Random site errors, slow loading pages, or missing files can make even the most even-tempered WordPress user begin to panic. We’ve all been there!
The time you have to work on your blog is precious, and unexpected errors get in the way of your plans. To make it worse, it’s not always easy to figure out what’s causing the error, which can make finding a solution tricky.
What are the steps you can take to troubleshoot the mystery errors quickly and get everything back to normal?
Understand the process
Let’s start with a quick look at what WordPress is and how it works. Your WordPress site is essentially a library of files and folders organized in a database and housed on a server. It has a domain, also known as an address or URL, that readers use on their devices to find your site.
When someone types in your site address or clicks on a post or file (e.g., an image, a PDF to download, etc), their device requests the related files from the library, and the database locates them. WordPress core, your theme, and the plugins on your site determine how those files are displayed and in which order.
This process happens fast—usually seamlessly and without error. But incompatibilities or changes to the parts making up your site can cause errors. This could be as tiny as one or two lines of code that conflict between plugins or changes to the permissions for user accounts. It could also be larger issues, such as how a specific device runs the code on the site or a DDoS attack on your site. Or any number of other issues.
The next time you get an unexpected error, follow these 6 steps to identify and resolve the problem:
1. Log out and see if the error disappears.
Log out of WordPress to figure out whether the issue is isolated to your user account or affecting everyone. Or you can view the site in an incognito or private window. For example, if your site is loading sluggishly, it could simply be that your site is not being cached for logged in users. Logging out ensures you’re seeing what your readers see when they visit your site.
2. Test your site on different devices.
If the error is visible for logged-out visitors, the next step is to rule out your device or browser as the source of the problem. You can do this by loading your site on different browsers and devices. If the issue resolves itself when you use a different device, you’ll know that the problem is with a setting in your browser or device and not something in your site’s code. If this doesn’t resolve the issue, move onto the next step.
3. Update everything.
It’s important to install updates to WordPress, your theme, and your plugins. Many bloggers let these updates pile up or don’t update until things on their site get sideways. Updating regularly not only solves some issues but also keeps your site secure. Remember to take a backup first before updating WordPress core, your theme, and your plugins!
4. Deactivate plugins.
If the previous steps haven’t addressed the issue, your next step is to begin deactivating plugins one at a time. Doing this will help identify the one causing the issue. Plugins don’t always play well with others, and this can help you find the potential culprit. If your site continues to have issues even after you’ve deactivated all of the plugins, reactivate them and move onto the next step.
You’ll want to clear your cache or use a fresh incognito window for each test to ensure that you’re not seeing a cached version of the site.
5. Restore a backup.
You’re running regular backups, right? (You should be and your hosting company should be too.) If your site started acting up recently, and none of the aforementioned tests helped you resolve it, restore your last backup. If this fixes the issue, the problem is most likely a change you made on your site between the date of your last backup and now.
6. Ask for help.
When all else fails, reach out for help! If you know the problem is with your theme or a specific plugin, reach out to the developer’s support team. If you work closely with a designer or web developer, they may be able to quickly identify the problem. Or if you’re an Agathon hosting client, our support team is always available to take a look!
When asking for help, share as many details as you can about the problem you’re experiencing (screenshots are always helpful!) as well as what steps you’ve taken to troubleshoot. The more detail you share the better!