Even when you do everything right and have the most perfect website set up, something at some point is going to go wrong. There are preventative measures you can take to lessen the effects, but you should also consider what actions you take in the minutes after the disaster strikes.
Before we even start talking about debugging, we need to talk about backups. These are crucial and can save you if something breaks and your site goes down.
You can do it manually, through a plugin, or even through your host provider. Stay tuned for a post all about helpful backup resources and how to figure out what is best for you!
Make sure you back up regularly enough that if your site does go down you can bring it back up and not feel like it’s the end of the world. That might be daily, weekly, or even monthly and is mostly determined by how often you post new content.
Don’t panic and take a deep breath
If something does go wrong, the very first thing you should do is take a deep breath. Push back from your computer. Set your laptop down. And, absolutely do not panic. I get it. Trust me I do. Your website is down and you were hosting a huge giveaway. You can’t log into your admin page and you have a major deadline. Or you can’t figure out why none of your photos are showing up. It feels like the world is ending.
But listen up. You are going to be more successful at finding and executing a solution if you are level headed. It’ll be easier to think back through the changes you made and easier to locate your website backup.
I’m not perfect at this either, but when I don’t take my own advice it really seems like things explode. So do as I say and not as I do.
Now that you aren’t panicking, stop and think through what changes you made recently.
Did you recently update a plugin or theme?
If so, try deactivating it temporarily and if things go back to normal then you’ve found the culprit.
If you didn’t make any changes, but can still log into wp-admin, then try deactivating your plugins one at a time.
Check your site if the error still persists or if it clears up.
If a plugin is the culprit, keep it deactivated, search for an older version, and contact the developer. They might not be aware of the bug yet and may be able to provide a fix.
Get comfortable with FTP
FTP (File Transfer Protocol) is a method of transferring files between your computer and your host server. You can achieve this connection with tools such as FileZilla.
The thought of modifying files on your host server directly can be pretty intimidating, but if you are going to be successful fixing and identifying problems then it is about time to get comfortable FTPing into your website. In the future, I’ll provide more information on how to set up an FTP connection along with some tips on what to do and not do while you are connected.
Some hosting providers may also have a web interface that has similar functions through cPanel.
Google is your best friend
I bet you never thought you’d hear a fellow blogger say that huh? Well it might not be a blogger’s best friend, but it’s a web developer’s best friend for sure. I always used to joke that 90% of my day job was Googling to see how other developers solved a similar problem. Why reinvent the wheel if it’s still rolling, right?
The same is true when things break. 8/10 if you are seeing an error message or unexpected behavior on your website, then someone else has seen it too. If you have an error message, copy and paste it into Google and see what comes up. If you still don’t have any results try describing the problem in a different way. I always like to try at least 3 different searches before I throw in the towel.