Website Troubleshooting Tips

Published on Wednesday 17, July 2013
Web developers have a lot of their plate - not only do we build custom solutions for a specific purpose, but we have to ensure that solution works in every way possible. That means it has to work properly in Internet Explorer, FireFox, Chrome, Opera, and Safari, and that each user has the same experience regardless operating system, screen resolution, and internet connection. Oh! Then through in the thousands of mobile devices. That makes website troubleshooting a large and difficult task. I'll share a few tips and tricks I've learned to streamline the process. This way your non-web team members can even help get the ball rolling on the basic information.

"I don't know what a browser is - I just log onto the Internet"

Support Details Support can be difficult when a client or user provides the bland statement of "XX isn't working." or "AA doesn't show up right." My first thought is always: crap, they're on Windows and probably have no idea what version or what version of Internet Explorer. That's where this awesome Support Details site by imulus comes in handy. It provides enough information about the user's system and has a simple email form, or the client can download the PDF and email it. You can even create a link that pre-populates the email fields to make the user's life that much simpler. Actually, it isn't about making their life simpler it's to prevent one more email on how to do something. I highly recommend either setting up a Windows virtual machine (if on a Mac) for various Internet Explorer testing - even if on Windows...because Internet Explorer 8 debugging will haunt us for a few more years. If setting up a VM is daunting, check out BrowserStack for extreme cross-platform and cross-browser debugging.

JavaScript is disabled.

4721678225_de73ab447e_zRemember years back when you were recommended to disable JavaScript do to browser vulnerabilities? I never did. But every here and there I get a machine that has it disabled - or a whacky Internet Explorer security policy limits it. So, if you find out this is part of your issue have your user visit www.enable-javascript.com and follow the instructions. I am almost certain I spent fifteen minutes trying to walk a user over the phone on how to enable JavaScript in Internet Explorer. Save yourself the grief. Send them to this pretty site.

"WHARBLGARBL OMFGBBQSAZ OUR WEBSITE IS [email protected]!"

The Internet sucks because uptime isn't 100%. Hiccups happen - a server might get DDoS'd, a server might just generally get overloaded, a users Internet connection can bomb out, and packets can just go flying off to Pluto because of quantum physics. Either way the end result is a panicked client that their website is down - when it may not be. I don't even bother trying to load it myself, because that is not going to be good enough for the client. So I head over to isup.me and check out the website. If the website is up, I'll ask the client to check the same results and try to briefly explain how the Internet works and that the world is safe. Screen Shot 2013-07-17 at 9.16.38 PMNow the bad part, isup.me said the website was down. Check any other sites you manage that are on the same hope, praying that none of them come back as down. If other sites are up, but just one is down check out the global DNS results for the domain name through WhatsMyDNS.net. At this point you're better off just calling the hosting company. I just prefer to have as much information as possible to make their server admins life easier and faster - because that makes my life easier. So I'll ping the server to see if that is even up - chances are the server could be chugging along, but Apache crashed. I've even had it where I could login to cPanel but not access the same damn website. Again, you would like to have as much information when troubleshooting an issue - so would your hosting provider as well..probably..unless you're going through GoDaddy..then that's just disgusting. Be awesome and share your web dev troubleshooting experiences in the comments.