In a world where technology is ever evolving it’s quite common for an error message or website issue to come up. It usually happens like this: a customer sends you an email complaining or just giving you a heads up – they were looking for something or trying to purchase something and they got an error message.
It’s possible there are glitches with the merchant gateway for the shopping cart or some other internet issue on the customer’s end that you wouldn’t be able to know about…and it coincidentally happens at the moment when someone clicks. I see it happen all the time.
This can be a website owner’s worst nightmare, simply because all your hard work at SEO, promotion and optimizing your website has paid off and a customer took action (yay!) only to be affronted with a site that happens to not work for them at that moment in time (nuts!).
Unfortunately, there isn’t really a way to anticipate an error before it happens. But with a bit of preventative action and basic troubleshooting, you can help resolve most website issues. Here’s how:
- Maintain your Website, Keep it up to date
The best way to prevent issues from coming up is to keep your website current. CMS-based websites like WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal all have updates along with plugins and other tools that need to be current at all times. Web technology is constantly evolving as are the CMS sites and other website providers like Wix, Weebly, or Webflow.
This is a security issue as well as a preventative measure. Hackers constantly try to find the weak links in the code fence, so staying current with all your website’s technology is really key. Checking your site on a weekly basis is the best way to be aware of the updates that will keep your site running smoothly.
Keeping backups of your site is also a best practice. If your site doesn’t change much, a monthly backup may be all you need. If you have an e-commerce site however, a daily backup is a must. If there’s ever a worst-case scenario with your site – the quickest way to get it back online is to pull your latest “clean” backup and restore your site. Make sure you check with your hosting service and see if they do regular backups of the server your site is loaded on.
It’s also good to find out how your host will restore your site, if it provides that service, and how it works. For sites built on WordPress there are a few key plugins you can use to back up your site, such as iThemes’ BackupBuddy. Even if your hosting service does do backups you’ll probably want to create one of your own and save a copy off to your local desktop or other storage area like Dropbox. Beware: if your host’s server gets hacked or corrupted somehow – your host backup may also be affected.
- Check for Broken Links
This is more common than you would think. Websites often link to other sites without them knowing. If the site being linked to has deleted the info or page it was on, or the site is no longer there, that’s a problem. Likewise, internal links (from one page of the site to another page of the same site) can be incorrect or something got deleted inadvertently, etc.
WordPress-based websites have a tool for alerting to broken links and there are several plugins available that can be used to check this and give you a way to fix them. You can easily find out from forums or search the web to see if there are link-checkers available for your type of website. Of course, you can always go through each page of your site and manually review each link. However this can get quite tedious when you have several pages on your site. So ideally, finding a tool that can crunch through for you is the quickest and most efficient way.
- Get as much information as possible when there’s a problem
Most web developers want to try and duplicate what the customer experienced so they can really see what’s happening with the site and can better pinpoint the exact issue causing the problem. With that in mind, get as much info as possible from your customer:
- For shopping cart issues: get all the info the user entered on the checkout page (except the cc number)
- Error messages: see if they can take a screenshot and email the image or note the error number
- Can the customer describe what steps or actions they just took immediately prior to the error?
- What browser are they using, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, other? and what version are they using?
- Bonus: Mac or PC? Version of their operating system?
It can be really hard to get this type of information, especially from an angry or disgruntled user, but it’s always good to ask. You never know, some people are more savvy than others and are willing to help, especially if they are a loyal customer. Your web developer will be a happy camper to get as much information as they can so they can quickly resolve your issue.
Your website is a key tool in your business, so keeping it fresh and up-to-date will definitely get you the best return on your investment.
If you’re interested in learning more about McDill’s Web Care plan to help keep your site up-to-date or if you have any marketing or design needs in your business, email us or give us a call at 831-462-3198. We’d be happy to help in whatever way we can.