Why solving the problem isn’t enough – A Support Workshop

The workshop

When working in customer service, you’re supposed to always give the (technically) correct answer. While working in customer service for a Dutch internet provider I learned that the right answer often isn’t enough. This has influenced every conversation I’ve had since.

In this session, I’ll share the insights my team lead gave me, and help you use them.

When is it

Tuesday, October 3, 2017, 17:00 UTC, it will last for an hour and includes Q&A.

A link to the Zoom teleconference will be provided in the #forums Slack channel about 10 minutes before the session begins.

How do I join

The session will be run via videoconference and will be recorded. Please download the free Zoom app ahead of time. You can run Zoom on most desktop and mobile devices.

Who will be hosting it

Taco Verdonschot quickly switched from being a developer to doing customer support after joining Yoast and is now responsible for a team of 10 Support Engineers. He’s active in the WordPress community both as a polyglot, and as a WordCamp and meetup organizer.

Agenda for September 21st Support Meeting

  • General announcements
  • WordPress 4.8.2 – What’s popping up
  • Checking in with international liaisons
  • Time permitting: Open floor

For any other items to discuss please add them in the comments below, or bring them up in the meeting.

The meeting will be Thursday, September 21, 2017, 16:00 UTC in #forums on Slack. (a Slack account is required)

September 14th Support Team Meeting Summary

“Slightly” delayed summary this week, apologies, as I’ve not been in.

A special thank you to @hardeepasrani and @mjjojo for taking up the mantle for the weekly meeting!

General announcements

We’re working on the next support workshop, this time with a focus on the plugin side of things.

WordPress 4.9

Preparations for the 4.9 BBQ post are about to begin, likely with a heavy focus on the new editors and how to break-fix your site.

Support representatives for plugins

A much requested feature has landed in the plugin directory, and plugin authors can now appoint others as representatives of their plugin.

Representatives will have a label, much like moderators and plugin authors already had, which declare them as official representatives of the currently viewed plugin forums.

Checkin with international liaisons

The Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, Greek and Hindi communities stopped by to let us know that things are going according to plan. I love it when a plan comes together!


@anevins, @bcworkz, @bdbrown, @bethannon1, @cristianozanca, @fierevere, @geoffreyshilling, @hardeepasrani, @keesiemeijer, @mjjojo, @numeeja, @pmfonseca, @rohittm, @stephencottontail, @sterndata, @t-p, @tobifjellner and @xkon attended.

Read the meeting transcript in the Slack archives. (A Slack account is required)


Agenda for September 14th Support Meeting

  • General announcements
    • Testing the Better code Edits, core is looking to merge it this week (or have already by the time our meeting hits, in which case please keep testing if you can)
    • The info page for core ticket is progressing nicely, progression feedback or new thoughts are still welcome
  • Checking in with international liaisons
  • If time permits it: Open floor

For any other items to discuss please add them in the comments below, or bring them up in the meeting.

The meeting will be Thursday, September 14, 2017, 16:00 UTC in #forums on Slack. (a Slack account is required)

September 7th Support Team Meeting Summary

Checking with international liaisons

Things are trotting along nicely in the Swedish, Spanish, Italian and German communities, the Spanish team also hit a milestone of not having a single topic without an answer!

If you’re part of the support community but not using the WordPress forums, feel free to join as well, we know that it’s not for everyone to be on WordPress.org, that shouldn’t limit you from joining and sharing experiences.

Clarification on User Notes usage

User notes come with an edit feature, this is intended for fixing typos, or fixing incorrect information in a user note, it does not change who created the note for this reason. If you have information on a user, you should add your own new note, to maintain the history in the right chronological order.

Non-org themes or plugins

We sometimes get support requests for themes (or plugins) that are open and free for everyone, but not on WordPress.org, there’s nothing wrong with this, they may not have a proper support outlet for example.

