A Checklist for When “The Website Just Doesn’t Work”

We’ve all come across this frustrating moment, that nothing more than a simple “it doesn’t work” is provided.

And you have 1 hour to fix it.

Does it really not work?

It might be a good idea to figure out if the claim truly holds.

  • Can the website be accessed on your laptop?
  • Can the website be accessed on your phone, with cellular data?
  • Can your friends in another timezone access it?
  • Does the browser show any useful information?

It kinda works, but in a whacky way

Or, you only get a white screen.

  • Are any of the external resources your front-end references working? (Open your developer console and check the network tab)
  • Does clearing the local cache help it?

When nobody can access it

It’s a good sign for you to become worried. But you don’t need to panic yet.

  • Is the web server running?
  • Is the edge router/reverse proxy/load balancer running?
  • Is your service running?
  • Is your DNS record correct?
  • Is your SSL certificate valid?

When the above checks all pass without issues, you can now panic a little. And check the following:

  • Does the server still exist?
  • Is the server connected to the internet, and is listening on the correct ports?
  • Can you at least ping the server?

To be honest, at this point there’s not a whole lot you can do. The problem is probably beyond what you can fix. (Maybe the datacenter went offline, for example.)

When only some of us can access it

If this is the conclusion, then you can probably pinpoint the problem along the way as the request travels from the client to your server. Something went wrong during that time.

  • Did you recently updated your DNS record?
  • Are the people who cannot access the website at least getting the correct IP address resolved?
  • Can the people who cannot access the website at least ping your server?
  • Does it only fail when it’s over a certain ISP?

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