How to Best Report Problems with Your Website

The details you should gather before reporting an issue to your technical team

Problems with a website
Learning how to best report website issues is important.

All websites experience problems from time to time. If you are charged with managing a website, there will be instances where you need to report those problems to the technical team responsible for that site. Exactly how you make this report is important. In fact, the way you report website problems to the technical team of web professionals that you work with is the number one factor in determining how quickly and efficiently those issues are resolved.

Let’s look at the things you need to know to most effectively report on problems with your website.

Check to Make Sure There Really Is a Problem

The first step is to confirm that there really is a problem with the site. Many times someone will tell you there is an issue with the site – this could be a customer, a fellow employee of the company, or even that company’s CEO. As the person who manages the site, it is your responsibility is to confirm that report before you call for additional help.

Many issues with websites are due to user-specific problems. If you take the time to check on the issue yourself, and cannot replicate it on your computer or another device, that may be a sign that there is not really an issue with the website. You can then work with the person who reported the problem to you to identify what specific issue on their end may be causing the situation.

If instead of confirming the issue on your end first, you immediately report the problem to your web team, you will simply frustrate that time while also possibly costing your company some money.

If your Web team takes the time to troubleshoot a reporting issue, only to find that it really is not a problem, they are probably going to bill you for that time. Even if they do not invoice you for that troubleshooting work, if you make these false reports too often, there will begin to be a “boy who cried wolf” scenario at play, which will have an impact when you really do have a problem to report!

Bottom line – before you report any problem to your technical team, you should be able to confirm the issue and gather data on the problem to include in your report. That brings us to my next point…

Know the Details of the Situation

Contacting your web team and saying “there is a problem with the website” is not enough information. For that team to debug and fix the issue, they need details. At a minimum, you should be providing the following:

  • When the problem happened. Give them a date and a time so that they can see if there were any outside issues, like server interruptions or hosting issues, which may have caused the problem.
     
  • Who experienced the problem. If possible, provide contact information so they can follow up with this person and ask them additional questions. If that contact information is not available or not appropriate, you should be their point of contact – and since you confirmed the problem on your end as well (right?), you should be able to answer their questions.
     
  • What they were doing. Understanding the process a user took on the site may help recreate the problem. For instance, an issue may only arise when a certain series of steps are taken in a specific order, so the team needs to know what those steps are.  Also, be sure you know exactly which page(s) of the website they were on when the problem occurred.
     
  • What browser they were using. Many issues are browser-specific. Knowing whether they were using a newer browser like Chrome or an outdated version of Internet Explorer will be important information to know. In addition to the browser itself, knowing which version is also helpful. The easiest way to find this information is by using that browser to visit https://whatbrowser.org.  
     
  • Has this happened before? Another good piece of information to find out is whether or not this is the first time this problem has happened to this user or is this an issue that has been ongoing. If it is an ongoing problem, try to gather as much information you can about the other times when it happened or anything else that will help your web team try to find some information about what may have been going on at those times to cause the problems.

    Send a Screenshot

    In addition to the details already listed, sending a screenshot of the error is often incredibly helpful. Trust me, your Web team will love you if you send screenshots of actual error messages.

    Depending on which device you are using, there are different methods for taking these screenshots. On a PC, for instance, you simply need to press the PrtScn button on the keyboard. Not all computers or devices have this button, however. For details on how to take screenshots on different devices, visit http://www.take-a-screenshot.org.  

    Determine Whom to Contact

    Once you have all the details of the situation ready (that is, when you are ready to contact your technical team), you should know who to contact as part of your management responsibilities for the site. For instance, your primary contact at the web company that handles your site may be a sales person, but are they the person whom you call during an emergency or is there a different number/person you should be using?

    You do not want to wait until a problem arises to figure out who the correct point of contact at a company is. Have this information available before disaster strikes to help make this process as smooth as possible.

    Don’t Wait

    Do not wait to report an issue thinking that it will resolve itself. That rarely happens, and all you do by waiting is prolong the issue and potentially make it worse.

    For instance, I had a client recently report a problem with their site. Their content “was missing” and upon looking into the issue, we realized it was because someone at their company had used the CMS to accidently delete every content entry in the database. Our first instinct was to restore that database from backup files, but they had waited so long to report the issue, that the backups we had in place would not go back far enough to recover what had been lost.

    If you receive a report of an issue with the site, take immediate action. Check to make sure there is a problem in the first place and, if there is, gather the details relevant to the situation and immediately let your technical team know.

    Those details, and the quick reporting on your end, will get the site back up and running as intended as quickly as possible.

    Understand the Next Steps

    One final piece of advice: after you have reported the issue and give the appropriate details to your technical team, you need to have a clear understanding of what happens next. You do not want that web professional to hang up the phone without you knowing the following:

    • That they understand the nature of the issue and how critical it is - meaning whether it is an emergency situation or merely a problem that needs to be looked at
       
    • Any thoughts they have as to what may be happening (realizing that, in many cases, your web team has to do some research and they may not immediately have this answer, but it doesn't hurt to ask)
       
    • When they will contact you next
       
    • How you can best contact them if you do not hear from them in the time specified
       
    • Anyone else you should speak with if you are unable to reach the person you are speaking with
       

    Remember, if your site is experiencing issues, people will likely be asking you for an update as to what is happening and when it will be fixed. If you do not understand the next steps in the remediation process with your web team, you will not have the information you will need to answer those questions.