What is the Tech Support Guy Talking About?

Common Tech Terms and Issues for Non-Technical Online Entrepreneurs

Technical Support Tips
Don't get overwhelmed by tech support. Fiona Jackson-Downes and Nick White | Getty Images

The advancement of easy-to-use technology means anyone, even technophobes, can build an online presence. However, like everything else in life, sometimes technical issues occur that require help. The problem is that many tech support staff speak a language most people don’t understand. Here are a few tech terms you should know when seeking technical support for online issues.

Browser and Version

If you have technical issues with a website (yours or one you’re using) and you seek help, it’s common to be asked what browser and browser version you’re using.

Browser:

A browser is a program that turns the code on a website into something you can read and use. Because browsers interpret code differently, it's possible to have an issue on one browser, but not on another. 

Most computers come with a default browser program. Windows computers have Explorer or, if you have Windows 10, Edge.  Apple computers have Safari. However, these are not your only options. Two other popular browsers are Chrome, from Google, and Firefox from Mozilla.

Browser Version

Like most technical items, new versions that fix problems and/or add features are issued on a regular basis. Each one of these updates has a number. When asked what browser version you’re using, the tech person wants to know the number.  The best way to find the version you’re using is to find where the “About” information is kept in your browser.

Microsoft Edge: Click the three dot icon in the browser and “Settings.” At the bottom of the settings box you’ll information about your browser version.

Safari (Apple computers): Click on the Safari icon in your browser and select “About.”

Chrome: Click the menu button (3 horizontal lines). A drop-down list appears that includes “Help and About.” 

Firefox: Click the menu icon (3 horizontal lines), select the help icon (question mark), and then select “About.”

Cookies/Temp Files/Cache

Sometimes, the tech support person will suggest deleting cookies, temp files and cache.  

Cookies are tiny files that are downloaded to your computer from a website. They can be helpful in delivering a personal experience to you, as well as helping a company know you. Many affiliate programs use them as a way to give a referrer credit if the buyer left the site before buying, but comes back later to buy. The cookie dropped on the first visit reports who made the referral so he gets credit for the sale.

Temporary files or temp files are created when a program is being used. They can be helpful for quick access to previously viewed items or recovering lost data. However, they also take up room.

Cache, pronounced “cash,” in relation to the Internet is similar to cookies and temporary files, in that it’s online information stored on your computer. It helps websites you’ve been to before load faster. The problem is, sometimes the site has been updated. Clearing your cache ensures you’re getting the more recent version of the site.

Deleting cookies and cache can be done through your browser, although each is a little different.

MS Edge: Click on the menu (three dots) and select “Settings.” Click on “Clear Browsing Data” and select what you want to clear.

Your options include cookies, files (i.e. temp files) and cache, as well as form data, downloads, and passwords.

Safari: Click on the Safari icon and select “Clear History and Website Data.” Decide what you want to get rid of and click on “Clear History.”

Chrome: Click on the menu icon and select “More Tools.” Select “Clear Browsing Data” and a new tab will open with a box. Choose what you want to get rid of and the time range you want to delete items from. Click on “Clear Browsing Data.”

Firefox: Click on the menu button and select “Options.” Click on “Advanced” and then the “Network” tab. Where it says “Cached Web Content” click on “Clear Now.”

HTML

HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language which is code that tells browsers how to display information on a website. In the beginning of the Internet, you had to know HTML and other computer languages to build websites.

Today, you can create websites much in the same way you write word processing documents. Instead of knowing the code for bolding a word, you can click the “B” on the template or theme you’re using to build your website. With that said, it doesn’t hurt to know a few of the more common HTML codes. Many times, an issue with your website is due to a stray or missing bit of code. Check out his article “HTML Code Website Owners Should Know,” for more information.

FTP

FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol, which is used to transfer (upload or download) files from a computer to a host server. In other words, if you have a file or graphic on your computer that you want to appear online, you can use FTP to upload the file to the server hosting your website and corresponding files.  At one time, you needed an FTP program such as FileZilla to upload your website to your web host. Today, most web hosts have file transfer built into their service so you can upload files and graphics from within your control panel or dashboard.

Issues occur when you upload content to the wrong folders. For example, if you have a red X appearing on your website where a photo should be, odds are the information given to the browser about where the graphic file is located is wrong. If the browser is told the photo is at yoursite.com/images/photo.jpg, but you put the file in the root folder (yoursite.com/photo.jpg), the photo won’t appear. You either need to move the photo to the images folder or recode the webpage to tell the browser to look for the photo in the root folder.

Template/Theme

One of the best advances in website building is the ability to make a great site without knowing how to code. Templates and themes are pre-made designed web pages into which you put your text and graphics. Content management platforms such as WordPress has tons of themes that not only set the color and font, but also the placement of items on the page. Most web hosts offer content management platforms (i.e. WordPress or Joomla), as well as templates.

However, not all templates and themes work well with all browsers or plugins and addons.

PlugIns/Addons

Plugins and addons are bits of programming for your website or browser. In WordPress, a plugin can send blog updates to social media. Addons are used with browsers to enhance your experience. For example, you can have an addon from Hootsuite that makes it easy to post a website you’re on  to social media.

While plugins and addons can be helpful, time saving and fun, sometimes they don’t play well with others. Some plugins don’t work well with other plugins or themes. Some addons can mess up your online experience. For example, my password management addon needs to be off when I’m doing About.com work.