One of the challenges of both creating and owning a website is that sometimes it can stop working. This can happen to a page or the entire site for any one of a number of reasons.
Often your first reaction is one of panic and then the second is to call your web developer to let them know. That’s good — it’s what we’re here for. Every web designer I know is understanding and eager to help you fix issues with your site. We love to play detective and solve problems.
Remember to breathe. It’s not the end of the world. There’s always something we can do to get the site back to normal.
Submit a Bug Report. Debugging is a part of the programming process and requires collection of data we’ll need to know before we can address the issues on your website. Please answer at least the top 4 questions. It really helps if you answer all of them.
- What is the nature of the problem? Are images missing, does the page not load? Are you seeing error messages? Error messages contain useful clues, so be sure to pass them along.
- Send a screenshot if you can. On a PC, use Alt+PrintScr to save a screenshot. On a Mac, use Command+Shift+3. Then paste it into an email and send.
- What browser are you using and what version? Were you using Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Chrome, Opera or another browser? Version information is usually found under the Help menu under About.
- What type of computer and operating system are you running? To replicate the error, your developer may need to mimic the environment it came from.
- What page where you on? Send the link if you can.
- What link did you click on the page, if any, when the error happened?
- Do you have problems accessing the internet or using any other sites? Be sure other sites are working for you as well.
- Has anything changed on your computer since the last time you used the site successfully? Has any new software or hardware been installed?
It can be daunting to have to come up with some many details, but to fix the issue, the first task is to determine where the problem is.
Problems can be caused on your internet host’s server, your internet provider’s connection, a browser quirk, missing files or pages on the site, compliance or scripting issues, security software settings, or browser settings.
Most site errors are due to browser variations. Despite progress made in the last decade with internet standards there is still some variation between browsers.
I generally test for the top 90% of browsers used on a given site shown by site analytics when available. This does not include old versions of Explorer, mobile devices or tablet computers. IE6 is rapidly being phased out now that IE9 has launched, so Sirius Media no longer supports that browser. Currently none of our client sites are showing iPads or iPhones in the top 90% of site visitors, so we don’t test for them, either (unless this was a development requirement).
Coding is a delicate and difficult business. An extra space, single quote instead of a double quote or rogue period out of place is all it takes to break a page. This is made even trickier by the fact that some browsers may forgive an error while others won’t even load the page. Your average email would not pass the browser’s muster due to tiny errors we all ignore.
Essentially, web developers are trying to master a game that changes daily while we’re doing it. Don’t let that freak you out, though. We web coders just love to solve problems — that’s why we do what we do. So relax, give us the info we need to help you out and let us fix your page for you.
What Happens Next?
First, we try to duplicate the problem and see what conditions caused it. This is the easiest scenario. If I can’t, I may need to come see the bug in action on your system.
Second, I may need to contact the site host and see if there are issues going on there.
Third, if there seems to be a pervasive internet issue, such as email access, then following up with your internet provider may be necessary.
Fourth, enlisting the help of others to test the page will further identify any ongoing issues and ensure that the issue is solved.