Requesting technical support like a pro


#1

A big part of what you buy is your entitlement to fast and friendly expert technical support. Much of the success of RapidWeaver has been down to willingness of people available to help each other.

Developers want to help, but sometimes the response you get will depend on how you initiate your first communication. Take these two emails as an example:

EXAMPLE 1

HELP!!!

purchased this software and added it it to my page but it nott working. WHY? total scam. many houurs and moneys wasted

EXAMPLE 2

RE: Bullet point spacing

Dear Bill,

I purchased your AmazeBalls list stack (version 1.2) and it has been brilliant to setup and use. However I have noticed on the published web page (www.example.com) that the spacing around the bullets is slightly off-centre by a couple of pixels. I have attached an annotated screenshot to this email too, and the red line is where I would expect the bullet points to line-up. I think it might be something to do with line height settings in this theme? It is the same in both Safari 10 and Firefox 60. I have tried clearing my browser cache and doing a full republish of the website from RapidWeaver. Do you happen to know how I can adjust this please? Thank you in advance and I hope all is well with you across the pond!

-John

Those are emails from two actual RapidWeaver users.

Which one would you prefer to receive and reply to?

The first email is completely devoid of any useful information. We have no idea what the person is using or how to replicate the problem. Being able to replicate a problem is a significant part of being able to resolve it. The poor writing skills and rudeness means this email is probably going straight into the trash without ever receiving a response. It’s simply not worthy of any attention. Its kind-of selfish and lazy to send emails like this one.

The second email has probably taken no longer than a few minutes to write. But it contains absolutely everything we need to know. The customer has already made an attempt to do some basic troubleshooting themselves. They have been totally clear in what they are using and where to replicate the issue. This email will definitely get an immediate response and John would be assured the custom CSS we give him will work splendid.

So please - consider the person at the other end you are contacting when sending an email or asking for help on a forum. A detailed message does not take long to write and you will be rewarded with the reply you want straight away (without a needless volley of messages backwards and forwards for several days or weeks).

At the very minimum, your support message should always include:

  • The name and version number of the RapidWeaver addon being used
  • A description of what’s not working, versus what you were expecting instead
  • Simple steps to replicate the problem, browser names, versions etc.
  • Anything you have tried so far to resolve the problem
  • Link to the published test page and / or screenshot

The same template above can be used for reporting bugs too. Send bug reports direct to the developer. Refrain from posting them to public forums or social media, because they can be wrongly misinterpreted by other users and start giving false impressions of certain addons being permanently defective. In other words, don’t air your dirty laundry! Most developers would rather track and fix issues internally, and provide you a positive outcome more quickly.

Links to download RapidWeaver project files (so we can open the project inside RapidWeaver) can sometimes be useful. But they can prove less useful if the pages are made-up of numerous third-party addons from other companies. It may be better to duplicate a project file and delete-out everything that is not needed, to reduce the project down to a single page, comprising of only the most essential addons needed.

We find quite a lot of novice Mac users don’t know how to take screenshots. Unlike Windows, Mac does not have a ‘print screen’ button. To take a screenshot on Mac, simultaneously press ⇧ ⎇ 4 Space (shift + alt + 4 + space) on your keyboard. And here is a video of a pretty girl showing two other methods of how its done!

The screenshot normally gets saved to your desktop as a PNG image. You can annotate it with arrows, lines or other shapes using Preview in your Applications folder, pictured below.

This makes is much easier to describe things you want changed or fixed. “A picture is worth a thousands words”, as we often say.

If you think a developer is going to need more information about your RapidWeaver and web server configuration (e.g. PHP), add a free UsefulStack to a webpage and toggle-on the Display Debug Information option. Either an existing webpage or a new webpage added to the website. Publish the webpage and provide its URL. This simple action will output a lot of highly useful statistics and other information about your setup, as pictured below.

UsefulStack will output the following in debug mode:

  • Details of the web browser viewing the page or being used
  • Version / build numbers of RapidWeaver and Stacks
  • Location and configuration of the page within the website
  • A complete output of all PHP and MySQL configuration details

Sometimes for more complicated addons (like those that use server-side PHP or MySQL databases), there is very little the developer can view from outside the server. The nature of these programming languages means that much of the code is locked-away deep within the server environment. It may be necessary to create a temporary FTP account and CPanel login, for a developer to access your hosting server.

The time it takes to receive a response from a developer varies. Most developers only do RapidWeaver part-time or as a side project to other business ventures. It would be reasonable to allow a couple of days before getting a reply. Respect the fact that most developers have family and other commitments beyond RapidWeaver. We have to take vacations occasionally or go on training seminars to learn new stuff we can bring to you!

Refrain from posting the same questions multiple times or in multiple places - because again it becomes a bit of a selfish dance act. It is not necessarily the case the the louder someone shouts, the faster they get a reply! Multiple discussions are really annoying, because you can spend a long time composing a lengthy reply, only to find that time totally wasted because the same discussion has been answered elsewhere by someone else.

So to summarise; it would be unusual to build a whole website in RapidWeaver and not encounter an odd problem or need help with something along the way. Lots of people are available on hand to help. Most developers would appreciate messages that contain the essential, bare-minimum details that can help replicate or visualise matters. Keep the tone friendly and remember we’re all human.


New Resources Category?
How To Ask A Developer For Technical Support
#2

Epic! By far the best post I’ve ever read on how a newbie can get the most out of RW, the devs and the community.


#3

Excellent post, and simply a reminder of the courtesy that should be common when asking for technical support. The fact that you shelled out $ for a product does not entitle you to be rude. If you are actually seeking technical support, the more info you offer, the better your assistance will be. Wish this could be seen by (not those on this forum I’m guessing) people who should know better but obviously don’t.


#4

Great post, Will.


#5

Thank you Will for that post and the support which you have provided in the past and hopefully in the future.


#6

Really helpful. One little glitch. The link to the UsefulStack is missing the .com part of the address, but it was easy enough to find on the stacks4stacks site.


#7

Excellent post Will.

Having published software myself in the past I can testify to the amazing number of people where Example 1 applies.

As a percentage of all support tickets it was a small fraction, but boy does it get your day off to a bad start when someone is accusing you of being a thief and a scammer for no reason at all.

It is a shame there isn’t a central blacklist where the email addresses of these odd people could be submitted so that everyone else could stop them buying their product :-)


#8

I wholeheartedly agree with Will’s guidelines for support-seeking users. But your wish seems a bit weird/excessive. RapidWeaver Police? ;-)


#9

@fapkogi I was being tongue in cheek.


#10

Oh, thanks for clarification.