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General Troubleshooting Techniques

WordPress is a complex thing. Very few errors & issues are related to your theme. Here are some general troubleshooting tips and techniques for getting to the bottom of whatever is ailing your WordPress site.

Make a Back-up First

It’s always a good idea to make a back-up of your site before you start making changes to it. You’ll need to make sure you have copies of both your site files and your database stored in safe places.

Psst! If you don’t know how to make a back-up, we cover it in our WordPress Wonderland eCourse!

Make Sure Everything Is Up To Date

It’s important to make sure you’ve done all the updates to your plugins, themes, and the WordPress core itself. To see your available updates, click on the rotating arrow in the top utility bar:

wordpress updates

Deactivate Your Plugins

Many times, errors happen because a plugin you have installed is conflicting with another plugin, your theme, or WordPress itself. The easiest way to figure out which plugin it is is by deactivating them all at once. If the problem is gone, you know the issue was related to a plugin conflict. Reactivate your plugins one by one, testing the site each time to see if the issue reappears. When it shows up again, you know it was related to the plugin you just reactivated.

(*Note: If you’re using one of our themes, you can USUALLY rule out any of the plugins that are on the plugin list for that theme.)

Here’s a visual:
Deactivate Plugins

If you don’t have access to your WordPress admin area, you can access your site files via FTP or your hosting account’s cPanel. Navigate to wp-content/plugins and rename your entire plugins folder (it can be anything as long as it’s not “plugins”).

Turn on the Debugger

To give you more info about the issue, you can turn on WordPress debug mode. To do this, you will need to access your site files through FTP or your hosting account’s cPanel. Find your wp-config.php file (keep a back-up copy of it) and add this code to the bottom of the file:

define( 'WP_DEBUG', true );
define( 'SCRIPT_DEBUG', true );

(It should look something like this.)

Once you add this to your file and save, you’ll be able to see any errors. They will display on all of your WordPress pages and will be visible to everyone, so it’s best to do this when you have a lull in your traffic. Remember to remove the code after you’re done!

Revert to Default Theme

To determine if the theme you’re using is related to the issue at hand, deactivate it and use one of WordPress’s default themes, e.g. Twenty Seventeen. If the issue is resolved, your theme is conflicting with something on your WordPress site.

If you don’t have access to your WordPress admin area, you can access your site files via FTP or your hosting account’s cPanel. Navigate to wp-content and find the current theme you are using. Rename the name of the theme folder and it will automatically revert to the default theme.

how to troubleshoot wordpress