How to Deal with Errors and Warnings

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.

  1. 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.)
  2. Go to Google.
  3. 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.

Did you find this post helpful? Want to save it for reference in case you need it later? If so, please use a button below to share it or pin it!

11 thoughts on “How to Deal with Errors and Warnings”

  1. Nice information, I think we should take some precautions while updating. We should take backup of site and revert in case of any issues. Before applying anything to site, it is good to review that plugin or theme and see if it is safe to apply or not.

  2. And .. in addition to Google, use Twitter to search for problems. When my blog was hacked recently I didn’t know what had happened – just that the dashboard was weird. I searched on Twitter for “#Wordpress problems on #GoDaddy” and within a minute had found a blog posting about the problem complete with a screenshot of the weird dashboard.

  3. In addition to agreeing with Lynn about learning ftp (it’s a backdoor to delete a plugin that didn’t work), I would also advise to work on one change at a time and to check your site regularly so you know when something breaks …

  4. Great tips on what’s bound to happen to all of us more often than we would like. I think another tip would be to let your readers know if it’s a problem that will affect you posting a new article or contacting your readers. Somehow let your audience know. There is great sympathy with this issue and readers will forgive you and not abandon you, especially if the fix will take some time (hopefully not but who knows)!

  5. Being in the computer business, I USUALLY stay pretty calm. (Last night was not one of those times {smiles}) You are so right about googling an error. And even better go to the designers site and search there. Microsoft is always a good place to go for errors in Windows. When all else fails call a professional! We don’t mind the over-the-phone answers at all! That is my job most days! I am the support for our business. When I don’t know, I turn to Brad who is a genius! Of course, I am biased on that but really he has been doing this for 20 years! So professionals are out there and they don’t want to charge you for questions LOL. Well some do but we don’t! And good computer companies will answer quick questions without much hassle. If they automatically say bring it in, hang up and go to the next one. Only stupid question is one not asked!

  6. I’m generally pretty calm and cool, but it stresses me out. However, I can say that I am MUCH better at dealing with site outages and broken code now that I understand a whole more about what’s going on. I have an issue with overloading my server right now, but I think I actually know *WHY* which is much easier than grasping for straws.

    I’ve been on the verge of paying for help several times, but that’s one of the huge things I appreciate about the Thesis forums – if you ask good questions, you’ll get good answers and the geeks there are great about helping. 🙂

  7. AND PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE learn FTP!! It will be your friend forever!! Get comfortable with it and if you have your files backed up, you can ALWAYS undo anything! Check out Amy’s post on FTP!!

    1. Truer words were never spoken!

      I just recently forced myself to learn FTP and to learn the actual structure and backbone of my website.

      I was kind of forced into it because I had some things I wanted to do and the world just wasn’t lining up well for me to pay someone else to do it for me. (designers were either too busy, or they didn’t know how to do it…OR they said they could do it and they didn’t…)

      I’m so glad though. Now it’s actually fun to break my blog (well my test blog) because I get to take it all apart and put the pieces back together again!

Comments are closed.