alex sysoef

How To Fix Broken WordPress Blog

This happens to best of us and I know I had to deal with it on more than one occasion – a broken WordPress blog… As a direct result of one of our actions we run into issues that could be different in severity ranging from partially lost functionality to a complete mess. New year traditionally pushes bloggers to take a look at their blogs for possibility of redesign or adding functionality – which in many cases followed by issues…

In this post I want to discuss 2 of the most common problems that lead to a broken WordPress blog and How to fix them!

While there are many things that can lead to a broken functionality in your blog or a complete visual mess my personal experience and many hours of support I put into WordPress blogs clearly separated 2 major issues that seem to come up time and time again:

  1. New plugin install or upgrade of existing plugin
  2. New theme installation or modification of old theme.

In this post I want to discuss how to effectively work through the issues that lead to a broken WordPress blog, how to possibly avoid them by using best practices.

New plugin install or upgrade of existing plugin

This one creates perhaps the most problems and I have been caught in it several times myself. Plugins are a means of adding new functionality and extend capabilities of default blog installation but also the source of many problems.

Install of new plugin is a bit different from update but also a common source of problems. However much author of plugin tries to ensure that his code will work – problems are quite frequent. A few simple steps completed PRIOR to install can help you avoid most of the issues and revert back to working state such as:

  1. Backup your database
  2. Verify that plugin is compatible with your blog by visiting author’s page and look for requirements and any comments left by others. Generally if any issues identified – see if they might apply to you.
  3. Install plugin and test functionality it affects. This one is crucial step and be sure to not skip it.

But I know from personal experience that even doing all the steps above sometimes doesn’t prevent issues from poping up later quite unexpectedly. So how do you fix them?

Whenever I run into problem related to plugins I follow simple steps to troubleshoot and fix them:

  1. Usually a problem manifests itself in form of broken functionality. Whether noted by you or one of your visitors – it should be your starting point of troubleshooting. Evaluate plugins that affect that functionality of the core install and try disabling them. Links to author page should be available from your Admin->Plugins section. Try to remember LAST INSTALLED plugin before issue was reported and try disabling it.
  2. If unable to locate specific plugin that creates issue – revert to drastic measures. Place your blog into maintenance mode using this plugin. This allows you to see the blog while other visitors get message that your blog currently under maintenance instead of errors. Disable all plugins and start activating them one at the time and testing your blog after each. This will help you isolate plugin that created an issue. When you have identified plugin with problem – see if update is available or if other people had same issue. Try fixes suggested. Doing a search for specific error generated by plugin usually helps.
  3. Get upclose and personal with your database. This one is source of my main gripe with WordPress design. By default as you activate plugin and some themes it will add its settings into wp_options table in your WordPress database. Problem is – once you deactivate plugin, it doesn’t remove setting left behind. I have covered this part in great details in my post “2 Things I Hate About WordPress And How To Turn Them Into Your Advantage“. Do take a few minutes to read.

And on last note… I have seen this come up often enough that it needs mentioning. If you rely on custom URL structure for your blog for SEO purpose (and I do hope you have that implemented) – check your .htaccess file. Make sure it has the right code in it and update permalinks structure to make sure your blog is current. More details here.

New theme installation or modification of old theme

Themes are perhaps the greatest invention in web design and WordPress has an extensive collection of choices that will surely fit anyone’s taste. Themes allow us to express our personalities without any knowledge of HTML or PHP and create professional looking blogs by simply installing one theme. If interested, have a look at my post for “10 Best Web 2.0 WordPress Themes“.

  • Unfortunately not all themes created equal and skill level of designers behind the creations varies greatly. Implementing a new theme that is poorly coded can make a true mess out of your blog. Fear not my friend, I got you covered! See my post “How To Safely Redesign Your Blog” where I cover in details how you can test different theme on your production blog without anyone knowing it and once possibly modify new theme to fit your needs before implementing it on live blog.

With new year many bloggers simply decide to add some functionality to their existing theme, refresh existing look and perhaps do a few slight modifications. Perhaps one of the most common problems created during editing is missing tags.

  • Division tags if not closed properly can really screw up the entire layout of your blog. If you edited a file, make sure you didn’t remove any extra tags that actually supposed to be there. Stare and compare process against same file from backup should give you a good idea of what was missed.
  • PHP code not closed properly or removed is second most common problem. While we all like to experiment with code even when we don’t understand it – make sure you have a good backup first so you could go back to old version first.

Here are a few simple tricks I personally use when modifying any theme file…

  • Perform ALL editing in external editor that doesn’t introduce any extra code. While Windows Notepad can do the job – it is very limited in functionality and I prefer to use Crimson Editor, which is free download and will give you more options than you could wish for.
  • Edit file in multiple tabs. For example: copy original code into one tab and then use second tab to edit code. Once modification is done – test it on your blog, if something broken you cna always go back to previous version.
  • Do small changes, one at the time and save a working code version as separate document, worked under separate tab. This way you have a good version of every modification you have done as well as original and you can go back to ANY previously working version of the file. This provides you with maximum flexibility while editing your theme.

While most problems can be prevented by doing your homework before implementing any changes to your WordPress blog – those that can’t – CAN BE FIXED! I hope a few simple tricks I have shared above help you get through your problems and if you have your own ideas – please share them in comments for others to read!

