There is a Bug on My Website. What Should I Do?
Hello, everyone! We hope you’re all doing fine, despite the raging virus and the scorching weather. Today’s article is born from an unspoken demand.
Oftentimes when people see a bug on their website, the first thing they do is panic (even we at Webdesh are sometimes guilty of that! :D), but the most important thing is to know that panic is your worst enemy and that there is almost nothing truly irreversible when it comes to software. Sure, it may take more or less time and resources fixing your problem, but in the end there’s always going to be a solution where software is concerned. We’re writing this article as a short guide to discuss the basic steps we should take when we notice something on our website is broken.
Are you ready? Here we go!
What is a bug?
To put it simply – a bug is a coding error made within your website’s software. This could be either a visual bug or a functionality one. A visual bug is something on a website that doesn’t look as expected. A functionality bug is something that is not working as intended.
Now that we’ve got the definition out of the way, let’s get to the actual point.
How to troubleshoot and fix bugs
First of all, you have to trace your steps back to when it happened. Notice if it happened due to an update of software, update of content or other. Check your website or at least the thing that is problematic on as many browsers and devices as possible. Sometimes it could only be visible on Safari or sometimes it’s only visible on mobile devices.
The second thing you would want to do is clear your website’s cache. After an update, your website could kind of get “stuck” between the old and new versions and you may experience a problem. Try manually clearing your cache – from your browser, your server and any caching plugins and services you’re using.
Case A: Software update
We’ve already mentioned the importance of backups numerous times, but please make sure you’ve backed up your website before you proceed with updating any software.
Sometimes when we update a plugin, the theme or WordPress version, something could go wrong. This is why it’s so important to understand how to update your software the right way, so that you can easily trace back your steps and determine the culprit.
After you have figured it out, there are 3 options:
1. If it’s something small – you can try modifying your settings or writing a bit of code to secure things, at least for a while. Please have in mind that oftentimes this is the bare minimum and you’re not fixing, but rather patching things up. If this turns out to be the case, we suggest contacting your hosting provider, theme or plugin support and explaining in detail exactly what you’ve done and under what circumstances the problem occurred.
2. If it’s something big and you cannot solve the issue – remember the backup we talked about? Yes, you can go ahead and restore it now. Then, go back, read the updates documentation thoroughly and you’ll likely be able to determine what caused the problem and work on solving it. If you’re unable to pinpoint the perpetrator, search support forums and groups related to WordPress, to your theme or a specific plugin you’re using. You will find that when people come across a problem, they often post about it in such groups hoping that someone may have found a solution. If there hasn’t been a similar issue reported – you can start a new thread. The WordPress community is great and more often than not, very, very helpful 🙂 But please have in mind to be positive, report explicitly and don’t expect wonders. A part of the people in such groups are WordPress enthusiasts, such as yourself, and may not have the technical expertise to be entirely helpful. Another part are the WordPress developers that might be able to help, but they would require your inquiry to be as detailed as possible to help:
- explain where/what the problem is and include screenshots;
- trace your steps back and explain when the problem happened and under what circumstances – after which update it occurred and if there are only some particular use cases when it’s visible;
- include the browser or browsers that the problem is visible on and the device you’re seeing it on (a specific type of mobile, tablet or desktop device, etc.).
3. If it’s something bigger and you can’t even access your dashboard – make sure to enable debugging in WordPress, here is an article that suggests how you can do it: How to Enable Debugging in WordPress.
In your debugging info you’re going to see what’s causing the issue. Most of the time it’s a problem with a plugin. First thing to do is check the plugin’s requirements – WP version, PHP version, PHP memory limit, database version. Make sure you are all good. If you are and there’s still an issue, you can disable the plugin through FTP or File Manager by renaming its folder**. After that you should be able to access the admin panel and restore a backup.
** Please have in mind that depending on what exactly the plugin’s doing, your website may temporarily not look or perform as expected. This step is only recommended if you are planning on restoring a backup made through the admin panel immediately.
If you’re panicking and want your website live now – restore a backup from your hosting. Some hosting providers create and store them for free with your plan and you’re able to restore them yourself, with some it’s a paid service and others don’t have it at all. We suggest you check with your hosting provider and plan. Either way, don’t panic too much, because one way or the other, your problem is going to be fixed, there are very few things that are absolutely irreversible with software technologies 🙂
If you can’t deal with the problems – you can contact us for further assistance.
Case B: Content update
Sometimes when we’re editing through visual editors, especially drag and drop ones, we can easily misplace something or change a setting we shouldn’t have changed. This is the most basic thing that could happen and in that case – go to edit your page / post / whatever’s broken in your visual editor and check every setting to find out what went wrong.
Another thing you can do is use your editor’s revisions panel, for more information about history and revisions, check out our article here.
If it ends up not being a mistake you’ve made, then we’re talking about software malfunction and you can read through Case A to see what the steps are.
Case C: Other
- an automatic update happened - WordPress’s automatic updates were first introduced back in 2013 with WP 3.7. With WP 5.5 came even bigger changes and you are now able to set your plugins to be automatically updated when there’s a new release. Furthermore, some hosting providers push WordPress updates to be performed automatically – we suggest talking to your hosting provider to find out whether this is the case and then decide if it suits you. In theory, it sounds very fresh and easy, but in practice that is not always the case. It’s a very cool feature security-wise, because keeping your website up-to-date at all times prevents hacker attacks, which are often related to old software. However, if you set all your plugins to update automatically, the new release may come with new problems and you may not even notice that your website’s spewing errors because of this. The truth is that you should find the middle ground, which is taking the time to update your website regularly. If this is not your main responsibility and you’re only supporting your website out of necessity, we’ve found that performing updates once a month on average should be enough to keep your website secure and up-to-date.
- a browser update happened and your website’s software is so, so, so old that it’s not even supported by browsers any more - this may seem very far fetched, but if you haven’t updated your website for years, you can expect this to happen. Please have in mind that browser compatibility is also an important part of creating a website, hence why we always advise our clients to check the website on as many browsers as possible. You will find that a lot of times different browsers don’t support different functionalities and/or can’t execute a specific bit of code.
Pssst, if you’re having trouble keeping up with technologies and keeping your website up-to-date, we have a solution! Subscribe for our monthly support service and leave your website in our hands – we promise we’ll treat it nicely 😀 If you’re interested in taking this burden off your shoulders, check out our page for more info and get in touch.
Get support. Now.
Contact us now and sleep well tomorrow.
- it’s a problem with caching - try clearing your browser, server and website cache. Sometimes if you’re using a faulty caching plugin or service, it may not be able to cache your website correctly and you will have to manually clear the cache. If you find this is the case, we suggest you disable that plugin/service straight away or until you find an explanation as to what happened.
In the end, the most important thing to remember is that working with software is always going to have its flaws. If you’re planning to or already support your WordPress website yourself, be prepared to have to troubleshoot and fix errors. Be persistent, stay interested and up-to-date with everything new that comes up.
I sincerely hope this article has been useful to you and you can now better understand what steps to take when troubleshooting bugs on your WordPress website. As always, let us know in the comments below if you have any q’s 😉
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Website Creator & Head of QA
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