As an example here, we’ll use themes you can get from Jetpack after their recently introduced theme feature, these are free themes not (yet) available on WordPress.org that users may need help with, in such cases adding the wpcom-theme tag will bring it to the attention of the Automattic theme team. So far they’re the only ones that watch tags on the forums like this that we’re aware of, but we would happily encourage other theme shops with free themes or plugins to do the same. Please note that these alerts aren’t global across all forums though, so from our example they only work on the international forums.

I put emphasis on free, as our guidelines are still in effect with regards to supporting premiums content on our forums.


@anevins, @bcworkz, @bethannon1, @clorith, @cristianozanca, @danhgilmore, @fernandot, @geoffreyshilling, @glorialchemica, @ipstenu, @jcastaneda, @jdembowski, @lasacco, @luisrull, @macmanx, @mjjojo, @numeeja, @stephencottontail, @sterndata, @t-p, @thomas-vitale, @tobifjellner, @zodiac1978 and @zoonini attended.

Read the meeting transcript in the Slack archives. (A Slack account is required)


Agenda for September 7th Support Meeting

  • General announcements
  • Checking in with international liaisons
  • If time permits it: Open floor

For any other items to discuss please add them in the comments below, or bring them up in the meeting.

The meeting will be Thursday, September 7, 2017, 16:00 UTC in #forums on Slack. (a Slack account is required)

August 31st Support Team Meeting Summary

General announcements

Core is looking for help in testing the new code editors, if you are able, please test the beta plugin if you can.

Part of the drive here is to improve user education that this is a place they shouldn’t touch unless they are confident in what they are doing, and also adding more failsafes to make it harder for them to break their site.

That being said though, we know that there is no such thing as a fool proof solution, so the more potential issues we can weed out before release, the less issues we will experience in the forums after release. We are the first line of support alongside hosts own support and hand-holding a broken site from code edits is never easy, many times so when they’re not familiar with editing code outside of wp-admin.

Debug page in core

A new info.php page for core is ticketed and in the works, providing information about a users setup (think WooCommerce’s system status page) with easy copy-paste fields for putting the information straight into forum posts.

Input on what fields are of interest when providing support, as well as what information is valuable to the site owner, but not necessary something you’d want to post on the internet is also of interest in this case, if you have input on the matter please leave comments on the ticket (it’s gained a bit of traction after our meeting, which pleases me greatly).

Checking in with international support liaisons

The Italian, German, Swedish, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish communities are doing well, and more locales are getting upgraded to bbPress 2.x!

Other business

There is a need for a page template on the new forum theme for providing a table of contents/easily link section for pages such as the forum guidelines, along the lines of what the handbooks have currently.

The guidelines in them selves (both on the international forum and the rosetta sites) are ever living documents and are revised as the need arise.


@anevins, @bdbrown, @bethannon1, @clorith, @cristianozanca, @diddledan, @fierevere, @glorialchemica, @hideokamoto, @jcastaneda, @jdembowski, @josearcos, @keesiemeijer, @kenshino, @macmanx, @mjjojo, @numeeja, @pmfonseca, @polkadotcreations, @stephencottontail, @sterndata, @t-p, @tobifjellner, @zodiac1978 and @zoonini attended.

Read the meeting transcript in the Slack archives. (A Slack account is required)


Agenda for August 31st Support Meeting

Trying something a bit different, a few extra days for the agenda to give people more of a chance to bring in their own items 🙂

  • General announcements
  • Support/Debug information page in core – it’s going to be a thing, but what information is of interest in such a scenario, it should be helpful to individuals if they’re looking something up, and fine to just copy-paste into a forum post (So far inspiration is taken from WooCommerce’s system information page, and Query Monitors environment section, is this what we need, is this too much information, we’re the ones that need it more often than not, what do we look for)
  • Checking in with international liaisons

For any other items to discuss please add them in the comments below, or bring them up in the meeting.

The meeting will be Thursday, August 31, 2017, 16:00 UTC in #forums on Slack. (a Slack account is required)

August 24th Support Team Meeting Summary

Support workshop

Our first run at a support workshop was held this week, and gave some good insights into how to approach future ones where we wish to invite various support providers within the WordPress community to share how they approach the task in an effort to improve as a group.

