How to Troubleshoot Errors and Common Problems in WordPress

FAQ  How To  Troubleshooting  Last Updated: Time to Read: 5 minutes

WordPress is an amazingly stable platform compared to similar self-hosted CMSes . This is thanks to the dedication and talent of its huundreds of professional contributors and strict coding standards. In spite of this, and the fact that it is built on an open source code base, the wide variation in themes, plugins and server environments makes it difficult to nail down the root cause of a problem when something breaks. This guide aims to help you navigate the more common problems we encounter in WordPress to quickly solve any issues that may arise.

Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance. Please check back in a minute.

Updates are a vital part of keeping your WordPress website functional, and sometimes they happen automatically. Whether you initiate an update yourself or are welcomed with a surprise maintenance message in your browser, this one is due to the update process being interrupted or unable to clean up after itself. Or you might just be trying to view your home page while an update is running on the back-end, in which case this message is totally normal, if not a bit annoying.  If it fails to go away, you will need to delete the maintenance mode notice yourself.

To do this, log into your website via an FTP program or your hosting control panel’s File Manager and browse to the site root (where your wp-content, wp-admin and wp-includes folders are) and delete the .maintenance file in your root folder.

You’re installing a plugin, trying to load the customizer or clicking around in your admin panel just to have it time out and tell you you have insufficient memory or that your site memory allocation has been exceeded. This is referring to the amount of memory your database and scripts can use on your server. On most shared (cheap) hosting, the default memory allocated to WordPress just isn’t sufficient to handle setups with a ton of plugins or database-heavy plugins. These can include translation plugins, plugins that run automated processes such as image management, gallery, link checking or SEO plugins. In many cases, you can increase this limit yourself.

First, try adding the following to your wp-config.php (see Editing your wp-config file)
define( 'WP_MEMORY_LIMIT', '64M' );
The above command sets the WordPress memory limit to 64M. If you need a higher or lower limit, replace that value with the desired amount.

This may not be enough if your issue is related to script memory. In that case you will need to increase the PHP limit set in the php.ini. See your host documentation for how to do that. Below are links to documentation at popular webhosts:

Known affectionately as the “white screen of death”, blank browser pages on your WordPress site are probably the scariest thing to deal with, as they also block access to your admin panel.

The most common cause of this problem is a plugin conflict, either with another plugin, or with your active theme.

To solve it, you’ll need access to your web server either via an FTP client, or your hosting control panel’s File Manager tool.

View our full guide on solving this one

Usually the cause of the above, only this time the error is visible. These are almost always due to one of two things, either you have a conflict, or a file is damaged or an incorrect version (usually the result of an outdated child theme or an update that went awry). Start by troubleshooting plugin conflicts as outlined below. If that does not solve it and you have a child theme active, activate Layers from Appearance Themes. If that solves it, your child theme is the problem. If not, reinstall Layers.

Problem plugins can cause a wide variety of problems with your setup. The most common symptoms are:

  • The white screen (outlined above)
  • Customizer breaking
  • Sliders or other jQuery-powered functionality not working
  • Tabbed navigation or buttons not working in your Admin
  • Fatal errors
  • Areas of your WordPress admin not working or loading

To troubleshoot issues without an obvious cause or solution, always start with deactivating all your plugins under the Plugins page, then log out of WordPress, clear your browser cache, and log back in. If the orginal problem is solved, it is probably plugin-related. Reactivate your plugins one at a time and reload your site after each activation until the problem returns. This should help indicate which plugin is a problem and should stay deactivated.

The cause of plugin issues is usually scripts. For developers, this means ensuring your scripts are properly enqueued, that appropriate conditions are used to ensure the script is only loaded when called, and that you are not bundling scripts already packaged by WordPress.

You may suddenly begin having issues with your customizer loading on all or some pages, where the left-hand sidebar loads with only some or all tabs, but the preview never loads.  This is almost always due to a conflicting script or widget configured to load on the page you are trying to customize.

To solve it, go to Appearance > Widgets and review your widget panels for the widgets you know display on the page with the problem (not including builder widgets). Drag them into the lower-left “Inactive Sidebar Widgets” zone to temporarily deactivate them, then try your customizer again. If this solved it, the problem widget is likely any widget that asks for an API key or needs to connect to a 3rd party, including many Newsletter, Twitter or Facebook widgets. You may safely put the widgets back after finishing your business in the customizer.

If this doesn’t solve it, troubleshoot plugin conflicts.

This is probably the worst thing that can happen to your site! If Google is blocking your site, your host has sent you a malware warning, or your site is displaying or redirecting to a malware URL, it may have been hacked or contains bad scripts.

View our full guide for how to solve it

If you’re encountering an issue not listed here or elsewhere on this site, the following will get you pointed in the right direction:

 

Sometimes solving a really bad issue in WordPress is to restore a recent backup, but that won’t help if you aren’t maintaining regular backups! In addition to backup options offered by your host, see our guide for keeping your Content Backed Up.

One of the ways to streamline this process is to explore your managed WordPress hosting options. If manage your site yourself, make sure you backup the entire site at least weekly and keep at least 3 previous backups. For sites that are updated often, make sure you backup the database daily and do periodic content exports as a fallback.