OK, so you have a WordPress site and decide to add a couple new plugins, or move some content around or even update to the latest version of WordPress… and all of a sudden you find that your site is not working and showing errors. HELP!
Well the first thing you should do, rather than panic of course, is either hire a professional or if you are feeling daring enough then work through checklist below to try and pinpoint the problem.
There are all different kinds of errors that can occur with WordPress – Internal Server Errors, Parsing Errors, Memory Errors, and more…
I think almost everyone who has a WordPress site has run into some kind of error or problem along the way. It happens. But your WordPress site CAN be fixed. It is just a matter of finding and resolving the problem.
WordPress sites have 4 different layers:
- WordPress Core
I always begin the troubleshooting process by looking at the plugins FIRST. 80-90% of system crashes are caused by plugin issues. There are so many plugins available out there and some of the code might not be up to par. Combining these plugins with other plugins, themes, and WordPress itself creates an untested mix that can easily crash a website.
Backup Site First
Even if your site has crashed, it is important to stop and back up your site (both the site files and database). God forbid you wind up screwing something up in the process so it is important to have your site files saved so that you can restore your site if need be.
- Disable all plugins and then check to see if the problem has been resolved. If it has, you know that you have an issue at the plugin layer.
- Re-activate plugins one at a time.
- Test your site after each reactivation. You can usually pinpoint the problem plugin this way.
- Disable that plugin.
- Re-activate the other plugins to ensure you don’t have multiple plugin problems (it could be more than one plugins causing problems).
For those of you that cannot even get into your WP dashboard to disable plugins, you will need to access your site files via FTP and navigate to the wp-content folder. If you rename the plugins directory, to plugins_temp for example, WordPress no longer knows where the plugin files are, and stops running them so you will most likely be able to access your admin panel again.
In the plugins section of the WordPress dashboard, you will see an error message that the plugin files cannot be found and have been disabled. Rename the plugins file via FTP back to “plugins” and your plugin files will be available again. You can then go back to the steps above and work through and find the problem plugin.
Once you have ruled out the plugins being the problem, the next step will be to check the themes.
- Disable your current theme.
- Activate a default theme such as Twenty ten.
- Test. If the problem has gone, you know the theme is causing the issue.
- Re-activate all of the plugins individually. If the problem doesn’t recur, you’ve isolated the theme as the problem area.
- Rule out recent theme changes.
- Code Changes – if you have recently added or updated any theme code then you should remove that or go back to the way it was before the changes (this is where a backup would be very important to be able to use – always backup a site before making any code changes)
- Theme Update – If a theme was recently updated then you should go back to the previous version.
- Widgets – If you have added a new widget, then remove it or check the code, etc
This process is all about back-tracking so you really need to be aware of any changes that you make to your site.
Again, if you cannot log into the dashboard you will need to access your site via FTP, and navigate to the wp-content/themes directory. Rename the current theme that you are using to “theme_temp”. Same as what we did above with the plugins, WordPress won’t know where the theme files are. All you’ll see at the front end is a white screen, but the dashboard will be available. You can then go through the steps above.
WordPress Core Files Troubleshooting
The last place to check (if nothing above helped to resolve the problem) are your WordPress core files. It is normally the least problematic but files can become corrupt and stop WordPress from working correctly.
- Download a clean version of WordPress
- Connect to your site via FTP (I use Filezilla)
- Rename wp-admin and wp-includes to ensure you are uploading clean copies of these directories.
- Back up wp-config.php. This files holds your database connection details.
- Upload your clean version of WordPress.
- Test. Is your issue fixed? If so, you have isolated the problem to be at the WordPress core. If not, then it is time to hire a professional.
- If you found the problem then re-activate your theme and test it.
- Re-activate your plugins and test them.
At this point, you have hopefully isolated the cause of your problem. But here are some other great options in helping with troubleshooting WordPress errors:
- Plugin / Theme Support – Visit the plugin or theme developers’ site and check to see if they have a support forum where you can search or request support. Premium plugins and themes should provide top-class support as part of your fee. If it is a “free” theme or plugin then be sure to be nice to them and don’t expect an immediate response.
- Find a Replacement – There are usually multiple options for plugins so if one plugin is causing a problem try replacing it with another one.
- WordPress Support – Request support from WordPress. You can find many answers concerning specific WordPress errors and other things.
- Use Social Media – Send out a tweet or post on Facebook. Us your network to find answers. You might be surprised to find that someone else has had the same issue and has a solution or they can lead you in the right direction.
The key is to methodically work through the layers, eliminating as you go, until you find the root cause. Then, fix that issue. Remember to constantly test because sometimes there are composite problems with multiple plugins, or the theme and a plugin.
Hire a Professional
When worse comes to worse and you are not able to figure things out on your own or you are nervous about trying the steps above, then be sure to hire a professional who has experience with WordPress and troubleshooting.
If you have come across this article and need this type of assistance, we would be happy to help you. We charge $75 per hour and though we normally cannot tell how LONG the troubleshooting will take, we often can pinpoint a problem in just an hour or 2. Feel free to Contact Us today!