10 Common WordPress Problems (and How to Fix Them)

WordPress is a great CMS, especially for blogging, business content management and eCommerce. However, you might encounter some errors that could make the experience bumpy, or worse — your whole business could be affected. The good news is, there is a fix for most of them, and some, you can even do on your own.

However, always keep in mind these proper protocols when you encounter problems with your WordPress site:

  • Contact your hosting provider as the best first step in all cases when the site breaks without an obvious reason and its owner doing anything on it. Most cases when the website suddenly stops working, it’s always good practice to immediately contact your web host. There might be database space issues or their servers might be down which is something you can’t fix on your end.
  • Contact your WordPress agency or the people who created the website.
  • As a rule of thumb, do not try to edit the WordPress core files and folders on the server. That should never be done while creating the site.

In case you designed the site yourself by choosing and customizing a WordPress theme and adding plugins on top, here are some common problems that you may identify and try solving:

1. 500 Internal Server Error

Source: dribble.com

Considered common even by WordPress standards, it is important to know that 500 Internal Server Error is not unique to just WordPress. Any website running on web servers can have this error occur. It basically means that there is something wrong with the server but it cannot be identified yet. Due to its rather generic nature, this does not tell much to the developer causing them to troubleshoot possible reasons that cause the internal server in WordPress:

The .htaccess file might be corrupted. WordPress automatically creates a .htaccess file that governs certain aesthetic and security settings for the website. These settings include what to show during errors and the way URLs are shown and read. In rare cases, changes to these settings don’t reflect immediately, and the host provider will need to tell WordPress to build a new one.

Part of the code timed out. To handle heavy traffic, host providers set up limits to the server, so that it doesn’t overwork itself, while promising equal bandwidth to each user. Although you can find these settings in php.ini it’s best to either streamline your code, or ask your host provider to bump up your memory (assuming they offer higher memory allocations).

2. 403 Forbidden Error

Source: dribble.com

403 errors are when you’re not allowed to see something because of who you are or where you’re from. These aren’t fixed directly because this is usually caused by your web host protecting your website or following security rules set up in the website.
When you get these errors, it’s usually not a permanent problem; you just need some patience or diligence. Try the following:

  • Reload the page. It may just need time to get some details about your account.
  • Check the URL. You might be looking at the wrong webpage.
  • Are you logged in correctly? Some content might be for certain users only.
  • Try again later. The page may not have been uploaded or updated yet.
  • Clear cache and cookies. Your browser may be using old wrong information.

You may need to contact your hosting provider if you are still having difficulty dealing with file permissions.

3. White Screen of Death (WSoD)

This means you literally see a blank screen, with no information. When this happens to a website, it usually means that there is a PHP or database failure, namely:

There could be a compatibility issue with your site’s plugins. A quick fix is to try deactivating and reactivating one by one each of your plugins, and see if the WSoD is resolved.

Generate special URL to send to admin email. Newer versions of WordPress have a way to access the dashboard via a special URL which is generated and sent to the admin email. From there you can provide this to your host provider to try and fix the site.

4. Error Establishing a Database Connection

Seeing this error means that there might be an issue with your connection to your database.
Moreover, this issue might be caused by:

The wp-config.php information is incorrect. To troubleshoot, make sure that your database details are correct — database name, username, password, and host. Other details like the $table_prefix variable could need updating too, due to changes in working versions or naming conventions.

5. Connection Timed Out Error

Unless your site is frequently using high volume data, your connection probably timed out because of an unbroken infinite loop.

This is one of the kinds of 500 errors, so having your host provider update php.ini would help your server handle data that big. But it’s generally, bad when you need to bring floods of information back and forth often. Getting this error is a clear sign that your page has processes that can be done better. Have your host provider review the flow of data and provide solutions to mitigate repeated requests of the high volume of data.

6. Stuck in “Maintenance Mode” After Update

This error possibly occurs when the updates have piled up and are attempting to run several updates at once, or when the theme or plugin that’s trying to update is not compatible with your current WordPress version. You’ll be able to spot this error immediately as the “Maintenance Mode” message will be plastered across your website. The good news is that it’s easily fixable. Just have your host provider remove the .maintenance file from your site installation directory. Then refresh your page and check if the error message disappears.

