Over on my Simple Facebook Connect page, there’s lots of comments from users with problems. Having answered these for a while now, via there and via email, I’ve come to the conclusion that people don’t search for answers to their problems.

The “How to fix the Email Domain” problem is answered on that one page no less than 6 times, for example. Almost all the rest of the problems given come from the “wrong connect URL setup” issue.

So if you don’t want to do support all the time, I think you have to make your plugin smarter. Take the most common issues you see and make the plugin auto-detect the problems. That’s what I’ve done with SFC version 0.16, for example.

Error Messages

Error messages now show up when the user configured something wrong on Facebook.

The plugin now can detect these two major causes of problems and will display an error message. It also provides a link to the right place on Facebook to go and correct these problems. It can’t actually fix the problems directly (though that is possible… small steps), but I hope this will eliminate the need for me to continually have to answer the same questions over and over again.

So my tip for the day for plugin programmers: For robustness, make your plugin check for commonplace issues. And the issues that you think will be commonplace may not be the ones you expect, so figure on having to add more and more checks every time.



  1. Nice job! I have a problem with the User Status Widget, it keeps showing that needs an update after updating it several times (autoupdate)

  2. I understand this perfectly! Setting up the support forum was some relief. I still get emails from lazy users who refuse to use the forum.

    Emails get ignored.

  3. […] all, it’s a well known thing that people don’t read things properly, and instead just look for the most obvious buttons to click […]

  4. I’ve been doing this sort of thing for a while now. It works really well.

    I was being inundated with people as questions about how to write their own CSS, so I just wrote a CSS generator so they could make their own. It immediately plummeted the number of questions I was getting to a trickle in comparison to the previous torrent. Amusingly people still ask questions about how to edit CSS despite the changes they’re looking for being possible in the CSS generator, but at least those questions are lightning quick to answer (copy and paste “You can do that via the following CSS generator …. “).

    I have a standard template in GMail for responding to free support requests too which saves a lot of time for me:
    For email support please try our Premium Support service (URL removed). For free support, please try our support forum (URL removed).


  5. […] Users Don’t Read By Lorelle VanFossen, posted Jun 21 2010 at 4:19 am | View CommentsIn “Plugin Programming Tip: Your Users Don’t Read,” Otto once again gets right to the point that all WordPress Plugin authors – and Theme […]

  6. We get plenty of support e-mails from people where we politely tell them at the end of the response that the best place for theme support is in the dedicated forums.

    What do they do? Just reply to the e-mail with another support question.. I don’t know whether they just don’t trust the forum, or think they will only get a timely response via e-mail. Who knows.

    What we do now which seems pretty effective is to answer the question in the forum (with the original question included) and just reply to the e-mail with a link to the forum post.

Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Need to post PHP code? Wrap it in [php] and [/php] tags.