Understanding users: Reading beyond the question and probing

Not everything can be answered with a predefined reply. It’s easy to leave a bad reply, and it’s often difficult to find the right language to explain a technical problem in non-technical terms, which applies both to those asking questions on the forum and those offering solutions. Take a moment to understand the real issues, including any underlying ones, and respond accordingly.

Understanding the user Understanding the user

Understanding the issue a user faces is only part of the fix and of the interaction. Get to know how technical the user is. Is he/she a new or experienced user?

The thing is everybody is welcome to the forum and often enough we can help them all but in order to do this as fast as possible and as least frustrating as possible it is a good idea to know the technical level of an user and he’s/she’s willingness to add/edit code. This way you won’t lose time writing lines of code to an user that won’t use them.

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Probing Probing

Take your time and make sure you know as much as possible, don’t hesitate to ask questions like:

  • are you self-hosted?
  • what webserver are you using?
  • what are you trying to achieve?
  • what have you tried until now and what issues have you encountered while trying that?
  • do you have ftp/ssh/wp admin access?

The above are only some examples of questions that might save you a lot of time by pointing you in to the right direction.

If you anticipate that the user could have follow-up questions or concerns, there’s no reason not to preemptively address them in your first response.