How To Ask For Support

Michael TorbertThis is a guest blog post written by Michael Torbert, owner of

Hopefully if you’re reading this, you’re already familiar with the support forums. However, sometimes you may have a dire need for one-on-one support with the actual developer or designer of a plugin or theme. When asking for advice, the most important aspect to consider is forming the query in such a manner that will allow the developer or designer to quickly know what you want and all the information they need to help you.

In general, you want to be clear, concise, complete, and polite.

Before you ask for support, use Google. Make a concerted effort to search for resolutions to your issue. This will help increase the clarity of communication with the developer about the problem you’re having. This helps to find and resolve the issue more quickly and ultimately means, saving you money.

When you ask a plugin or theme developer for support for their products, please understand that depending on the number of questions they receive, job requirements, social life and various other factors, they may not be able to answer or even acknowledge your question. They may also have a backlog of emails, pushing yours back further in the queue. Also understand that if your question is already addressed in the support forums or theme/plugin documentation, you stand less chance of receiving a response. Generally, when a theme/plugin developer receives enough of the same question, they will post the information publicly for the benefit of the other users.

Make sure you supply legitimate contact information. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to contact someone, but couldn’t due to a wrong or misspelled email address in my contact form. Obviously, this will make getting back to you take much longer, or impossible.

Understand that if you’re asking for free help, you need to be respectful of the time they’ve dedicated to the free theme/plugin and of the additional time you’re asking them to spend with you. Supply them with as much information as possible.

Here is a list of standard information that is extremely helpful when dealing with an issue:

  1. If you’re hosting WordPress on a Windows server instead of Linux, and/or on IIS instead of Apache, this should be the first thing you tell them. This is often the source of issues in a WordPress installation.
  2. Let them know the name of the theme/plugin you’re having an issue with. Many developers and designers have many contributions to the WordPress community.
  3. Offer the author your WordPress version, and active plugins and their versions if there’s the possibility of a plugin conflict.
  4. Test for your issue in every browser and operating system you have, and let them know the combination’s you used: Internet Explorer 6/XP, IE7/Vista, Safari/Vista, Firefox/Vista, Opera/OS X, Safari/OSX, Firefox/OS X, etc. You can help them out a lot by doing this part for them.
  5. In notepad, make a file called anything.php, type

    in it, upload it to your server, and point your browser at it’s location. You should see various bits of information about your hosting environment, which may be useful in assisting you. Give this link to the developer. *For technical users only.

  6. Let the developer know the name of your hosting company.
  7. Make a new FTP/SSH user and WordPress adminstrator. If they ask for login information, given them the temporary accounts. Delete when finished.
  8. Don’t include extra information. Keep communications focused on the issue. Anything else is going to make the process take longer and in the end.
  9. Be polite. Wrong: “ Hey Buddy, there’s … problem with your !@#$ plugin/theme. What gives?” Right: “Thank you for your great theme/plugin, called [insert name here], I’m having an issue with …. and I’ve tried…. could you find the time to help me out?”
  10. Refrain from spamming the developer. If you send an email and don’t receive a reply within 5 minutes, that doesn’t mean you should send another email. This will likely move you down or off the queue, rather than to the head of the line.
  11. Unless explicitly otherwise authorized, do not call the developer on the phone. Just remember how you would feel if someone called you at 2am in the morning while you’re sleeping, or 2pm in the afternoon while you’re working.
  12. If you see an error message, copy the entire error message and include that in your initial support query. Often times, these error messages help to narrow down the problem making for quicker resolution times.

The more clear and concise the information you offer, the faster you can hope to receive a resolution.

Final Thoughts:

Remember that this is some peoples’ lively hood. Be ready to pay for the support you request ahead of time. Most developers are ok with helping with a few small things, but each developer has a different point in which they will want to be paid for the extra support they are providing. Remember that the more respectful and thankful you are to a developer, the more inclined they will be at helping you out for little or no charge.

Finally, once you have received your satisfactory resolution, make sure to spread the word. Other people will often have the same issue. Submit the helpful information to the support forums, or make a post on your own blog.

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