About The Blog Author

Alex Sysoef is an IT Consultant, Internet Marketer and ProBlogger who shares his passion and knowledge of WordPress, SEO, Social Media and traffic strategies on his blog WordPress Howto Spotter. Connect on Twitter or Facebook

19 Responses to “How To Fix Broken WordPress Blog”

  1. Excellent advice here Alex…and now I have to go back and read all the extended links you have in this post…I appreciate HOW MUCH you cover about Word Press. I love it as a blogging platform…but can also hate it when it isn’t working right.

    Cheryl Gonzalez’s last blog post..Network Marketing: Believe?

  2. TheSpot-er says:

    Thanks Cheryl,

    Sometimes things are simpler than they seem and as long as proper process applied – we can save ourselves a lot of trouble later :)

    Glad you liked it.
    Alex

  3. Great post and advice. I had a few of those problems as well. I’m currently having a problem with my RSS feed in that its not working.

    I think the reason is I was using microsoft word for my posts and it’s caused problems. Is there a plugin I could use to sort this problem out or do I have to edit all my posts one by one until its solved?

    I know its a bit off topic but thanks for any help or advice you could give me.

    • TheSpot-er says:

      Barry,

      M$ Word introduces whole bunch of faulty code into blog. I generally use it to write and copy to text editor and only then into blog. I looked (or tried to) at your feed and you are correct – you get nothing. I don’t know of any easy solution for this if it is related to extra code that RSS might be choking on. Sorry…

      Alex

  4. Thanks for your help.

    Maybe thats an idea for a plugin for someone out there to work on, something that can clean up RSS feeds.

  5. Sunday says:

    Alex,

    Your blog has been a blessing to me and other blooggers.
    This post is useful to me .

    I have being a follower of your blog and i have being gaining alot of which am implimenting some.

  6. Pashalex says:

    I am trying to install a new theme in word press 2.0 but any theme i chose it comes up with an error “Broken Theme” and “style.css is unreadable”.
    Any comments much appreciated.

    • TheSpot-er says:

      It is sounds like style.css file in your new theme is simply corrupted. Get a new file from developer. Nothing else I can suggest.

  7. Sarah says:

    Thanks so much for your tips… I am absolutely useless at coding and in fact got someone else to do my site for me, but when my WordPress was upgraded, they were in a big rush and now I am stranded with a site with tags that dont work and a tagbox, links and categories boxes that really dont look that neat or nice as they were before… two questions – is there anyone that freelances that can help me fix these? The site is a non-profit site for the arts in South Africa so I need someone who is really affordable or free, and two, if not, any advice, at least to fix the tabs please? thanks!
    sarah

    Sarahs last blog post..Party People all over the Nation

    • TheSpot-er says:

      Sarah,

      I don’t offer the service you are looking for at this time due to time constrains. I’m not sure what problem do you have with your “tabs” …. I assume you are talking about widgets? But the look of those defined in theme.

      Your tags fail to work when I clicked on them. 2 suggestions:

      1. If you were upgraded from older WordPress that used UTW tags or any other “non native” tagging system – visit Manage ->Import and make sure to import the tags.
      2. Perhaps you simply need to Update permalinks? Setting ->Permalinks and choose to update setting.

      Sorry, that is all I can offer at tis time …

  8. Jimmy G says:

    yea these tips really helped me out thx for the tips

  9. MOin says:

    Thats informative post sometime you really have to chew hard nuts to get things solved, probably when you change host or the under development thing is going on things goes wrong normally because a man not knowing php very well can make things mess. your article looks like an ultimate helping guide.

    MOins last blog post..Track Your Backlinks And Search Engine Index With iTracker

  10. Vince says:

    Hi Alex, I am one of your fervent readers. I just wan to ask you of what tab maker plugin did you installed in your blog? I am really having some difficulty concerning the “Tabbed Widget” plugin. If you will try visiting my blog it’s still ugly and I want to edit it just like this blog. :) I love your “tabs, font size, and arrangements.

    Can you have a post on how can we well edit our blogs? I’ve been using the Expert WordPress wordpress design because I like the way it looks, neat and simple. Please help us.

    Vince Olaer
    http://thedisciplers.com

    Vinces last blog post..New Host Servers

  11. Bob Ratcliff says:

    Inside your membership area I learned how to back up my WordPress blog properly incase of crippling problems or hacking to ensure I protect my content. You have nothing but the highest quality and testing information for bloggers, thank yoU!

  12. Hi, Alex!!

    Long time without seeing. I found you in Ask.com because I have an ERROR ON PAGE on my blog. I’m trying to make my way to Google No. 1 page for Mobile Monopoly Web Marketing and I have this inconvenient that different subscriber have seen a lot of time in my blog.

    I hope with all the reading here and in the other articles I found what I need to fix my problem.

    However if you think there is something else I need to know I really appreciate if you tell me.

    Thanks

    • TheSpotter says:

      Felicita, I’m sorry to say it but I can’t even access your blog, it just clocks forever and then browser times out – I recommend disabling ALL plugins, switching to default theme and start activating one thing at the time to troubleshoot what is killing your blog. There are a few articles on my blog that share some tips that should help you

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