Beginner’s Guide to Troubleshooting WordPress Theme Errors

You’ve chosen the perfect WordPress theme for your blog or website. While it looks great, the site is not working exactly the way you had in mind. The good news is that you don’t have to live with things as is. There are ways to isolate and resolve just about any type of theme error. It will take patience on your part, as well as following some simple steps to determine what’s going on. Here are some general troubleshooting guidelines that will help you correct the error and make your site better than ever.

Before You Do Anything, Back Up Your Site

Depending on what’s happening, you could find the problem quickly or it could take some time. In any case, there’s the possibility of losing data along the way. To protect all the hard work you did on those pages, perform a complete backup first.

There’s more than one way to back up the pages. One approach is to perform a manual backup. This means copying all the files and the database to some secure location. You can store the backup in the cloud, on a jump drive, or on a portable hard drive. The point is to have the backup files ready for easy retrieval should you need them.

You may have installed one of the WordPress backup plugins that are currently available. If so, check the latest automatic backup and see how recent it happens to be. If the backup includes all the latest elements you used on the pages, everything is great. You don’t necessarily have to initiate a manual backup.

Remember you can use both methods if you like. This is not just a smart move to preserve the pages. It’s also a good way to maintain your peace of mind. Since you have a full backup in more than one location, it’s okay if something goes wrong during your search for the theme error. You have what it takes to recover and start over.

Here’s a list of the 7 best backup plugins for WordPress.

Investigate the Source Code

A good place to look for the origin of theme errors is the source code. This code is essentially a list of commands that are assembled in a logical progression and makes a program launch and execute properly. When the code works perfectly, the software performs as it should. If there’s anything slightly off about the code, the program will only run properly up to a point. After that, strange things can happen.

How does this relate to your theme error? A problem with the source code will allow your pages to function fine up to a point and then begin to go a little haywire.

WordPress (along with most browsers) have inspection tools that make it possible to evaluate the function of source code. Using one of these tools to analyze the code may reveal a minor problem with the code text. If so, tweaking that one issue may be all it takes to fix the theme error.

Here’s a list of 5 built-in code debugging tools for WordPress.

Try a Different Theme

There’s one other trick that a beginner can use to see if the error happens to be built directly into the original theme. Try switching to a default theme and see what happens.

The process is not difficult:

  • Go to Appearance
  • Select Themes
  • Choose the Activate feature on the default theme of your choice.

Remember, it doesn’t have to be a theme you will use from now on. This is just as an experiment. If you continue to encounter the same error after the theme change, you know the problem is not because of an issue with your original theme.

Since you know know the source code is fine and the original theme files are not the cause, there’s a good chance that one of the plugins that you selected to enhance the pages is the reason for the error. That won’t be as difficult to resolve as you may think.

Pay Close Attention to Plugins

Plugins are sometimes called extensions or add-ons. By any name, it’s software that allows you to add a function to the theme or makes it possible to customize a pre-existing component in the theme. While the theme you chose came with some plugins and you’ve added more since then, there’s the possibility that one or more of them are interacting in a way that causes the current problem.

How do you find out if a plugin is the source of the issue? One of the simplest ways to detect what the plugins are doing is to deactivate them. Yes, that means all of them.

Deactivating the plugins is not as hard as you may think. WordPress makes it easy to use a feature found on the dashboard.

  • Select “plugins” and then select “all plugins.”
  • Once that’s done, check “bulk actions.”
  • Click on “deactivate.”
  • Click on the “Apply” button.

Once you click “Apply” , all the plugins will no longer work. Alternatively, you can skip bulk actions and deactivate each plugin individually. That works fine if you only have a few plugins installed. With either approach, you are now poised to find out if one or more plugins caused the issue.

One by one, reactivate each plugin. Test to see if the site still works properly. If all is well, activate the next plugin. Continue the process until the problem appears again. At that point, you know at least one plugin is causing the issue.

A great thing about WordPress plugins is there are always several that will perform the same action. You could try replacing what appears to be the culprit with a different and possibly more functional one. Try that and see what happens. There’s a good chance your problem will go away completely.

Could Plugins Come to the Rescue?

Did you know there are WordPress plugins designs to find bugs and correct them? If you don’t have a debugging plugin running, it’s a good idea to download and install one. These plugins will scan all the elements of your site, including the source code and the other plugins.

Some are designed to do more than detect. They will also offer you the opportunity to fix the issue without having to download a replacement or deactivate anything. The plugin does the work. All you have to do is agree to let it complete the repair process.

Here’s a list of 5 debugging plugins for WordPress.

