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The five minute contact form tweak that saves me hours

ASP.NET, Express.js, JavaScript, Node.js By . Updated March 19, 2014

Operating a website used by predominantly non-technical users can be an eye-opening experience when the time comes to support those users. It’s easy to forget how much of the nomenclature and technical understanding that we take for granted is just unintelligible jargon to others. In fact about 10% of people surveyed this year even guessed that HTML was an STD.

A particularly poignant example I dealt with recently was a user telling me they were using “Google” to browse the Internet on their desktop PC. You’d think that probably means they were using Google Chrome as their browser, right? Nope. They were using Internet Explorer with Google’s website set as their home page.

Unfortunately, assisting the most helpless users with technical issues still requires that they communicate details about their platform and browser to you at least semi-accurately. The broader problem is bigger than anyone can solve in a thousand words, but in this post I want to show you one small improvement I’ve made on my public-facing contact forms to help cut down on confusion with this specific aspect of helping non-technical users.
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Learn from my Express.js HTTP status code blunder

Express.js, JavaScript, Node.js By . Posted November 9, 2011

Screenshot of the 200 Object] HTTP status code in Firebug

If you’re like me, HTTP status code 200 Object] unknown probably doesn’t ring any bells. Of course, that’s mainly because it doesn’t exist.

So, how did I end up with the screenshot above? I’ve been running with scissors again. It was one of the more popular web frameworks for Node.js that I cut myself with this time: Express.js

Unfortunately, a malformed status code like 200 Object] will cause some browsers (including the version of Chrome I was using at the time) to refuse loading the page at all. That quickly elevated the importance of my strange status code from a trivial oddity to an annoying thorn in the side.

As it turns out, my code was running up against a documented Express feature and the remedy was simple enough.

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