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Ever asked a question no a forum and been confused as to why you didn’t get a response? Been frustrated with the lack of support you’ve received, or the quality of it? How did you respond to these feelings? Did you think to yourself, “how can I fixed this?” If not, you should have! I DIYed my blog for YEARS before going to University and learning about programming. Some of the forum help I received was atrocious or even down-right prickly!
Now that I’m on the other side of things, let me tell you: I was doing it wrong. And I say this with love. Because I’m going to share with you the top 5 things you must do to get great support!
Before you post on the forums, try googling your problem and just see what comes up. You don’t have to understand it – but sometimes it can help you actually learn what the problem is! Maybe you search “CDN won’t pull featured images” – and learn that this is actually a “domain mapping” issue (this has absolutely happened to me). So now you know the root of your problem is something with domain mapping. Step 1: complete!
When you come to the forums unprepared, it shows that you’re not willing to do part of the work yourself. Forums are generally full of volunteers, and they don’t want to be taken advantage of. If you just want the answer given to you – hire a professional!
95% of the questions asked on a forum have already been answered – on that same forum. Do a search and see what turns up. See if any of those answers can help get you on the right track. Maybe you find the same question, but the answer isn’t working for you? That’s OK. Searching the forums is part of our first step: making an effort.
This saves you from wasting the volunteers time – and more importantly, your own time. Why wait three hours for an answer that’s two clicks away from right now?
Always provide a site link when asking a question – sometimes it makes all the difference in being able to determine what’s wrong with your site. Plus, depending on your layout the changes needed may be drastically different from another site. Asking something like “how do I decrease the space between my columns” without a site link can be very confusing. Which columns are you referring to? Is the spacing caused by margins or padding or floats? What other elements will be affected if we make this change?
Honestly, don’t be ashamed of your site. There’s been better, and there’s been worse… and in any case – it’s like free promotion, am I right??
Here’s where our first three points come to a join. Do the best to describe what you can about your issue. If you’ve done the research, you’ll probably be more capable of articulating what is happening – and have tried the first few suggestions that would normally have been given. Share:
- What your problem is
- When it occurs, and when it doesn’t occur
- Other forum topics or tutorials you’ve referenced
- What you’ve already tried to do to fix it
- Anything you don’t understand
- A link to your site
Here’s an example: “I’m trying to decrease the space between two columns on my site: the content and the sidebar (1). However, I only want this to occur on the home page (2). I’m using the ___ theme and have found another topic here ___ but this decreases the spacing on all of my pages (3). I know I need to increase the content width and remove the padding-right in my CSS file (4), but I don’t know how I can target my home page specifically (5). My site is at https://www.oncecoupled.com (6)”
Everybody appreciates hearing “thank you, that worked” at the end of the topic or even a preemptive “thanks for taking the time to look at my site!” Be courteous and you’ll find that others are kind to you in return.
If you have a problem that crashed your site and you’re stuck, don’t be afraid to put “help please” in the title – let others know you aren’t just asking a routine CSS question.
Something like “help with CSS” doesn’t let the volunteers know what you need (and thus if they are interested in helping you) and it doesn’t help others find this topic should they need a similar response. Try something more like “Decreasing space between content and sidebar on home page only.” A topic like this and you’ve basically already explained your entire question! Just from reading the title, volunteers can start imagining what they might respond with.
Sometimes you’ll find that you’ve had a few suggestions, none of them worked, but now you’ve been waiting on another response for two days. Take the time to calmly remind the people helping you that you’re still waiting on an answer. You could say something as simple as “Hey guys, I still haven’t figured this out. Do you have any new suggestions for me? Thanks!” Your topic honestly may have gotten lost in the others they are trying to help with. This can keep you at the top of their list without being rude.
I’ve seen people respond with something along the lines of “Hello? Is this just a forum for promoting yourself and not actually helping anyone with their problems?” The person this was directed at kindly continued helping that visitor, but more often than not you’ll get an equally cold response or no responses at all.
If you’ve done the research, you’ll know which of your questions are related, and which aren’t. The best way to get a clear response to your question is to put all requests in a separate topic. If you know you need help with 3 (small) CSS questions, go ahead and put them in a single topic. But let’s say one question is design related and the other is functionality related. Those should go in separate topics. There are three main reasons for this:
- You get clear answers (and one that others can easily search the forums for).
- You don’t overwhelm a volunteer into not responding (10 questions at once?!).
- You get more responses, to all of your questions! One person may not know all of your answers and therefore only answer half. Well, the next person doesn’t necessarily know which half were or weren’t answered. Separating them removes this confusion.
Asking for help on volunteer forums can sometimes be met with unsatisfactory responses. The best way to get real, helpful responses on a volunteer-based forum is to respect the time of those that are helping you. Do your part to help them do their part: look up the answers as best you can, be informative (and intentional) in your question (notice this is singular, not plural), link to your site, and just be thankful for the free help you’re getting!
It’s not that you didn’t know these things already – sometimes we all just forget in our general confusion.