“Ask Penny” is the place to come with all of your tech-related questions. Want to know how to tweak your web site without hiring professional help, or when is the right time to get that type of help? Bring your questions right here to the comments! Once a month Penny will be back to answer a few more.
Penny Shima Glanz is a computer scientist with a passion for information management and how we interact with technology. She started PennyWise Consulting, LLC to help solo and small businesses figure out how to make the most of their technology needs and budgets. When not wrangling technology she can be found knitting, snuggling with her cats and reading, or out on a muddy trail run at sunrise.
Today’s question: Do I need to call someone and pay or can I fix it myself? Is it possible for you fix most every technical problem you encounter yourself?
Penny’s answer: With time, yes. The real answer depends on your priorities and comfort level. I understand. Trust me, I’m all about DIY and not just for my technology.
I’ve built several computers over the years. I am a knitter and crocheter and am comfortable at the sewing machine. We fix just about everything in our own home. Despite all this DIY, I do know when to call in someone when I need to, especially around the home. I’ll install a new faucet, frame a wall, or wire up a new light, but you won’t catch me near the gas lines. Why? I grew up using power tools and among contractors, but know where I draw the line. Next time (may it not be for a good long while) I might even hire someone to move a new washing machine into the house … they’re easy to hook up, but a large and heavy appliance to wrestle into place!
What you need to determine is how whatever is broken impacts you and your business. Is it something that’s just annoying sometimes, such as part of the website looks different when you view it on your really old smart phone? Or is it something that makes it impossible for your customers to purchase what you sell and next week is the launch of your new collection? Do you have the time right now to work on making it right while still doing what your business needs for you to do?
Regardless, don’t panic and if you do this next step, you’ll be on the path to fixing it yourself or at least providing the individual you hire helpful information to diagnose and address the problem.
Do you know what caused it to break? If you aren’t sure, what likely happened right before you noticed things weren’t right? Did you update to version x.y.z of the software and now the shopping cart looks weird? Did you add a new widget to the side bar and now the navigation menu at the top looks funny? Or all of the sudden it just doesn’t seem right? For example, if you updated your website one step at a time and paused to make sure things work between updates, making backups of the files and data before you pressed that upgrade button, then reversing that one change is much easier. Even if you aren’t comfortable rolling back yourself, you can tell the person what happened and it will be a faster fix.
So what do you do now that you know that bit of code is buggy? If you want to try to find a solution yourself, go for it! The key is to be a smart researcher and not just try whatever solution pops up first in your search engine. If you have problems with a WordPress plugin update, I suggest going to the plugin’s WordPress page and reading through the changelog and support tabs. Skim through the changelog to see if any key words jump out at you to see what might have caused things to not work right. In the support tab this is where problems are posted, if a solution has been found then the topic is appended so you know it’s resolved. Skim through and see if someone has the same problem! If the software also hosts their own support forums on their own pages, check there too.
Thanks so much, Penny, for all your helpful advice! It’s always good to know when to DIY it … and when to call in a professional! And with Penny’s tips you’ll be armed for any scenario, and on your way to the fix you need!
Do you have a question for Penny? Ask it in the comments below and she’ll be back next month with more answers!