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Use details to request help

… when something just isn’t working!

The important thing to remember is that the person (or people) in charge of the broken thing probably thinks that the thing “works.” But what does it mean to “work?” It’s a vague concept. To help them help you, you need to explain what you were trying to acheive, what you did, what you expected, and what happened instead.

Don’t just say “it didn’t work.”

Be very specific about what you expected and what happened instead. “It didn’t work” doesn’t paint a specifc picture. “I got an error message instead” is better, but still vague. Instead, say “An error message appeared in a pop-box. It said, ‘File unprocessable. Error code F004.’ And I was retured to the upload screen.”

Take screen shots and/or screen recordings (careful to avoid capturing private information), and share this with your error report.

Use this template!

** Description **

I wanted to [ … ], so I [ … ], but then [ … ].

** Steps to Reproduce **

Following these steps causes a failure for me:

  1. [ any necessary set-up]
  2. [ the steps you took, in detail ]

** Expected Results **

[ what you expected would happen after your final step ]

** Actual Results **

[ precisely what happened at this point instead ]

Thank you for being a good error reporter!

When you provide problem reports and/or ask for help using the above technique, with details about what you did and what specifically resulted, you are doing yourself and someone else a big favor. You are saving everybody time that would otherwise be spent asking for more information. You have given someone something that is specific enough to be investigated and fixed. You are more likely to get the help you want.

Thank you!

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Send this page to your co-workers, to your customers, to your customer support representatives, or anyone else who would benefit from learning how to provide helpful error reports!

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