Troubleshooting WordPress: Common problems and their solutions

Troubleshooting WordPress

There’s plenty we can do don’t worry

Troubleshooting WordPress can be difficult without a reliable method for uncovering and solving the issue.

Fortunately many WordPress problems are caused by predictable things that can be tested by beginners.

Here we’ll cover some common problems with WordPress and some basic things you can do to solve them.

Troubleshooting WordPress takes place on seven different levels:

  1. Backups – You should setup regular scheduled backups of your website before any problems occur.
  2. Browser – This is the software you use to login to WordPress and browse the web.
  3. Plugins – Pieces of code that add new features to your website.
  4. Theme – Determines the look and feel of your site as well as creating templates for things like landing pages and photo galleries.
  5. Core Software – This is the software that runs the WordPress platform.
  6. Database – Your database stores all your website settings as well as the content of your posts and pages.
  7. Hosting – This is the web server environment that your site runs on.

Troubleshooting WordPress

Backups

As long as you have a regular backup plan, all problems are solvable. If worst comes to worst, you can at least revive your site back to the last known backup. Set up regular backups here. This should be a fallback when all else fails but it’s also for peace of mind.

Browser

Not seeing changes reflected on the front-end?

If you’ve made changes on your site and can’t see them on the public side, do a hard refresh on your browser by holding down the SHIFT key and pressing the refresh button.

Refresh Button Google Chrome

Hold the SHIFT key and click refresh

Browsers hold what’s called a cache of previously visited pages on your computer’s hard drive so that when you go back, those pages they load much faster. This forces the browser to load the page fresh from your website.

Using another browser

By using another browser such as Google Chrome or Firefox you are testing whether your current one is causing the problem.

Clearing your browser cache

Using the SHIFT refresh process above reloads a web page from scratch, but sometimes the entire browser cache needs to be cleared to resolve some problems.

In Firefox they’re found in Preferences >> Advanced >> Network.

Clear Cache - Firefox

In Google Chrome, click the Chrome menu on the browser toolbar, select Tools then select Clear browsing data. Leave only the Empty the cache box ticked and click the Clear browsing data button.

Google Chrome Clear Cache

Clearing cookies

When cookies have been sitting in your browser for some time they can get corrupted and cause problems for web browsing and even the WordPress dashboard.

Cookies help make your web browsing more convenient by remembering your settings, so we only want to delete ones related to your website.

To clear them in Firefox go to Preferences (Options in Windows) >> Privacy and click on the remove individual cookies link.

Then in the search bar enter your websites domain and click the Remove All Cookies button. This will remove all cookies related to that domain only.

Remove Cookies Firefox

In Google Chrome, click the Chrome menu on the browser toolbar, select Settings, click on the Show advanced settings… link, then in the Privacy section click the Content settings… button.

In the Cookies area click on the All cookies and site data… then enter your websites domain into the search field and click the Remove all button.

Remove Cookies Google Chrome

Plugins

Most problems in WordPress are caused by plugin conflict.

Here’s how you can find the offending piece of code: 



1. Disable all plugins.

2. Check to see if the problem persists. If so, you know it’s not a problem with plugins and you can reactivate them and check your theme.

If switching off all plugins resolves the problem, we now need to find the offending party.

3. Reactivate your plugins one-by-one, testing the issue after each one.

4. When the problem shows again, you’ve found the culprit. Disable it and make a note of its name.

If the features are important to your site, you’ll need to look for another one that does the same thing; one that’s better supported by the developer.

5. Reactivate the other plugins that were being used previously.

An easy way to do this is to click the Recently Active link on the Plugins page.

WordPress Recently Active Plugins

Themes

If you’ve gone through all the plugin testing and are still seeing your problem, we need to look at your theme.

Here’s how you can see if your theme is causing the problem:

1. Activate a different theme from Appearance >> Themes. The best choice would be a default theme such as Twenty Eleven.

2. Check to see if the problem has gone away. If so, then your theme may be outdated or has been edited and some code is causing the problem.

If you can update the offending theme do so. As long as you have not made changes to the theme files, it could also solve the problem.

Otherwise you may need to look for a new theme. This is one reason why free themes from the official repository or a premium theme is a good idea. Support and updates.

Core WordPress files

If you’ve tried all-of-the above and the problem still persists, try refreshing the core WordPress files.

This can solve some problems even if you’re using the latest version of WordPress. Click on Dashboard >> Updates and click on the Re-install Now button.

WordPress updates - Core Software

Hosting

The importance of your hosting provider cannot be overstated in the process of any recurring issues you might be having with your WordPress site. If you’re seeing consistent issues even after following all of the previous tips, your site may be running on a server that is not fully compatible with the current version of WordPress.

Check the WordPress server requirements and check them against your current hosting provider to see if they are up-to-date.

It may be worth comparing your current package with some other reliable and affordable hosting companies, such as the excellent Hostgator.

Calling in the geeks

If you’ve done all the above and you’re still not getting any love, it’s time to contact your web hosting company, or get help from a developer.

Website Info plugin

To help them solve your problem you’ll need to provide a description of the problem, and your current WordPress and server information. It’s all very geeky, but fortunately there’s an easy way to put it all in one place.

Install and activate the WP-ServerInfo plugin from Plugins >> Add New and then navigate to your dashboard. Look for a new section called Server Information. Copy and paste all that data into an email or support chat window.

Photo credit: KaptainKobold

Got a WordPress problem that these tips won’t solve?  Let us know in the comments below.

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