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How To Contact Web Sites For Web Compatibility Issues

A lot of the content in this document has already been written in How to do sites outreach?. Let's go over it again. There is no way to ensure a methodology which is 100% effective. A lot come from practices, hunch and patience.

How To Behave?

When it's time to track down someone to help get the fix implemented, it is useful to keep in mind a few tips on doing outreach:

  • Be tactful: People we are trying to reach have their own set of constraints, bosses, economic choices, etc. "Your web site sucks" will not lead anywhere, except NOT getting the site fixed.
  • Be humble: We are no better, we also do mistakes in our own practices. We recommend things which might change one day because of the technical/economical circumstances.
  • Let it go: Sometimes it just doesn't work. The person at the end of the other line may say "no" or worse, not answer. It can be very frustrating. Accept it and move on.
  • Be passionate: The passion is in being able to find the right contact in a company without harassing them. Every effort helps.
  • Share with consideration Share any contact you attempted or made in the issue comments section. It helps everyone to know the status so they can pitch in or not repeat work. That said - be careful to not disclose private information such as names and emails if these contacts were not found publicly. You may simply say: "I contacted someone at $COMPANY", "Someone from $COMPANY said this..."

The Fabric Of Web Sites

There's not one way of making Web sites. Some Web sites are made in-house by a team of Developers hired by the company itself. Sometimes there are projects which are created by multiple Web agencies (marketing and development).

Scripts, images, design may come from different sources with their own source of bugs. A good analysis will provide a way to understand who you might want to reach out first. For example, a company Web site will use WordPress for the backend and a template from a third party company, the mistake is the template code. You will need then to get the template fixed and to have the company to update to the new version.

Some sites have no budget anymore to be updated. Some sites have very precise release cycles based on a yearly schedule, sometimes more. Understanding the structure of the web site may help in some circumstances.

Techniques For Finding Contacts

Does the web site have a Twitter account?

If the Twitter account seems to be run by a person, it can be a good start for initial contact. A twitter account with a real person behind usually answers the questions of people, check the Tweet & Replies section. Ask who you should contact with the fix.

If the Twitter account is just broadcasting information, move on. You will lose time. Try to reach out through another mean.

Does the web site have a support email or an issue tracker?

This is a simple one, but there's no guarantee that your request will be addressed. Most of the time the responses are automatic but it's better than nothing. If in return you get an ID, reference number and/or a URI, put it in the issue comments. Sometimes bug reports are closed without notice. It really depends on who is behind the triage of the bug reporting system.

Who/What is creating the web site?

Going through digital marketing Web site and magazine might help in finding who (person) or what (Web marketing agency) created the Web site. While the person in charge of changing the site is at the company, the people who will be doing the work might be from an external agency. Finding out the agency might help you channel the information upstream to the company, if there are still in good terms.

Search for a human

It's wonderful when you can find the right person right away. But more often it's not the case. So the goal here is about finding someone who will be kind enough to lead you to the right person. Human networks are often more effective than the company process for dealing with customer issues.

Some professions are more public than others. Some developers exposed themselves more than others. For example, developers such as Front-End developers, Web Designers, are easier to contact than backend or DB developers.

Linkedin

This doesn't necessary work with all countries, but worth trying. For example, in Japan and China it's a lot more difficult to find a contact through linkedin. You can start for example in your favorite search engine with: 'Web developer' $COMPANY_NAME site:linkedin.com. This will list names of people who are likely to work there, some of them in their profile will have contact information and often Twitter accounts, personal web sites or emails. Their linkedin username might be very similar to their username on other social networks.

Once you reached a profile page, in the right column, you may found other people working at the same company. You will also notice that often people who puts their photos on the linkedin profile are often more reachable.

'Web Developer' might not always be the right string to search. Depending on the countries, people will label themselves differently such as 'Web Engineer' or 'Software Developer'.

Twitter

Some people put their company affiliation in Twitter. Tweet or DM them if possible and ask who to contact. Always check if the Twitter account is active. Some people haven't used their account for ages. If so, move on.

Slideshare

When you can't find the information about a developer, you might want to try to search something such as $COMPANY_NAME site:slideshare.net or any appropriate keywords that will make you closer to a contact. Some companies have their developers speaking at conferences about issues with performances, etc. Be careful of talks related to sales or marketing. In the slides, there is often the contact information of the developer.

Github

Search by individual person or by company names. Many developers have either company projects online and/or their personal projects. As usual be careful to not abuse or harass people with your requests.

When you find a company repository, check the most recent project, and you might find who are the recent committers on the code. These are the ones who are the most recently active and likely to respond to your request. The backend of Webcompat.com is provided by GitHub so you may want to comment with @username syntax to reach out a specific developer.

Web designer

Sometimes when you can't reach a web developer, you may try to reach web designers who have also their own type of social networks such as dribbble.com. Usually they have contacts with web developers and may be able to give an introduction. In some web agencies, the web designer will be a good initial contact. Again, be tactful and don't make the life of the web designer harder in his/her own company.

Corporate emails

This may work time to time. When you know the person is working in a specific company (You have last and first name), but you have been unable to find any contacts at all through twitter and so on. You might want to find out through search engines and/or people working at this company how the email addresses have been created. You may find that the pattern is firstname.lastname@company.example.org or lastnameF@, etc. You can try to send an email.

The person will be probably surprised on how did you get the email address. So there is a risk to anger the person. Be gentle and just explain how you found the person.

Try this email format tool.

  • whois. Some Web sites have their contact information in the whois of the Web site. It's becoming rarer and rarer, because people receive spam because of it.
  • Check the terms and conditions or privacy policy for email addresses. There could be hidden in long blocks of text so a search for @ is helpful. There may also be links in a website's footer to an investor or media relations page which could have a contact address, but be careful not to annoy the company by sending mails about bugs to addresses that are clearly not relevant (e.g. investors@example.com).
  • Friend of a friend. You are likely well connected in the industry. And it's why, if you are a Mozilla contributor in a specific country, you are a very important asset for the work we are doing. Local social networks in between companies is a lot denser. Search your LinkedIn, Twitter and Github for connections who might be connected to that company.
  • Find the home site. Sometimes a Web site belongs to a bigger company (think about a Game company with many brands, or a TV broadcaster, different services such as Google, Yahoo!, etc.), finding the home site will help understand the structure of the company and might lead to the department which is really in charge of the Web site.
  • Check for unique technologies that can search for. Sometimes you may have additional hints about the technology used on the Web site and the type of people related to the site through the hiring page of the company. In small company Web sites, you will discover the programming languages which are used, these will help reduce the search.

Patience

All of these techniques are not 100% perfect. They might fail more often than you wish. Sometimes you need to try multiple times and develop new techniques for finding the right person.

If you have any other tips, recommendations on how to contact the right person, please come on IRC and tell us on freenode #webcompat and/or irc.mozilla.org #webcompat.

Otsukare!