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Shatter the Mirror: Can People Contact You if Your Site’s Broken?

By Jessica Albon

Broken mirror
Image by Leviticus6

I’ve just spent the last thirty minutes trying to find contact information on someone whose site has been hacked. I’ve never met this woman before, but she’d left a comment on Clayton Makepeace’s blog and her site url looked interesting so I clicked over, discovered that the site had been hacked and seriously considered just letting it go because she’s got to know about the problem, right?

But then I thought, well, it won’t take much time to type the url into Google, look at the cached version, and find an email address or phone number there with which to contact her just in case she’s unaware…

Famous last words.

As far as I can tell, there’s no contact information anywhere on her site. (How people get in touch when they want to hire her is anyone’s guess.) When I Google her name, I get a couple of articles, a Twitter feed, a Digg account, a LinkedIn profile… But not one single direct contact method.

So, here I am, a half hour later, typing up a blog post to say: Shatter the mirror. I can *see* her, but I can’t *connect* with her. It’s like she’s in an interrogation room, and there I am, looking at her through the window, but all she’s seeing is a mirror’s reflection.

Sites get hacked. And when they do, it’d be nice if you were easy enough to find so that a good Samaritan could let you know about the problem. How can you make sure you’re not the one, sitting unaware, looking into a mirror instead of seeing the person on the other side who really, really wants to get in touch with you?

  1. Put a STAFFED phone number on your site. I know, you have all kinds of perfectly good reasons not to, but if you really want to make it foolproof for people to be able to get in touch with you, put an actual # on your home page, and perhaps on every page in the entire site. Make this number one someone will actually answer if you really want to make me happy. (And I know you want to make me happy ;-).)
  2. Don’t rely on a domain-based email account or contact form. Because I don’t know the extent of this particular hack job, I’m not sure if she has access to email coming to her domain or not, but just in case *you* don’t in an emergency, make sure that there are ways to get in touch with you that are unrelated to your domain name. (In other words, add a Skype username or a Gmail address or anything that’s not
  3. Stop worrying about spam so dang much and start worrying about whether or not human beings can say hello. Seriously, emptying your email of spam takes what, 15 minutes, max? It’s not like they’re hard to pick out from the legitimate messages. Err on the side of being easy to get in touch with. Please. And, if you get *that much* spam that it takes you days to empty it out, you either need a better filter system or you need an assistant. So get one.
  4. How about a mailing address, just for kicks. I would totally be sending her a postcard if I could find a mailing address because I am stubborn like that. Sure, most people who discover your site’s been hacked are not that persistent, but we’re not talking about them. We’re talking about you. Post a mailing address, please.

Sooner or later, there will be a really important reason that someone will need to get in touch with you pronto and your website will make that impossible (for whatever reason). Do all you can to make life a little easier for that person who goes to great lengths to get in touch anyway.

Got your own tale of trying to contact a website owner only to run into trouble? Tell me about it–maybe then I won’t feel so goofy for wasting so much time trying to track down information on someone I don’t even know.



Grace Feb 12, 2009

It’s so great to find that someone else tries to tell people when their sites are broken! I’m with you – I always try to contact the site owner when I find a broken link, screwy page layout, or, as you say, something’s been hacked.

I have my contact info on my Contact page (what a concept, huh?). That includes snail-mail and phone number (and yes, it’s MY phone number!).

I’d also add … people, please visit your own site every now and then, just to make sure it still looks the way you thought it did. You don’t even need to be hacked for something weird to happen. My site host made some updates a few weeks ago, and broke several things on my site. (Sigh. All fixed now, though.)

It’s also kinda fun to reread your website and remind yourself of why you do what you do, and what you’re offering. You may discover that something needs to be updated – and you also may find that wow, this sounds way cool! 😉

Jessica Feb 13, 2009

That’s a fantastic tip, Grace. I’m always surprised at how many people don’t visit their own sites regularly and just trust that it’s still working properly.