Necessary information to know before contacting support
There are times when your website may seem to not be performing as you think it should. Regardless of the program you are using on your site, there can be many things that affect its performance. To give an analogy, they can have issues just like your car or body can. When contacting the Live Support Department, they will need some information in order to help you. Much like your mechanic or doctor, the more information they have, the better they can troubleshoot the issue at hand as it helps narrow down the probable causes.
Below are some of the basic questions you will want to be able to answer when contacting support. We understand that you may not be able to answer all of the questions, but the more you can answer, the more it will help your support technician in their ability to help you and fix your site.
What software and version are you using?
Many websites are built with content management systems such as Wordpress, Drupal, or Joomla. E-commerce websites are usually built with commercial software such as ZenCart, OpenCart, PrestaShop, etc. Knowing which type of software is a big help. There are times, however, when the site owner does not know as they did not build the site, or even instances where the software was custom developed by a programmer.
Commercial software almost often has version numbers (1.0, 2.7, 3.6. etc). These version numbers can help the technician as certain issues may be manifest in certain versions. Version specific issues are usually fixed by updating or patching the current version. Your technician will investigate this, however, as we do not want to update and break the site.
Is it a base install or are plugins/modules added?
Many commercial applications offer the ability to enhance their functions by adding plugins or modules. These are smaller programs written for a specific purpose and are often done by independent developers. This means they may not work for the company that makes the base program. There can sometimes be issues when the third party plugins interact with the main software. In some cases, these can be fixed by adjusting settings in the program or possibly the server.
If you have any plugins or modules installed on your site, you will need to list them here. This is important to know in case there is an interference with how they are interacting with the main program. There are also times when the plugins cooperate with the main program but have issues when other specific unrelated plugins are installed.
What is the exact nature of the issue?
'My site is not working properly' is a very broad statement. To help narrow down the issue, you want to give as much detail as possible. Some common examples are timeout errors, database connection errors, 404 or 500 errors, or even general but important symptoms such as general slowness. If the site is a slow loader, how slow? Does it take 2 seconds to load the site? Maybe 15, or even 60?
What are the steps to duplicate the issue?
Being able to duplicate the issue is likely the most important step for the technician. If you can, write down or tell the technician the exact steps to follow when trying to duplicate the issue. Some are very easy, such as an error whenever someone visits the site. Others can be more difficult, such as when working with shopping cart software or content management systems.
When does this issue occur?
The easiest issues to resolve are the ones that happen consistently. If it happens every time you visit the site, it will be easy for the technician to visit and duplicate. Other times, issues pop up at intermittent times. If you notice a pattern, that can be very helpful. For example, does it happen at specific times of the day? If you have a site that people log into as members, does it happen after a certain number of users are signed in?
When did the issue begin?
You may not know when the issue began exactly, but if you can remember the first time you noticed it, that can be very helpful to your support technician.
Were there any changes made just prior to the start of the issue?
Sometimes changes can be made that seem to be completely irrelevant, but somehow have an impact on your site. If you can remember any changes that may have been made to your account just prior to the incident, it can be helpful. Maybe you or your developer made a change in another area of the site. Did you give your cPanel access to another helpful individual that may have made a change lately? Did you make any updates or version changes? Any data imports?
If the software supports it, is caching enabled?
Caching is when a program keeps a copy of pages in memory to help with faster content delivery. Caching can be a double edged sword when it comes to troubleshooting a site. For instance, if you made changes recently to your site and they are not displaying, the cache may not have yet refreshed. It may need to be disabled or reset. If you are experiencing slowness with your site, perhaps you have not enabled some or all of the caching ability of your site.