Web pages are designed and written by human beings and this means that errors can creep in, even with modern tools like spell checkers. But once you've found an error on a website, there are some things you should always do in order to get the problem fixed as quickly as possible. Follow these guidelines to get errors you've found on your websites or other websites fixed.
What is the URL?
You should always include the URL of the page with the error. Don't ever assume that the owner or Web developer will know what page you're looking at. If the URL is really long, or you've forgotten it, write down what you searched for or how you got to the page in question so that the owner can get to it easily.
If you don't include a URL, don't expect your request to be taken seriously. Most Web developers are working all the time, and don't have time to go searching for a page where they wrote "teh" instead of "the". Yes, it would be nice if it were fixed, but fixing that typo won't pay next month's rent, and completing the design due tomorrow will. If you include a URL, they can go straight to the page, fix it, and be done in a few minutes of downtime while they work on their current project.
What is the Error?
The other critical element to a Web error page report is describing the error. While some designers might want you to include as much detail as possible (steps to reproduce, OS and browser version, other applications running, time of day, phase of the moon, etc.) at the very minimum include what needs to be fixed.
Don't expect a fast response if you say something like "There's a typo on page 2 <URL>" Also, if you're reporting a spelling error, it helps if you include the word as it was misspelled as well as the correct spelling. It's much easier to search for the wrong spelling and then correct it than it is to scan through the document looking for an error that you missed the first time you edited it.
If you are reporting an error that goes beyond a typo or grammar error, it is helpful if you suggest corrections to the owner. For example, if you're reporting a factual error in the content, you should include what the facts really are as well as pointing out the error.
Don't expect the designer to take your corrections without checking them first. But most people appreciate it when you take the time to report errors in their content. It also helps if you cite your sources. If you want them to take your correction seriously then pointing to a definitive source (such as the W3C for my site) will be viewed more favorably than just saying "you got it wrong!"
Be Polite! Be Polite! Be Polite!
The last and most important part of reporting an error on a website, especially to someone you don't know, is to be polite. You are writing to another human being who deserves respect and if you want your suggestions to be taken seriously at all, you should treat them that way. If you really feel it's important enough to report the problem then it should be important enough to be polite about it.
- Don't call them names or get abusive
- Don't tell them to "use a spellchecker" or otherwise act like their grammar school teacher
- Don't tell them that because they found one typo on their site, all of the facts on their site are suspect
- Don't accuse them of lying
- Stay coherent and keep your facts straight
If you can't be polite, then the best you can expect is no response at all. And if you do get a response, especially if it is them telling you that they'll fix the problem, you should definitely be polite in response. Nothing will get your request moved to the delete pile faster than a snarky reply to my "thanks I'll get this fixed" answer.
Web Designers Want Their Pages to Be Correct
If you just remember that most Web designers want their pages to be correct and accurate it should be easier to report problems and get them fixed. The majority of people out there don't like typos any more than you do, and calling them to their attention is sufficient to get most of them fixed. And if you include the items listed above, you'll see the fixed pages that much more quickly.