The format of allowing questions leading up to the session, and having a Q&A at the end seems to have gone over well and we’d recommend keeping to a similar format as we’re certain users will always have questions (it also helps when people can type out questions, as they may not be comfortable with speaking, be it language barriers or otherwise).

We’re hoping to get some feedback from attendees moving forward on how they felt it all play out as well.

Checking with international support liaisons

The Russian, Swedish, Hindi, Italian and Japanese communities dropped by and let us know that things are still progressing well for them and they have no major hiccups.

Open floor

Improvements to the forum guidelines were proposed, as the derailing of a topic can occur and we didn’t have any scenario that covers when this occurs as a result of the topic owner them selves changing tracks. Some of the rosetta sites have already implemented their own variations of this and we will also introduce this to the international forums as it’s a good resource for our volunteers to refer to.


@abletec, @anevins, @bdbrown, @bethannon1, @clorith, @cristianozanca, @fierevere, @glorialchemica, @hardeepasrani, @hideokamoto, @jcastaneda, @keesiemeijer, @lasacco, @macmanx, @numeeja, @sergeybiryukov, @stephencottontail, @sterndata, @t-p, @tobifjellner, @zodiac1978 and @zoonini attended.

Read the meeting transcript in the Slack archives. (A Slack account is required)


The Developer’s Guide to Supporting Your Themes – Video and Slides

Thank you to everyone who joined me yesterday for a remote workshop, in which I shared tips for supporting WordPress themes. Participants attended from around the world, and folks asked some great questions afterwards. The presentation was recorded, and the video, slides, and notes are below.

This session was the first in a planned series born at the 2017 Community Summit, with the goal to share best practices for support across the WordPress world. Stay tuned for updates on future workshops.

Video (38 min.)



1 – Welcome to The Developer’s Guide to Supporting Your Themes

2 – I’m Kathryn Presner, and I’m a Happiness Engineer on the Theme Team at Automattic. I help people with theme questions on both WordPress.com and self-hosted sites – troubleshooting when there’s a problem, reproducing and reporting bugs, and customizing their sites to look and work how they want, whether through custom CSS or a child theme.

3 – I support over 100 themes on WordPress.org and over 300 free and premium themes on WordPress.com.

Do any of you enjoy doing theme support? Do you think of it as a necessary evil? I’ll give you tips on how to handle support so it’s less stressful, more enjoyable and satisfying.

4 – Be nice, empathetic, human, professional – If you show you’re human and care, you will help users realize you’re a real person just like they are.

Example – https://wordpress.org/support/topic/how-to-make-the-date-and-title-permanently-show-up

5 – A few nice words about a user’s site are always an added bonus, help to humanize you.

6 – Acknowledge when people are uncomfortable with your instructions, offer reassurance and explain how things can be undone.

7 – Be patient, even with thread-hijackers.

8 & 9 – This is a user who jumped into the middle of a thread where I was helping someone with a theme – asking about a completely unrelated problem. I could see that they were frustrated, and also a new user, having jumped into a couple of other threads and started a few of their own. Instead of chastising and telling them to start a new thread, I tried to find someone to help with their other thread. I ended up jumping in to help them there.

Example: https://wordpress.org/support/topic/running-motif-theme-on-org

10 – Gauge Skill Level: beginner, expert, in between – Ever heard “talk to me like I’m in kindergarten” or “I’m a total novice”? Try to adjust your explanations for the user’s level. Avoid jargony technical explanations, especially if the user is a beginner. Read between the lines if you’re not sure.

11 – Example: https://wordpress.org/support/topic/adding-banner-ads-above-header

12 – Example: https://wordpress.org/support/topic/newbie-social-icons-and-widgits

13 – Remember, folks are often frustrated at own their beginner skills!

14 – Think outside the theme: plugins, other themes – sometimes what a user wants to accomplish is much simpler or more logical with a plugin or even by switching to a different theme. Think about which route makes most sense.

