Some days you try everything to fix WordPress but nothing seems to work. Other days you’re staring at some code and you’re like “wtf is going on?” Perhaps you’re asking questions like:
- Just what does PHP mean anyway?
- I’d like a new template for my blog…. where can I get one?
- I read somewhere that I’ve got to have style but I don’t know how being fashionable is going to make any difference to my website.
- I got this here plugin but I don’t know what I’m supposed to plug it in to.
Feeling confused? Undoubtedly. But one of the best things about WordPress is that there are loads of places to go to for help, and loads of people willing to answer your questions. I’m going to put them here in a nice list, but first:
How to Ask for Support
1. Be pro-active
If you have a problem, chances are that someone else has the same problem. The first thing you should do is to search Google for an answer. If you have an error message plug that error message into the search engine. See if someone else has come up with a solution. It’ll save you a whole lot of hassle in the long run.
2. Be specific
Don’t just land on a forum and say “I has problem with my theme. Can u plz fix it?” What does that tell anyone? Make sure that you outline the problem and give specific details of what the problem is. Include the following:
- Post a link to a screenshot of the problem – you can use a free tool like Jing to take a screenshot and upload it instantly to screencast.
- If your site is live include a link to it.
- Your WordPress version.
- The theme you have installed
- Any plugins you have installed
- What you have already tried
All of this information will help your support person to help you.
This is the wrong way to do it:
3. Be patient
If you are posting on a support forum you may find that it takes someone a few hours to get back to you. Remember, online forums are global and it may be that the people answering the questions are in bed. Or they’re busy with their day jobs. Alex Rabe, for example, who developed NextGen Gallery has received 14 support requests today (and it’s only 3pm). He answers these promptly, and for free. If he doesn’t answer in five minutes there’s no need to get anxious. The world does not revolve around you and your problems – which this guy seems to have forgotten:
4. Be polite
What you’ve got to remember is that if you are looking for free support then you are dealing with people who are helping you out of their own generosity. There is nothing in it for them except the warm fuzzy feeling that comes with solving a problem and making someone happy. A plugin developer releases a plugin and gives his or her time to support it as well. Same for theme developers. That’s a lot of hours of work, for free. And it’s quite possible that you are either saving or making money from their work. You should treat your devs, designers and support folks with respect. They are what make all of this possible. Don’t abuse them on forums, harangue them by email or give them crap because they haven’t got that (free) update out when you need it. Here’s how not to do it:
So now you know how to ask for support let’s take a look at where you can get it:
The Obvious Places
The first place I look for help is Google. Google is the source of all knowledge. Sometimes I ask it “What should I have for dinner?” or “Is getting married a good idea?” I always find a useful answer. Pretty much any problem that you have will have already been encountered by someone else. This is just as true for WordPress as it is for anything else. Someone, somewhere, will have written up how to fix your problem:
Tip: if you are using Google and all of the answers are coming from years ago you can use the advanced search to search a specific time frame. This will mean you’ll find a solution that is more likely to be for a WordPress version that you are using.
Go to advanced search:
Select “past year”
These results should be more relevant to the version of WordPress that you are using.
Where else would you go for support than straight to the source? The WordPress support forums are a great place to ask any support questions that you have. Specific Theme and Plugin tags are normally managed by developers, but there is a huge team of volunteers that are always on hand to answer support questions.
Update: Chip has pointed out that if you are asking plugin or theme specific questions on the WordPress.org support forums you should post your query on the extended listing page for the plugin or theme, i.e. wordpress.org/extend/themes/theme-name or wordpress.org/extend/plugins/plugin-name. This will ensure your query is tagged with the plugin or theme name and add it to the correct forum. The subject line of the topic will also be appended with the theme or plugin name.
This helps you out as well as the volunteers as most devs will subscribe to the RSS feed of their specific forum, so this should help you to get your query answered more quickly.
Similar to the WordPress.org forums but for BuddyPress. Like their sister-site, the BuddyPress support forums are manned by volunteers. At the minute, the BuddyPress community is smaller than the WordPress community so the pool of volunteers isn’t so big. However, they are just as committed. If you have any BuddyPress expertise you could even think about helping out.
