Hi there once again and happy Friday to you!
Another fun-filled week here at Shoreline Digital Marketing. Well, let’s say exciting and leave it at that! A WordPress theme and plugin update left one of my websites with nothing but a header image… not fun. Has this ever happened to you? All of a sudden your website isn’t working the way it should be, or it’s just gone altogether? Yep, me too. I’ve learned some valuable best practices and strategies along the way and I’m going to share a few with you so that you can fix that dreaded blank screen or “Server Error 404 File Not Found” message quickly. Because let’s face it, there’s just not enough coffee to help when your website is down.
Did you ever hear the joke about how Satan challenged Jesus to a typing contest? The devil and Jesus sat down at their computers and began typing away feverishly, word after word, page after page, both ensuring complete and perfect accuracy. After two hours, they lost power and their screens went blank. The devil screamed out “NOOOO, all of my hard work is gone!” Jesus sat there calmly with a smile on His face. Jesus saves. And you should too.
If you’re not already backing up your WordPress site on a regular basis, the time to start is now. Plugins can automate this job for you and make it easy to keep your database, themes, plugins and uploads saved so your precious website work is saved.
There are numerous plugins out there, but I’ve found UpdraftPlus to be the most reliable and easy to use. You can back up to remote sites such as Google Drive or Dropbox, or send a copy to your email. I use Dropbox myself. The best part – it’s free for the basic back up requirements.
Dropbox has additional functionality like restore, site migration and pre-update backups. Restore has saved me more than once. You can choose to restore everything or just certain sections, like the theme or plugins. If you build sites on test servers or need to switch hosting providers, migrate makes this task really easy and seamless. (Some of UpdraftPlus’s additional functionality is available only in their premium versions.)
Another trick in my toolbox for fixing theme and plugin updates is WP Rollback. It is not uncommon for a theme or plugin update to break your site. Sometimes things just don’t get along at first. In fact, most WordPress site issues stem from plugin conflicts. Deactivating a plugin is another good way to troubleshoot plugin issues, but that can be a tedious job if you have a lot of plugins.
WP Rollback allows you to revert theme and plugin versions back to prior versions with just a click of a button. Now I have found that this doesn’t work for all themes and plugins so be aware of that. That’s where the restore option with Updraft comes in handy.
So after learning the hard way over the years that WordPress can be a little fussy, I recommend the following best practices for maintaining website health:
- I prefer not to update plugins and themes automatically. If something breaks, it makes it a lot harder to trace where the problem came from. That being said, you must monitor your site on a regular basis and manually keep your themes and plugins up to date.
- Schedule regular website backups.
- Don’t set it and forget it. It bears repeating – websites need monitoring. Those updates are important, not only for new features, but for security purposes too. There are an increasing number of attacks on WordPress sites these days. Your site is just as likely to be targeted as the next one.
- Make sure you have a solid security plugin installed on your site, such as Wordfence. We’ll delve more into that at a later date.
- The most common cause for a broken website is a plugin conflict. Having a back up of your site and a version rollback option can save you hours of work and headaches.
So that’s my bit of advice for you this Friday morning. If you need help with your site, or have any questions, feel free to drop me a note. I look forward to hearing from you.