15 – This user is halfway there. They’ve installed a plugin to add custom CSS, but they need help with calling in a Google font. Example: https://wordpress.org/support/topic/changing-the-font-type-in-sidebar-widgets

16 – I’ll often think of things later and add them as a p.s. and I think that’s fine!

17 – In hindsight I could have also given them a direct link to the font they were looking for on Google fonts.

18 – http://macmanx.com/2014/06/04/custom-fonts-without-plugins-for-wordpress-themes/

19 – Offer resources: Codex, tutorials, hire someone – What if something is “out of scope” for the kind of support you’re able to offer? What about that user who completely wants to change their theme, and refuses to consider a different one that might be better suited? Try to always give them somewhere to go, even if you can’t directly solve their issue, point them in the right direction, whether it’s a tutorial, Codex function, or even sending them to jobs.wordpress.net where they can hire someone for a custom job.

20 – Example: https://wordpress.org/support/topic/motif-theme-display-on-ie8

21 – Foster community: let volunteers help, acknowledge – If you give support in an open venue the WP.org forums, leave space for volunteers, especially if a question is simple. Don’t necessarily answer every thread immediately. Praise community members when they give a great answer. It’s motivating and encourages them to come back and keep helping others.

22 – Example – “Ernest, thanks for the input about the Jetpack CSS interference.”

23 – Provide theme docs, FAQ, screenshots, screencasts – The most common thing users have confusion with is how to set up their site to look like your demo, so be sure your documentation explains how to do that step-by-step. Don’t forget screenshots, screencasts, even animated GIFs can be helpful!

24 – List steps & point to documentation. Don’t skip steps or assume anything.

Example: https://wordpress.org/support/topic/featured-content-slider-3

25 – Example: https://wordpress.org/support/topic/archive-list-4

26 – Be realistic: enhancements, bugs, older browsers, uncommon devices – Be honest about bugfixes or enhancement requests, if something isn’t likely to change, say so. Set realistic user expectations. If a new feature is unlikely to be added, don’t lie, encourage to look for alternatives. If a bug is minor or doesn’t affect a lot of people and is unlikely to be fixed in the immediate future, don’t say it will.

27-29 Example: https://wordpress.org/support/topic/adding-new-widget-area

30 – Limit channel-wwitching different thread/forum/venue – What if someone asks you a simple CSS question…. for a theme that’s not yours? If you can help, help – let them know where to go next time. Frustrating to have conversation cut off before it’s begun. Always imagine it’s someone’s first time in the forums

31 – Help someone even if it’s not your theme? If bit’s a simple question and you can, why not?

Example: https://wordpress.org/support/topic/how-to-change-navigation-bar-and-box-color-on-hemingway-rewritten-1

32 – Refer out if better expertise lies elsewhere – Kind of the opposite of what I just said about channel-switching, but… sometimes it turns out that the issue isn’t with something WP-related. Try to point them in the right direction.

33 – Example: Referring a user to an AdSense forum.

34 – Best Practices: child themes, custom CSS editor – Don’t assume users realize they shouldn’t edit the original theme files or risk losing all their changes when they update the theme. For CSS-only changes, suggest using the built-in custom CSS editor – if user needs theme-file change, explain how to make child theme.

35 – You can have a template answer – TextExpander is an amazing app for Mac. Example: Guiding a user in making a child theme so they don’t lose their changes every update.

36 – Screenshot of a pluggable function – Best practices goes both ways: wrap functions in an function_exists conditional so it can be redeclared it in a child theme

37 – Happy Users = Happy You!

38 – Screenshot of a user happy they were able to make a change. “Fabulous. I also figured out how to resize it, etc. I never thought I was going to be able to do this!!! Very happy.”

39 – What About You? What are your biggest challenges? What do you want to get better at?

40 – Where to find Presentation: https://www.slideshare.net/zoonini/the-developers-guide-to-supporting-your-themes


#support, #support-workshop, #themes