Updated February 15, 2016
Spend any time online, especially as a blogger or website owner, and something is bound to go wrong. What to do?
Whether you’re installing a new plugin, tweaking your design or adding new features, at some point you will probably encounter the white screen of death. Websites crash. It happens. When it does, here’s what to do.
1. Don’t panic
As I like to say, most things in life are fixable. It might be costly (in time or money or both), but hey, lots of times most of the time it’s not. A cool head is key. If you are prone to melt into a puddle on the floor, resist.
2. See if it’s just you
A good site to check right away is Down for Everyone or Just Me? This will tell you whether it’s just a glitch on your computer. If it’s just you, wait a second, refresh or reboot.
3. Step away from your keyboard and mouse. I repeat, step away…
In other words, don’t start madly pressing buttons and clicking links because you are in freak out mode. You know, “NO! NO! NO! NO! DON’T BREAK ON ME!” Pushing buttons repeatedly is never a good idea. Just stop and take a deep breath.
4. Undo the last thing you did.
Think of the last thing you did before things went haywire. Retrace your steps and work backwards. Now undo it all. This might be as easy as hitting Control-Z (Windows) or Command-Z (Mac) or going to Edit –> Undo.
If not, installed a plugin? Delete it. Added HTML, a widget or other code to your sidebar or elsewhere? Remove it. Tweaked something? Untweak it. And so on. This will often take care of the problem.
5. Take note of the error or warning message
If there’s a warning or error message assaulting you, copy it. Someone, somewhere down the line will most likely want to know exactly what it said. A screenshot is often helpful too. To take a simple screenshot on Windows press PrtScn on your keyboard, on a Mac, press Command-Shift-3.
6. Google it
Even though you are certain this has happened to no one else in the entire world, I guarantee you, you are not the first one. 🙂
This is where copying the error message and then pasting it into Google can be really handy.
- Open a new browser window or tab. (That is, don’t close out the window your error message is in…just in case you need it again later.)
- Go to Google.
- Enter your search like this: “Error: Great job Einstein, you just broke your site.” (Notice I put quotes around the error/warning message. This is important as it tells Google to return results with that exact wording only.)
Once you get a list of results, browse through to see if you can find a solution to your problem. It’s likely someone else has asked how to fix said problem in a forum or another place online. It’s also likely someone else has offered an easy answer.
7. Contact support
(Feel free to bump this step up to the beginning and save yourself some time and stress.)
If the problem you encounter is directly related to a product for which you have paid cold, hard cash (i.e. hosting, a paid-for theme, a premium application, etc.), contact support. Hopefully the product in question comes with some decent help and they’ll have it fixed for you in no time.
You might also try their Help page, FAQ page, Knowledgebase or User Forums.
8. Pay a professional
If you’ve exhausted all your other options, this is probably a good time to bite the bullet and pay someone to help you. Of course, I probably don’t have to tell you that all help is not equal.
The best way to find a reputable techy professional is via word-of-mouth. So, I suggest you send out a Facebook status update, a tweet or a short, kind (non-freak-out) email to another blogger you know and simply say something like, “Hey, I need some help with my design / WordPress / plugins / etc. Anyone you’d recommend?” Hopefully you’ll get a response in short order and you’ll be back on track in no time.
You can also try a service like WP Curve.
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