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A Complete Guide to Debugging Your WordPress Website

Table of Contents

Introduction

WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems (CMS) in the world, powering over 40% of all websites on the internet. However, like any complex software, WordPress can sometimes encounter errors that can be difficult to troubleshoot. This is where WordPress debugging comes in.

WordPress debugging is the process of identifying and resolving errors on your website. It is an essential skill for any WordPress developer or administrator, as it allows you to quickly diagnose and fix problems that may arise on your website. In this guide, we will provide a comprehensive overview of WordPress debugging, including tips, tools, and troubleshooting techniques to help you keep your website running smoothly.

Common WordPress Errors and How to Diagnose Them

Before we dive into the specifics of debugging, it’s important to understand some of the most common errors that can occur on a WordPress website. Some of the most common errors include:

  • White screen of death (WSOD): A blank page that appears when something goes wrong with your website.
  • Internal server errors: An error message that appears when the server encounters a problem.
  • Syntax errors: An error message that appears when there is a problem with the code on your website.
  • Plugin and theme conflicts: An error that occurs when a plugin or theme is not compatible with the version of WordPress you are using.

To diagnose these errors, you can start by checking the error logs in your server or in the WordPress debug.log file, if you have enabled debugging. Additionally, you can use debugging tools such as Query Monitor or Debug Bar to help identify the source of the problem.

Enabling Debugging in WordPress

One of the first steps in debugging your WordPress website is to enable debugging. By default, debugging is turned off in WordPress, but you can easily turn it on by adding the following code to your wp-config.php file:

define('WP_DEBUG', true);

This code tells WordPress to display errors and warnings on your website, which can be helpful in identifying the source of a problem.

Setting up Error Logging in WordPress

In addition to displaying errors and warnings on your website, you can also log errors to a file. This can be useful if you are unable to access your website due to an error. To set up error logging, you will need to add the following code to your wp-config.php file:

define('WP_DEBUG_LOG', true);

This code tells WordPress to log errors to a file called debug.log, which can be found in the wp-content directory.

Debugging Tools

In addition to the built-in debugging features in WordPress, there are also several tools that can help you troubleshoot errors on your website. Some of the most popular tools include:

  • Query Monitor: This plugin provides detailed information about database queries, hooks, and more. It is an essential tool for developers who need to understand what’s happening behind the scenes.
  • Debug Bar: This plugin adds a debugging menu to the admin bar in WordPress. It provides a quick way to access common debugging functions, such as the list of active plugins and the memory usage.
  • Browser developer tools: Most modern web browsers include developer tools that can be used for debugging. These tools are essential for front-end developers and can be used to inspect and troubleshoot issues with the layout, styles, and JavaScript.

Troubleshooting Specific Errors

Now that you have an understanding of the basics of debugging in WordPress, let’s take a look at how to troubleshoot some specific errors.

White Screen of Death (WSOD)

The white screen of death (WSOD) is one of the most frustrating errors that can occur on a WordPress website. It is often caused by a PHP error, but can also be caused by a plugin or theme conflict. To troubleshoot a WSOD, you can try the following:

  • Disable all plugins: If you suspect that a plugin is causing the WSOD, you can disable all plugins to see if the error goes away. To do this, you can rename the plugin folder in the wp-content directory, or use a plugin like WP-CLI to disable all plugins from the command line.
  • Switch to a default theme: Similarly, if you suspect that a theme is causing the WSOD, you can switch to a default theme like Twenty Twenty to see if the error goes away.
  • Check your error logs: If the WSOD is caused by a PHP error, it should be logged in your error logs. You can check your server’s error logs or the debug.log file in the wp-content directory.
  • Check for a memory limit issue: Sometimes, the WSOD can be caused by a lack of memory. You can increase the memory limit by adding the following code to your wp-config.php file:
define('WP_MEMORY_LIMIT', '256M');

Internal Server Errors

Internal server errors are another common error that can occur on a WordPress website. They are usually caused by a problem with the server, but can also be caused by a plugin or theme conflict. To troubleshoot an internal server error, you can try the following:

  • Check your error logs: Like the WSOD, internal server errors should be logged in your error logs. You can check your server’s error logs or the debug.log file in the wp-content directory.
  • Check your .htaccess file: The .htaccess file controls many of the server settings for your website. If there is a problem with this file, it can cause an internal server error. You can try renaming the file to see if the error goes away.
  • Check for a plugin or theme conflict: As with the WSOD, you can try disabling all plugins or switching to a default theme to see if the error goes away.

