How to Choose an Extension? Part 2: Support
In Part 1 we looked at some selection steps, now let's go deeper into some of those steps. The one that we call "Please, I need some help...", or, in a word: support. Remember that support on an extension is crucial, but also your input toward the support is also crucial! Let's go over some tips, and remember these come from my personal point of view...
Ever feel totally lost when you're trying a new extension? Does it seem like support on the other side of the world doesn't understand you? Well I'm sure the support providers feel the same way sometimes.
Before buying or installing a new extension, always have a glance at the support. How does it work? By tickets? By forum? By direct mail? Do they have free support, or do you need to get a subscription? There are a lot of questions to ask and actually it doesn't stop there. What is their response time, can they nail the ticket from the first submission, etc.?
So let's say I found an extension and have a problem because I want to activate a feature of that extension but can't find it. I can search in Google (I actually do this a lot, not just for extensions, but for all kinds of J!-stuff) or, and here comes the topic of this article, I contact the developer's support.
First I check to see whether a simple registration is enough or if I should get a subscription. But of course you checked this already when you went through the first part of how to choose an extension. I log in to the developer's website and directly submit a ticket. Oh wait, is there a manual? This is a good time to read it first. Most questions or troubles already occurred before you started your project. A good developer will put those in the manual (hint hint developers if you haven't done that yet).
In this case, the manual didn't answer my question or issue, so the next step is contacting the actual support. Depending on what the developer offers, you will do this by ticket, forum, email or phone. Whatever system you use, prepare thyself! Supporters can't answer questions that are not well explained. It will annoy the support team as well as yourself because you won't get the answer you want.
So what do they need to know? They need an exact problem description (which you might even want to clarify with a screenshot). Write down the steps you did before the problem occurred. Note the version of your Joomla installation (e.g. 2.5.11 ), and the extension version. It is also useful to indicate which hoster you're on, the versions of PHP and MySQL.
If the developer uses a ticket system, most of the above fields will be requested, if not, write them down in the remarks. Support teams, please do add those fields.
If a forum is used, you have to write down everything yourself, so make sure you do it on an orderly way. The same for email support.
If support asks you for a login, don't just give the super user (hopefully it's called something other than admin), but create a seperate login for them (it might also be a super user account). After the support is finished, disable it. Don't worry - if you are using reputable extensions with decent support, they won't try to hack your site. (Tip: don't ever give your super user account login on a public forum or ticket!)
So, after we submit our support request it might take some hours, maybe days, and in the worst case about a year before we get the solution, but that is rare. Submitting tickets and picking up the phone usually get the fastest results, followed by email and finally forums. The quality of the solutions tend to follow the same order.
When we do get a reply, we read it of course, and then DO what the support guy says. If you are still stuck, don't just tell them it doesn't work. If the solution is too complicated for you, ask the support team to give you a hand (which might be at extra cost) or look for reliable freelancers. How to find a reliable freelancer will be one of the next articles. It might be that a problem takes more than 1 or 2 tickets, but stay calm and friendly, and together you will find a solution.
I'm almost at my word count, so in the next issue i'll come back for a very short paragraph on support. By the way, support givers are people, so if they helped you out, be sure to say thank you!