When there’s a problem with your website, what do you normally do?
- Pay an expert to fix it.
- Go on a DIY research binge to figure out how to fix the problem yourself.
If it’s the first option, you could save a lot of money on the cost of a specialist to solve a relatively simple problem. With the 10 basic tips below, I reckon you’ll solve more than half of your WordPress website issues yourself in minutes and save a lot of money. If it’s the second, this list will condense the most common fixes down and saves you hours of Googling and YouTubeing.
As well as running through the steps below, I’ve created a downloadable quick checklist document you can go through whenever you have a problem.
To Start – Log in and back up
Before we dive in, you’ll need to ensure you have WordPress admin access, hosting access and domain access. If you’re already managing your own website, you should have these. If not, your web designer, developer or manager should be able to give you them.
Make sure your website is backed up and you know how to restore it from the backup if you need to. Updraft is a great, easy-to-use tool for backing up your site and restoring again at a later date. Check this link to find out more about it, get it and learn about backing up in general.
Ok. You’re ready. Go through this list in order whenever you have a problem before turning to costly experts or Google. It should take well under an hour and will get even faster on future run-throughs
1. Is WordPress up to date?
- Navigate to your site’s dashboard, as shown in the image. (The rest of my instructions will start from here).
- Click on ‘Tools’, then ‘Site Health’.
- If your WordPress platform is up to date, you will see a message saying so, otherwise, the message will read ‘WordPress update available’.
- If an update is needed, click the down arrow icon to the right of the message and follow the instructions to download it.
It’s important to keep WordPress up to date because out-of-date editions can cause all kinds of problems, as well as posing a security risk to your site and customer data.
2. Is my theme up to date?
Out-of-date themes can make your site look and act wrong.
- Click on Appearance, then Themes.
- From the different themes shown, select the one you’re using. It will have the word ‘Active’ written under it.
- If your theme is not up to date, you will see a yellow box saying ‘Update Available’, as shown below. Otherwise, you will see nothing.
- If an update is available, click the ‘update now’ link to install it.
Remember, some themes need you to pay a subscription, so check this is being paid if needed.
3. Are my plugins up to date?
- Click on Plugins.
- From the list of plugins being used on your site, look for ones with a yellow box similar to the themes one telling you an update is available.
- Click the ‘update now’ link on any that display this message.
- You can also click the ‘update available’ link at the top of the list to see just the plugins in need of updating.
As with themes, some plugins need a subscription, so keep on top of this.
You may also notice a number in a red circle next to the PLugin option and in other places on the dashboard. These indicate updates or other important actions needed, so it’s worth keeping an eye out for them.
4. Is my software still being updated?
If you haven’t been asked to update a plugin or theme for a while, check the creator’s website to find out the last time it was updated by them. To do this:
- Click on Plugins.
- Find the plugin in question and click ‘View details’
- Click ‘Plugin homepage’
- Look for the details of when it was last updated.
If it was more than a couple of months ago, there may be a problem and you may need to replace the plugin.
5. Do my plugins and themes work with my WordPress version?
This is important, as new versions of WordPress can often break old plugins or make them obsolete.
- Go to wordpress.org/plugins
- Find the listing for your plugin or theme.
- Each listing lets you know which versions of WordPress the theme works with. Check that your current version is included.
6. Are my subscriptions still valid and activated?
If you have a premium plugin or theme, have you kept the payment up and is the license working? If not, the plugin in question will simply stop working or switch to the free version.
Details of subscriptions can often be found in the relevant entry on the dashboard Plugins menu.
7. Do I need all these plugins?
Too many plugins cause lots of problems, clashing with each other, causing security risks and slowing your site down. Check in the Plugins menu to find and remove any plugins you do not use or need.
There’s no simple catch-all guide to doing this, but I find that deactivating plugins you’re not sure of one by one, and then checking your site still works completely is a good way to do it. Then you can switch off the ones that don’t effect your site and keep the ones that do. Only remove the ones you’re completely sure aren’t needed, though.
8. Check Website hosting space
Check with your hosting provider or web developer that your website hosting has enough free space to store your site. Remember, you must always leave an extra 20% free for emails.
If you run out of space, strange things can happen, and your site can stop functioning normally.
9. Check for notifications from plugins
Some plugins ask you to do certain things, check your notifications for important messages from them.
- Click on Dashboard
- Check the messages at the top of the page. Some may be from your plugins asking you to do things or resolve issues.
- Resolve any issues here.
- Click on site health for a fuller overview.
10. Check site health
Coming back full circle, the Site Health page is a useful place where you can review and act on most major issues with your site. It’s not exhaustive, especially with large and complex sites, which is why I’ve put it last. It’s very useful for a quick audit though.
- Click on ‘Tools’, then ‘Site Health’.
- Most important actions that need taking are listed here under critical issues and recommended improvements.
- Click on the entries for information on the problem and instructions on how to solve it.
I strongly advise solving critical issues if you can. Recommended improvements are up to you but are usually worth doing.
To fix or not to fix?
Going through this list should help you solve most common problems with your WordPress site. If you have completed it and still haven’t solved the problem, it’s probably time to contact your website developer or manager for help. If the problem is fixed, great – doing this check whenever you have a problem should help you save a lot of time and cost fixing your site. Keep these instructions handy and remember to download and keep my quick checklist.