7. Syntax Error

It’s a rarity to ever need to add personalized code to WordPress, so it’s imperative that you use comments to label these additions to your site. This way, any error you may have in PHP or javascript will be easier to track and correct. It’s best to be open to the possibility that most error messages come from recent additions, rather than code millions of other people have used before your tweaks to the code.

Furthermore, it’s better to log your changes with dates. Errors are best traced from newest to oldest, as checking already correct code is not productive often.

Finally, here’s a quick reminder of common syntax errors:

  • missing semicolons
  • mismatched parentheses
  • missing arithmetic operations
  • misspelled variable names
  • mismatched data types.

8. WordPress Theme Issues

Being Open-Sourced, WordPress receives many customizable templates and tools from other users. Thus, there are lots of available themes out there. Themes set the flow of your webpage, guiding your audience to how your functions and features will be used and displayed. Unfortunately, being built by numerous independent creators, not all themes and plugins work with each other perfectly.

Theme issues can arise when its coding clashes with plugins. Try deactivating your plugins one by one to see which one might be causing the problem. Once you’ve deduced which plugin is the cause of the error, deactivate and uninstall it and find a similar one that will not break the whole site. Don’t forget to reactivate the other plugins after you identify and remove the problematic one.

Newly activated themes can also cause issues in your WordPres website. To solve this, you can try logging in to your dashboard and activating one of WordPress’ built-in themes like “Twenty Nineteen”. If you are unable to access your admin page, ask the host provider to access the site’s files.

9. Issues with Image Uploads

Users might see certain or most images from their website and media library disappear or are showing broken image placeholders. The issue may also present itself when users try uploading images to a post using the media uploader, only to come up and appear like a broken file.

This error with images happens due to incorrect file and directory permissions in a WordPress installation. Sometimes an error message ‘Unable to create directory wp-content/uploads/20XX/XX. Is its parent directory writable by the server?’ would pop up as well.

Although one can use an FTP client to change file permissions, it is best to let your WordPress host provider use the file manager and set the correct file permissions to fix your image upload issues.

10. Compromised Website

If you still can’t figure out what the problem is, your site might have been compromised. While security plugins can provide checks to help you know if your site is compromised, it doesn’t prevent all kinds of attacks, as they are usually set for generally automated checks on passwords, admin URL changes, and the link.

Google regularly checks sites that are SEO-Optimized, and attempts to verify such sites. When Google finds any suspicious code that could distribute a malware or trojan, it adds a red warning before letting your audience see the page.

Furthermore, Google “Search Console”, formerly “Google Webmaster Tools”, is an effective tool that helps you tell Google to check your site. In addition to calculating traffic and making your site seen in the search results, the online browser app will help you make sure your site is safe and within global standards. When submitted, you will receive email alerts about problems in your site, most importantly that if you have malicious code snippets or other security issues.

Finally, some hosting companies have a policy of immediately formatting a server or hosting account that is infected. They do this to prevent the infection spreading to other customers even after the site is offline. Don’t forget to prepare backups for your website.

Your host will usually notify you via email that your site has been taken offline.

Bonus Problem! Getting locked out of WordPress admin

There are instances where you would get locked out of your Dashboard. One reason is that you may be submitting incorrect username and password combinations. If you’ve forgotten your password, you can try clicking the “Forgot Password?” link. Note that you’ll need to access to your recovery email to do this.

Wrap Up

Common errors can happen with website development. But knowing the common problems help in finding solutions for them. What you need to remember is:

  • Keep track of all changes you make on the site and check its behavior after each iteration
  • Always back-up the site before any major change on its settings and code. Make sure to also have automated backups, not only when you do changes.
  • Your hosting provider is your best ally in troubled times, make sure you trust them and have a quick connection

With websites becoming the frontier in how clients and prospects find your business, it’s always good to remove as many minute nuisances that may affect people discovering you. It’s also a good business practice to work with your trusted development partners who know what may be causing problems on the front and back end of your WordPress site. Not only will it give you more time to focus on other parts of your business, it also helps you make quick work on issues and get back to regular programming.

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