How to Google effectively as a developer

Niamh Power
3 min readFeb 15, 2018

One of the key skills as a developer that no-one talks about during any study, is the ability to effectively search for a solution to a problem or error. This is actually a skill that is refined over time, but in this blog post I am going to give you some tips on how to save yourself time and effort.

Step 1 — Keywords

First off, if you’re debugging an error message, pull out any individual information, such as file paths. This allows you to search a wider range of results.

Step 2 — Source

Where is your error coming from? Is it a library? If so, look up the library’s GitHub page (if it has one), and check out the issues page. It’s likely someone has come to this error already and has had a response with a solution.

If it hasn’t already been raised and the solution isn’t clear, raise an issue yourself, giving the developers as much information as possible. Also try and get a second opinion on your error, check on another codebase or computer, just in case it’s an issue with your set up.

Step 3 — StackOverflow

Ah, the trusty StackOverflow, what would we do without it? I often find searching directly into StackOverflow brings up results otherwise hidden by Google.

Step 4 — Describe the issue

If the problem is due to certain circumstances, try and pick out the keywords from this setup in your search term, as in step 1.

Step 5 — Ask your colleagues!

If no online methods bear any fruit, ask the person sat next to you! If you’re remote, ask on your company’s slack channel, or whatever communication method you use. Furthermore, there are many Slack groups set up that specialise in certain languages, with often fantastic communities who are incredibly helpful.

Also, never feel afraid to ask for help. More often than not other developers are more than willing to help you out, and will have faced the same issues you are at some point.

Step 6 — Explain it to yourself

A popular method for developers is known as ‘rubber duck debugging’. This is where you explain the problem to a rubber duck on your desk. 9 times out of 10 you realise the solution to your problem halfway through explaining it!

Finally, if you have any tips of your own to share, do comment below!

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Niamh Power

Senior iOS Engineer @ Yoto. All views are my own. Firebase GDE