How to troubleshoot problems in WordPress

Nothing is more frustrating than when something goes wrong with your site, and you have no idea how to fix it. We’ve done our fair share of identifying and fixing issues in WordPress for our customers, and we’ve noticed the process for pinpointing problems is nearly always the same — and it’s something you can do for yourself! Today we’re sharing our step-by-step process for how to troubleshoot problems in WordPress.

1. What was the last thing you did?

Whenever you do anything on your site, it’s important to pay attention to what’s going on. If you’re updating several plugins at once, just be sure you know which plugins are updating! Issues are almost always related to the last thing you did to your site. 

When you notice an issue on your site, start with the last thing you did, and see if you can work through steps that recreate the issue. You can install the plugin Activity Log to log activity and help you retrace your steps. If you updated a plugin, it may have been deactivated, and you may need to reactivate it. Or, it may have reset your settings or added new ones, and you need to update the settings.

2. Do you have caching and/or site performance plugins active?

Caching and site performance plugins are great for the day-to-day support of your site, but when you’re actively making changes to your site, they can cause problems. Always purge the settings and/or disable these plugins first when you experience issues. You can find out more about caching in our blog post here.

3. Do you have any plugins installed related to the issue you’re experiencing?

If you haven’t updated plugins recently and you know it’s not a caching issue, look through your plugins list for any plugins related to the issue you’re experiencing. Try deactivating each related plugin, one at a time, and check to see if the issue is resolved. Plugins can break for various reasons — maybe they aren’t compatible with the latest WordPress updates, or maybe they aren’t compatible with another plugin you’ve recently installed.

If you discover the plugin behind the issue, and it’s a plugin necessary for your site, do some research and testing. Have you added another plugin recently that has overlap in functionality? Perhaps there’s a conflict, and you can eliminate the other plugin. Or, head over to the plugin’s page on WordPress.org, and click on the support tab to check for known issues with the latest WordPress updates.

4. Do you have duplicate plugins?

We say this a lot, and we’ll say it again: do not install two plugins that do the same thing. When you have two plugins trying to edit the same functionality, the results can be unpredictable. If you’re experiencing an issue on your site, make sure you don’t have two plugins trying to override that functionality in some way. (And while you’re going through your plugins list, go ahead and delete any other duplicates to save yourself from future issues!)

5. Test your plugins one by one.

If you’ve gone through all of the steps above and still can’t figure out what’s going on with your site, try deactivating your plugins one by one. Sometimes a plugin may affect functionality you don’t know about or conflict with another plugin, and this is really the only way to find out. We know it’s labor intensive, but when all else fails, this process leaves no stone unturned.

6. Switch to the default theme.

As a last resort, once you’ve eliminated plugins as the source of the issue, try switching to the default theme installed with WordPress (as of publication, the Twenty Nineteen theme). You can use the Health Check plugin to keep your site live for visitors but enable Troubleshooting Mode in the admin area.


 

We hope this troubleshooting quick start guide helps you pinpoint any issues you’re experiencing on your WordPress site, and gets you back to blogging!

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