I like answering peoples’ questions and helping them with problems, but I see a lot of poorly phrased ones that ultimately mean it’ll take longer for the person to get their question answered.
I have to:
- ask for followup information.
- wait for them to reply.
- answer their question again with the new information.
It makes the process take longer which doesn’t do either party any favours!
So here are some of my top question asking tips:
Include any error messages.
This one is aaaawful.
Someone says, “I can’t do x. It’s not working! What’s wrong and how do I fix it?”
That literally tells me nothing other than it’s not working. It gives me zero insight into why it may not be working. Usually there is a really helpful error message happening that holds the key. With that error message, I could probably tell you exactly what the problem is. Without it, I can’t tell you anything.
If there’s an error message, include it. Word for word (or a screenshot).
Always include a link to a page that shows the problem.
If you’re having a problem on your blog, a post, or a certain page, always include a link. And a link is always better than a screenshot so I can see the problem with my own eyes (particularly if this involves any kind of code or design issues).
I’m in one Facebook group that doesn’t allow links—period—which makes this tricky. But if it’s any kind of coding issue, it can be 50x harder to fix without a link.. With Inspect Element I can usually identify and fix the problem in about 10 seconds.
Describe the steps you took to encounter the problem.
Someone recently had some issues with their post editor. The spacing between paragraphs wasn’t working quite right. They included a screenshot and simply said, “The spacing isn’t working correctly. How do I fix it?”
The first step is to figure out why this is happening in the first place, but we can’t figure that out if we don’t know how she entered that text.
I had to ask these followup questions to get more information:
- Are you typing the text directly into the post box or are you pasting from another program like Word?
- Are you using the visual editor or the text editor?
- How do you make your new lines? Do you press “Enter” once or do something else?
Providing as many details as possible about how you arrived at the problem will help someone find the solution so much easier and faster.