These are a few of the simplest steps you can use to identify the origin of an error. There are other more advanced approaches that you can try if these do not turn up the issue. Feel free to seek help if you feel that finding the problem is more than you can handle. With the right approach, the theme error will be located, resolved, and allow you to get back to the task of building your website.

How to Protect Your New WordPress Website Against Today’s Hackers

WordPress is the most popular website platform. Period. That hasn’t stopped the naysayers from yowling that this open source software is inherently less secure than, well, almost any other choice. The reality is that a WordPress site is as secure or unsecure as the owner chooses to make it. There are plenty of relatively simple tricks to lockdown one of these websites and make it as safe against hack and spam attempts as any other CMS (content management system) and most static HTML sites.

The thing to understand is that properly securing website requires proactivity, which is sometimes in short supply. If, however, you’d like to know the secrets to turning WordPress into an impenetrable (or something resembling that) fortress, keep reading and we’ll tell you how to protect your new WordPress website against today’s best hack attempts.

Stop Brute Force Attacks

Hackers are nothing if not persistent, as we can see by the growing number of brute force attacks. With the low password quality that exists, it’s a low-risk, high-reward undertaking. A brute force hack takes the form of an automated program turned loose at the front door of your WordPress site. It sits there and tries thousands of username and passwords in search of the right combination to get in. Brute force refers to the idea that automated software can sift through exponentially more possibilities than a human ever could.

Themely1_bruteforce

The good news is that there are a healthy selection of plugins available that allow you to limit the number of failed login attempts to a reasonable limit like three or whatever other small number you like. If you’re determined to spend a hundred bucks a year for access to this login lockdown feature, feel free but the All in One WP Security & Firewall lets you implement this and a lot of other security measures at a no cost.

Furthermore, you can ban specific IP addresses if the plugin determines that a high number of failed login attempts have originated from it.

2-Factor Authentication

This approach has gained steam among security-minded WordPress site owners in recent years and it’s easy to see why. Regardless of the method a cyber criminal acquires the information, if they manage to crack your password, they’re into your site and all hell could break loose. But what if there were some way to require an additional piece of information, one that is generated on the spot independently of your computer or mobile device?

That would be pretty secure, right?

wordpress 2-factor authentication

You bet it would and that’s what 2-factor authentication is. While the specific process can take many forms, one popular iteration is for a code to be generated and sent to your cell phone for use to login. The code serves as the second piece of required login information and presumes that a user would have to know the regular password and also be in physical possession of your phone to be able to successfully beat the login process. The Google Authenticator is a free plugin that generates these kinds of codes.

Update Frequently

To anyone who has spent much time in the “beloved” WordPress dashboard, the frequent reminders to update themes, plugins, and the platform itself can become something of an annoyance. Guess what? You should thank the creators that they choose to annoy you because it means they are patching known security issues in the code and offering to close them for you automatically. All you have to do is click that little “update now” button.

What website owners also should keep in mind is that updates aren’t released just because a pointless new feature was added. That could be the case but it also could be that a website vulnerability was detected and repaired. If you choose not to update, you might as well roll out the red carpet to welcome the hackers of the world into your website because they’ll find out you have an old, unrepaired version soon enough.

If you have trouble remembering to regularly update your software, set it to do so automatically when you first install it. Once the bad guys are inside your website, you’ll be lucky if all they do is post spam because other options are to steal sensitive information, destroy your database, or even use your computer resources to launch attacks on other computers and you might not even known it’s happening.

It’s Time for SSL

Even though Google is in the process of making a SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate mandatory for anyone who wants to rank well in search engine results, it’s probably worth a reminder why. SSL applies encryption to all data that passes between your server and a website visitor’s computer. This is a good thing when it comes to upgrading security. As opposed to unprotected data, the encrypted variety is tough for even skilled hackers to crack.

WordPress SSL encryption

A SSL-protected website can be detected by looking for the letters HTTPS in front of the domain name in the URL at the top of the page. Many web hosts offer them for free as a bonus for signing up for their service but even if you have to pay for one, it’s a good idea to do it!

Keep an Eye on Site Changes

Too many WordPress owners have no idea of file changes that actually occur behind the scenes of their website. WordFence (either the free or premium version) helps you monitor user logs and trace exactly what changes were made and who made them if you allow others to have posting, editing, or admin rights.

The Bottom Line

Obviously, there are many more security precautions available to WordPress owners than the handful we’ve mentioned here. Our best advice is not to shy away from WordPress or resign yourself to the fact that you will get hacked or spammed if you use it. With a little effort on your part, this open source platform can be, if not Fort Knox, then at least as secure as can reasonably be expected for any website.

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