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WordPress Troubleshooting: What to do when Things go Wrong

WordPress troubleshooting

It's not the end of the world, but it can feel like it.

Cryptic error codes, pages that return 404 errors – or worse, nothing at all – and funky formatting are just a few of the oddities you can encounter when running a complicated script like WordPress. Add other bits of code here and there (plugins and themes), perhaps some other scripts that share the same database, and you will eventually find yourself chasing down some website weirdness.

Where to Begin Troubleshooting WordPress Issues

So one day you log-in to make a quick update and your site is fried. Now what?

First, take a deep breath, don’t panic, and think back to the last thing you did before your site broke. Did you install or upgrade a plugin? Upgrade your WordPress installation? Add some javascript or other code to your header or footer files? Make a change to your style.css file? All of these things can be a cause of problems elsewhere, so if you’ve made a change like this and suddenly noticed problems, undo the changes and hopefully that will resolve the issue.

Trial and Error Method

If you’re not sure when the problem started, then you should try to eliminate theme and plugin conflicts before you look elsewhere. With thousands of developers writing code to work with WordPress, you’re bound to run into conflicts occasionally. Start by activating the default theme for the version of WordPress you’re running. For version 3.x that’s Twenty-ten or Twenty-eleven. Older versions used Kubrik. Next, deactivate all plugins. Log-out of WordPress, close your browser, and then re-open your website to see if the error still occurs.

If the problem has been resolved, you will need to log back into WordPress and re-activate one (only one!) plugin. Log-out, close your browser, and visit your page again. Repeat these steps until the problem returns. The last plugin you re-activated before the problem shows up again is likely to be the culprit.

If deactivating all your plugins did not resolve the issue, it’s time to look to your host. Did they upgrade their version of php or other software? Or is your server having trouble? Open a support ticket and let them know what you’re experiencing. Most hosts will get back to you in a matter of hours, but don’t expect them to troubleshoot WordPress for you. All they’re going to be able to tell you is if something is wonky on your server.

Lastly, if things are still not functioning correctly, it’s time to call in the experts to help isolate the problem.

Preventing Disaster

Backups are the key to avoiding disaster and preserving your sanity. Hopefully, you’re already doing regular site backups and backing up your database daily. That’s a good start, but whenever you make a change to your site, whether you’re adding a new plugin or even just changing your color scheme, you should take another backup.

When adding plugins and themes, we recommend a complete site backup. It’s hard to know just how far-reaching some plugins are, so it’s better in this case to be safe rather than sorry. For simple changes to your CSS file, just downloading a copy of your current style.css file is sufficient. If you get lost in the changes and can’t find your way back, you can always revert to the original file.

WordPress is easy to use and simple to customize, but the availability of third-party add-ons (plugins) and themes and the accessibility of the core code makes it susceptible to problems as well. Use caution when making any changes to the layout or functionality of your site, and you’ll be less likely to run into issues. If you do find yourself in trouble, follow the steps above, or contact your favorite tech support staff for fast, friendly service.

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