The IRC server is chat.freenode.net and the Channel is #WordPress
For BuddyPress use the same server and the Channel #BuddyPress
I logged into the #WordPress room and it had more than 300 people in it. I was like “Wow! I’m bound to get help in here!” But then no one spoke.
I think that the chatrooms are largely dependent on the time zone you are in. As a UK-dweller I can’t find anyone mid-morning but as it gets later it tends to get busier. I think this is because many of the chatters are based in America. But if you’re desperate for an instant answer it’s a good place to see if there is anyone around to help you out.
WP Tavern has been around for a long time and although it was shut to new members for a few months, it has recently opened its doors again. There’s a great community spirit around WP Tavern and there’s always loads of people who can help you out with your WordPress problems. There are a number of different forums, from general WordPress discussion to resources to business to troubleshooting.
Have you noticed it? Appearing there on our nav bar? That’s right, we’ve integrated our new Q&A plugin straight into WPMU.org. That means you can post your questions and get answers from the team here and from people across the community. Visitors to the Q&A can vote on their favorite answers, giving out reputation points to the other users.
WordPress Answers is a Q&A site built for WordPress developers and administrators. It was created as part of the Stack Exchange Area 51 Project. Last year saw its Beta and it was such a success that it was launched. If you like a different format to the standard support forum then it’s definitely worth a try. There are a number of community moderators in place to make sure that everything is running smoothly. There is a healthy amount of activity.
If you want more face-to-face WordPress support you could try attending one of the WordPress Meet-ups. While they are not purely for support they are a great place to go to learn new tricks and tips. If you’re having problems you might be able to find someone to help you sort them out. It’s also a good way to meet other WordPress lovers and get involved with the WordPress community.
The Less Obvious
There are some places you might not think to ask for help as they don’t have “WordPress” in their name, but there are more general places offering WordPress help.
Launched in 2010, Quora is one of the new pretenders to the Q&A model, but it’s already proving to be hugely popular. You can log in easily using you Facebook account and then start asking questions. And you’ll find that there are people out there ready to answer. Just type your question into the search box and see what sort of answers people come up with.
The only problem with Quora is that the search function pretty much sucks. You type your question into the box and it searches to see if there are similar questions. That’s it. You can’t search the answers. However, someone has set up a Google Custom Search Engine which you can use to search Quora more thoroughly.
Stack Overflow is a programming experts Q&A site. It’s collaboratively built and run, with members able to contribute to the overall project by asking questions, answering questions and becoming moderators. There are nearly 7,000 questions tagged “WordPress.” Whereas you’ll find Quora useful for lots of general questions about WordPress, Stack Overflow is the place to be if you have more technical questions. It’s a community of developers so you should be able to find help for your programming needs.
There are people who are willing to help you out on Twitter. I certainly wouldn’t recommend tweeting developers and demanding their help, but there are some helpful people out there. At the wpmuorg twitter account, for example, Sarah frequently answers support requests from people in the community:
BuddyPress can sure be a pain. Anyone know a plugin that requires admin approval for all blogs on BP?
@ltruex Are you getting a lot of spam? Or just want to approve users?
I’m sure that there are other people who must be helping out. If you know of anyone, let us know in the comments!
But yes, what about commercial support? There is plenty of it about – many theme shops will have a support forum that you will get access to for purchasing a premium service. This approach is particularly good if you are using specific themes and plugins as it means that the people with specific expertise in your tools will be able to answer your questions.
Remember, if you’re paying for a service you can expect to get your answers more quickly. It’s a whole different situation to getting free support. This is why if you’re a business or enterprise you might find commercial support more suited to your needs. Free support is great but sometimes it’s better to know that you’re going to get an answer whenever you need it.
Of course, we at WPMU.org are pretty partial to our sister site – WPMU DEV – especially since we have our Help and Support Pros on call 24 hours a day to answer any questions that we have. WPMU DEV’s support forums are manned by Mason, Philip and David. Check them out:
Our support team answers around 300 support requests a day. As well as the support team the development and design team are regularly on call to answer questions. WPMU DEV also has Live Support chat and Skype for more instant support.
Can you recommend anywhere else to get support? I’m sure I must have missed some places so we’d love to hear about them!