Syntax Errors

Syntax errors occur when there is a problem with the code on your website. They can be caused by a variety of things, such as a missing semicolon or a typo in a function name. To troubleshoot a syntax error, you can try the following:

  • Check your error logs: Syntax errors should be logged in your error logs. You can check your server’s error logs or the debug.log file in the wp-content directory.
  • Check for a plugin or theme conflict: As with the WSOD and internal server errors, you can try disabling all plugins or switching to a default theme to see if the error goes away.
  • Check your code editor: Make sure that your code editor is set to show syntax errors, and review your code for any mistakes.

Common Plugin and Theme Conflicts

One of the most common causes of errors on a WordPress website is a conflict between a plugin or theme and the version of WordPress you are using. To troubleshoot a plugin or theme conflict, you can try the following:

  • Check the plugin or theme’s documentation: The plugin or theme’s developer should have information on which versions of WordPress it is compatible with. If the plugin or theme is not compatible with the version of WordPress you are using, you may need to find an alternative.
  • Update your plugins and themes: Make sure that you are using the latest version of each plugin and theme on your website. Outdated plugins and themes can cause conflicts with the current version of WordPress.
  • Disable suspect plugins or themes: If you suspect that a particular plugin or theme is causing a conflict, you can disable it temporarily to see if the error goes away.
  • Check for compatibility with other plugins or themes: Sometimes, conflicts can occur between different plugins or themes. Review the compatibility information provided by the plugin or theme developer to see if they are known to work well together.

Optimizing and Cleaning Up Your Website

In addition to troubleshooting errors, it’s important to keep your website optimized to prevent problems from occurring in the first place. Some best practices for optimizing your website include:

  • Keep your WordPress version, plugins, and themes up-to-date: This will ensure that you have the latest security updates and features.
  • Remove unnecessary plugins and themes: Every plugin and theme you have installed on your website increases the risk of a conflict or compatibility issue. Remove any plugins or themes that you are not using.
  • Optimize your images: Large images can slow down your website. Optimize your images using a tool such as TinyPNG to reduce the file size without losing quality.
  • Minimize the use of external scripts: External scripts, such as social media widgets, can slow down your website. Minimize the use of external scripts, and consider using a caching plugin to improve performance.
  • Regularly check and clean up your website’s code: This will help to ensure that your website is running efficiently and prevent errors from occurring in the future.

Conclusion for Debugging WordPress

WordPress debugging is an essential skill for any developer or administrator, as it allows you to quickly diagnose and fix problems that may arise on your website. In this guide, we have provided an overview of the basics of WordPress debugging, including tips, tools, and troubleshooting techniques. By following the best practices outlined in this guide, you can keep your website running smoothly and avoid common errors.

Recap of key takeaways:

  • WordPress debugging is the process of identifying and resolving errors on your website.
  • Common WordPress errors include the white screen of death, internal server errors, syntax errors, and plugin and theme conflicts.
  • There are several debugging tools available, including built-in WordPress debugging tools, popular debugging plugins, and browser developer tools.
  • To prevent errors from occurring in the first place, it’s important to keep your website optimized by keeping your WordPress version, plugins, and themes up-to-date and removing unnecessary plugins and themes.
Picture of Katerina Valeria
Katerina Valeria
Hi there! My name is Catherine and I am a professional content creator with a focus on WordPress. I write blog articles for Gloria Themes, sharing my knowledge and expertise on all things related to this popular website platform.

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