Where To Start…. When Stuffs Broke!
Believe it or not, majority of the “crisis” situations on your blog are actually relatively easy for you to track down with no need for assistance.
While I will mention some special cases in other posts, this post is to help you troubleshoot the things that are “wonky” or misbehaving but the blog is present and semi-functional.
If you can’t access both the front-end (blog) and back-end (admin) of your blog, these steps won’t do you much good… yet often bugs are just causing misbehavior but not entirely breaking the site.
This is for troubleshooting “whole blog” or “whole site” or “post/page” or “wordpress” type problems… if you the problem is identified already as a single plugin that is misbehaving and not doing what it should, this post is not for you.
While a backup is always a good idea, WordPress is designed to handle these simple troubleshooting steps with no loss of integrity of the core software.
This also assumes that you have already cleared your browser cache and cookies to ensure its not a hiccup on your PC rather than the blog itself.
Lets pretend that “something” has happened and now our post layout looks all funny, maybe some buttons are missing, and it just looks “bad”. The “what” here is pretty irrelevant since we can get to the front and back ends of the blog.
Put the blog back into the default theme.
Go to Dashboard -> Appearances -> Themes -> Find the TwentyTen theme and select activate.
Be sure you know the name of your current theme (write it down if you need to) before you do this step if you have a bunch of themes installed (which should be uninstalled if you’re not using them).
Your existing themes customization, header, etc will be preserved just fine when you switch back all will be as you left it.
Caveat: If your current theme has more than one sidebar, I highly suggest moving your custom widgets (i.e. NetworkedBlogs, Facebook, OptinBox) into the inactive widgets area (careful not to drop them in the available widgets area) to protect them from any possible confusion when the sidebar they are in is not present in the TwentyTen theme. If your current theme is a single sidebar there’s usually no need for this.
Deactivate all plugins.
Go to Dashboard -> Plugins -> Select All -> Deactivate.
The currently active plugins will be moved to a new section called “Recently Active” so you easily find and reactivate them in a couple minutes when we are done.
Your existing plugin settings, customization, etc will be preserved just fine when we reactivate these later. A few plugins such as WP SuperCache will need you to go to their settings and select activate/enable again but they will have retained their functional settings.
Now, close the tab or window that has the view of the front end (blog) of your site open, and open a new window/tab to your blog.
So for me I would open a new tab and go to http://just-ask-kim.com
Now if the error was within a post or page, go there and assess the status off the issue.
If the issue has been resolved – as it will have been in probably 90% or more of these cases… you now know you’re dealing with a theme or plugin(s) incompatibility.
If you are in the 10% that this does not solve your issue, then if you are not capable of troubleshooting further this is the time to seek support assistance of someone skilled with WordPress.
Back in the Dashboard again, go back to Appearance and re-activate your original theme.
Return to the front end of your blog, close the window/tab and re-open it again.
Assess if the issue has remained gone or if it has re-appeared. If it has re-appeared you know you have a theme issue.
Start by going to the website you purchased your premium theme from and checking to see if they have an upgrade available (which is likely) and going through their steps to upgrade your theme.
Continue working with the support forum of your premium theme to resolve this issue, while keeping plugins as out of play as possible until the issue is resolved (or you give up and change themes).
Do not progress to step six if your issue returned when you reactivated your theme. This step is for cases where the theme has been reactivated and the problem remains cleared (non-present).
Now go into your Plugins section again and what we want to do is reactivate a maximum of 5 plugins at a time, re-checking between each set until we find a set that causes the issue to crop up again.
It’s important that we start with the safest, most stable well known plugins…. and also important that caching plugins be the absolute very last thing to be re-enabled as they totally will mess with testing process up.
Write them down, in order as you activate them as you will need to work backwards in a moment.
Good choices for the first five to re-enable usually include: akismet, subscribe to comments (original one), commentluv, comment redirect, dofollow, homepage excerpts, keywordluv, google xml sitemap, growmap anti-spambot plugin, tinymce advanced.
Enable 5, retest by closing the blog window and re-opening it, if the problem does not re-occur then enable 5 more…
Repeat this process until you find the problem re-appears.
Then remove the last 5 you activated. Re-check that problem again vanishes.
From that set of 5, re-activate one-at-a-time, testing between each until the problem re-appears.
At this point, you either know the guilty plugin or “half of the problem” meaning you know of one plugin that was cross-reacting with another plugin which sometimes happens too.
Now you have choices about what to do to replace the offending plugin but you essentially have solved the problem most of the time.
Activate the rest of the plugins, still going 5 at a time just to be sure the problem does not sneak back in.
Once they are all activated again, you are finished and are left with finding a theme or plugin replacement.
At this point you hopefully know the culprit of the problem. If however, you still do not, now is the time to get in touch with a professional such as myself that does a lot of WordPress support.
While for many questions, I suggest taking them to our #WordPressWednesday event to get free answers or to our live Q&A call again for free assistance… if you have been through these steps, the next steps in support will require administrative login access and support time.
Hopefully though, this outline helps you substantially reduce the amount of support time you require and empowers you to get your blog out of a number of binds that are incredibly common.
I honestly suggest you either bookmark this page or just remember the title so you can use the search box on my blog (which is REALLY useful if you haven’t tried it) to track it down next time some odd behavior of your site has you scratching your head!
What tends to make YOU scratch your head about WordPress? What tutorials would you like to see more of? What advice do you have for those that are newer to WordPress and just learning basic troubleshooting for the first time and feeling nervous about it? Be sure to ask any questions you have about the steps too!
Look forward to talking with you in the comment section below and answering any questions you may have. I use a plugin that lets you know I replied so you will easily be able to follow up and comment back!
Thanks in advance for the bookmarks, shares, syndications and tweets… I appreciate you sharing it with others that may find this information handy!
Your Partner In Online Success!
PS: Are you keeping up with all the news and how-tos in social media marketing? Looking for news you can use to grow your business? Be sure to drop your name in the signup box and subscribe to my newsletter and updates!