What to do in an emergency? Sit back and Relax…

May seem a bit out there, but when it comes to an emergency panicking doesn't help. It just makes things worse.


This kind of post will be geared towards the web industry, since it is something I deal with every day. It is how I look for solutions and it has done great work to ensure I don’t go nuts. I hope that this helps you too when an emergency pops up.

Let’s look at a sample scenario:

A website owner has contacted you about an emergency in their website:
“ It is broken and it does not function at all!”
He then proceeds to tell you how incompetent you are and wonder why nothing was done — even though, you did everything you could and these things just happen from time to time—.

You can look at it in two ways:

Scenario A: You contact your client back and tell him he’s a jackass for insulting your name and proceed to blame all others in your team (if you have one) or friends around you. Then you sit down and try to figure out the problem while thinking that you can do better than this client and that you could get another job or client quickly. You even debate whether this is even worth the time to fix. You frantically test it because you want to prove your client doesn't know what he’s doing and that there isn't anything wrong. You’re perfect.

Scenario B: You sit back and don’t reply to that email just yet. Take a deep breath and re-look the situation from your point of view. You even test it yourself and try to recreate the same problem so you can sit in the client’s shoes and see what he sees. Who knows, maybe there isn't even a problem. You then proceed to answer the email by saying that you will fix it and you ignore the barrage of insults(for now) from the email.

Which scenario do you think would be the best answer to this?

The answer may seem obvious, but be honest, which scenario you more than likely chose to do at this very same situation?

It’s hard to admit it, but I’m sure we all have done the “A” scenario at some point, when the correct answer should be “B”, always. I have done it and sometimes I still do it, but I've been working on always choosing scenario B when it comes to dealing with web emergencies.

Now, why is scenario A a bad solution? Let’s look at the rush that happens when you first receive such message or email:

  1. Your first rush is on the amount of work and time that you have put into that project and it feels like with just that email everything else you've done was worthless.
  2. You lose a bit of respect for that person, because has that person forgotten everything you've done for him?
  3. You are disappointed in yourself for letting all of this get to you.
  4. You get angry or fearful about your job.
  5. You look at the situation and get frustrated and you can’t solve it right away.

And the list just goes on and on… But guess what? you wasted so much time and energy going through that process that you could have used that energy to get the problem fixed.

How can you avoid it?

The bottom line is: you can’t. We’re human and it is completely natural to go through that rush, the important thing is to identify it quickly and divert the energy towards solving the issue. It is hard, but it is doable.

When such an event occurs first thing to do is identify that is a problem, and take a deep breath. Even stand up and walk around for a bit if you need to. The important thing is to not let the rush get to your head.

Once you have cleared your mind, it is time to tackle the issue. You take another look at the problem and because you have cleared your mind, you will be able to look at it in a different angle. You can proceed to do a quick test and re-create the problem at hand. The process can pin-point and identify where things went wrong.

When you do this method, some people might think that you don’t care about the situation, you’re just blowing stuff off, or wasting time. It is important to stay focused on the issue at hand and think of solutions. Do not take it personal and stay strong when things like these happen.

When a client lashes out, you have to sit in their shoes and think about what is going on through their mind. Most of these clients might need this website as their only source of income or career path and are relying on it, so getting angry and lashing out at you will be very normal and often. Don’t take it personal, most of the time they just blow it off later and go back to normal. This does not justify the their actions, but we can deal with those later.

Once you've solved the issue, you can go back to your client and ease their mind about the problem. Also, take that time to educate them. Tell the client if more information was needed in order to asses the situation quicker. Educate the client on what to look for when situations like these arise. Do it with a professional attitude and above all don’t get personal. With a little bit of information, the next time an emergency pops up, it may not end up with a horrible message that can demoralize you or your team.

As designers or developers we need to also be educators. Our clients are putting their life and soul to such projects and they rely on us to bring their vision to life. We shouldn’t allow disrespect to be spread, but know that in the industry you will receive such disrespect. Your duty as an educator is to help stop this.

If you have done everything you could, but the problem continues, then I would suggest to go work somewhere else or fire the client. There’s no shame in that and no person should be disrespected for situations that are sometimes out of your hands.

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