth (not just with me, but if you have trouble with your blog host, your theme, Facebook, email, etc.):

PINNABLE EMAIL GFX

1) Screengrab/Screenshot

If you have an issue that is affecting something that you see — say, the way your images display on your blog, or how an email opens in your browser — it’s often easier to show it rather than describe it. Enter — the screengrab/screenshot!

  • PC: Press the “Print Screen” (or “PrntScrn”) button and what you see will be saved to your clipboard. Paste it into an email or Word.
  • Mac: Press Command/Shift/4 and drag the cursor so a gray rectangle forms over the section of the screen you want to capture. Let go and it will save to your desktop. (You can do Command/Shift/3 and take the entire screen if you prefer.)
  • iPhone: Hold the Home/Sleep buttons down at the same time. The image will be saved to your camera roll.
  • Droid: ??? From what I can tell, it depends on the device but I don’t have one. Sorry, dudes.

2) Browser

Are you on Chrome? Firefox? Safari? Internet Explorer? Although most websites are supposed to be compatible between browsers, that doesn’t mean they’ll look exactly the same. If you tell me you’re having a problem, and you’re on Firefox while I’m looking on Chrome, I might not be able to see the same thing you are. If I know you’re on Firefox, I’ll go there too.

3) Type of Computer/Platform

Are you on a Mac? A PC? A tablet? Your phone? See #4: different platforms look and act differently.

4) What Happened, and What You’ve Tried So Far

Be as detailed as you can. If you tell me your blog is “acting funny,” I’ll have to ask you a lot of questions before getting to the root of the problem. If you tell me that your header disappeared, and it happened right after you updated your theme, and you’ve already cleared your cache and confirmed that the issue is happening on Firefox and Chrome, I’ll be able to skip past the obvious stuff and really jump in to help.

(It’s also important to try to clear your cache before reporting an issue, because it can fix a LOT of things. Here’s my tutorial on the best ways to do that.)

Here’s an example of an email that would be perfect:

Dear Katy,

All of a sudden, my blog is having some major display issues. The link is http://MYBLOGNAMEHERE.com and I’m self-hosted on WordPress. I’m on the ABCD theme and I’m hosted by COMPANY Z. For some reason, I can’t get my header to load! I thought it might be an issue with my computer, but I cleared my browser cache (I’m using Chrome but I confirmed that the issue is also happening on Firefox and Safari) and even restarted my computer and the problem is still happening. I’ve attached a screenshot of my site so you can see what’s happening — my header should appear right above the navigation bar. It was there on Monday night but had disappeared when I checked it on Tuesday around noon.

Thanks!

Blogger

Now I can get into the good stuff — was a plugin updated between Monday night and Tuesday afternoon? Did the theme files change? Could someone have hacked the site? Was a post published with some funky code that may be affecting the header? Those questions will lead to the answer much more quickly than if I had to get all of the basic stuff first.

Hope this helps! And I’m ALWAYS willing to try to troubleshoot any issues you have, so feel free to reach out if you have any questions.

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Comments

  1. says

    Your generosity for the blogging community amazes me! I have no idea how you have time to work full time, be an amazing mother, keep up your exercise, blog, and answer questions for so many people. Thank you for all that you do!

  2. says

    Thanks for sharing this! Funny thing – where i work, I use a PC with a mac keyboard. I couldn’t figure out for the life of me how to do a screenshot. I googled and used F13, but nothing worked. After about an hour of trying to figure this out, I realized I could use my evernote web clipper – which was a relief. Anyway, just wanted to share! Thanks for all of your help with the blogging community! xo

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