Website troubleshooting guide

Website issues often require basic fixes, but they aren’t fixes we know. Read our guide to some simple troubleshooting steps if your website appears to be down or it’s showing odd behaviour.

PLEASE NOTE: You will most likely be asked at least some of the following questions when you call our support department. Do remember to keep notes as you go along, and have your notes handy in case you still need to contact our Support department at the end of this guide.  

 

Section 1: The basic checklist
 

  1. Is this a new domain or is it being transferred from another service provider?If this is the case, please note that it can take between 12 and 72 hours for your Domain Name System (DNS) records to propagate across all networks. Please be patient and keep trying.

     

  2. Is your browser up to date?Older versions of web browsers can sometimes be incompatible with newer websites, or make them behave differently. Please check whether your web browser is up to date. If not, update it first.
  3. Have you restarted your browser?Sometimes even our browsers can get into a “confused” state and can benefit from a fresh restart. It is often worth trying this step. If in doubt, open Task Manager and manually use End Process on any browser-related processes before launching your browser again.
  4. Have you fully refreshed the page?Make sure you have fully refreshed the web page in question. Often, simply clicking Refresh is not enough, since by default this command attempts to reload the page from various caches in the interest of speed. Obviously, this has a higher likelihood of causing issues, so let’s show you how to bypass all the redundant caches and stale page code that might be causing interference.

    You can force a complete or “hard” refresh, which specifically bypasses all caches and forces a page to reload directly from the original web server itself. Do this by pressing Ctrl-F5 on your keyboard, or by holding the Shift key and clicking Refresh in your browser toolbar. Note that it can sometimes take a few hard-refreshes in short succession for this to work.

  5. What about cookies?Cookies are snippets of information that webservers are allowed to store on your computer when you visit their web pages. Typically, they are used to help the web server remember your login session, or to store some user profile information about you. We call these “first-party cookies”. These are usually enabled by default. The other kind of cookies is “third party” cookies, with which for example, advertisers and social network trackers follow your activity around the web. In modern browsers these third-party cookies are typically blocked for your security and privacy, but some websites do not work correctly without third-party cookies enabled, which you should be able to allow by whitelist on a per-site basis. Click here for a guide on enabling cookies in your browser.

     

  6. Does the site use JavaScript?JavaScript (JS) is a programming language that allows programmers to create sites with built-in interactivity or other functions. Some more recent browsers have begun to block it by default, but since the use of JS is so widespread, many websites will not work properly or indeed at all if it is blocked. Click here for a guide to enable JavaScript in your browser.

     

  7. Have you cleared your History and Cache?Sometimes, cached content or session cookies can interfere with your website behaviour or performance. Periodically clearing your cache and cookies is a good idea to keep your website content fresh. NOTE that clearing your cookies will log you out of any logged-in sessions, so make sure you have the passwords saved before you clear your cache and cookies.

    Pro-tip: Most modern desktop browsers honour the keystroke Ctrl-Shift-Del to open the history clearing dialog box (Cmd-Shift-Del on MacOS).

  8. Tried another web browser yet?Some browsers handle the same page or content differently, sometimes causing bugs or unexpected behaviour on various websites.
  9. Try a different network connection. (No, really.)Not all internet connections are equal. Sometimes, internet service providers will block entire IP blocks (aka ranges of consecutive IP addresses) if a few bad apples cause trouble for others. If you are struggling to reach your website via your home or office internet connection, try your mobile data connection or a friend’s Wi-Fi internet. You can also try resetting your internet connection in order to request a new dynamically assigned IP address, although this will not work if your ISP’s entire IP range was blocked.
  10. Did you try and fail to log in too many times?Many website hosts monitor your account logs for failed login attempts. If so, there is usually a limited amount of login failures allowed within a certain time limit. This can lead to your IP address being banned for an arbitrary amount of time, from 5 minutes to 24 hours to a lifetime ban, depending on the settings chosen by the hosting provider. (E.g., More than 10 login failures in 5 minutes can result in the web host’s firewall blocking you for an hour, or whatever arbitrary limits were chosen.) 

Section 2: Troubleshooting WordPress site issues 

 

  1. Backup your existing siteBefore doing anything else, we highly recommend that you make a backup of your existing WordPress site. You can either do the backups manually or use any of a number of WordPress backup options.
  2. Clear your browser cacheAs mentioned in the aforementioned Basic Checklist, step 6.
  3. Clear your WordPress cacheIf you are using a WordPress caching plugin such as WP Rocket, you might be getting served a cached/stale version of your website. Some big WordPress hosting companies also perform their own caching for performance reasons. You might want to contact your website host to make sure that caching is disabled for the duration of the troubleshooting phase.
  4. Deactivate all plugins installed on your websiteThe majority of WordPress issues are caused by plugins. To troubleshoot your issues, we recommend deactivating all your WP plugins before troubleshooting. You then activate them one by one until the problematic behaviour reappears once more.You can deactivate your plugins in one of the following ways:

    Method 1:
    On the WP Admin dashboard’s Plugins page, you first select all plugins and then click Bulk Actions -> Deactivate.

    Method 2:
    If you do not have access to the WP Admin dashboard, but you still have FTP access, then you can deactivate all your plugins by logging into your website’s FTP account. Navigate to the “/wp-content/” directory and rename the directory called “plugins” to “plugin.deactivate”.

    You can find more advanced information on deactivating your plugins at https://www.wpbeginner.com/plugins/how-to-deactivate-all-plugins-when-not-able-to-access-wp-admin/.

     

  5. Switch to a default WordPress themeIssues can also sometimes be caused by one’s WordPress theme. For the same reason as disabling all your plugins, when troubleshooting it often helps to switch to a default theme in order to eliminate possible theme-related unwanted behaviour.You can deactivate your custom themes and switch to a default theme in one of the following ways:

    Method 1:
    In the WP Admin dashboard, click on the page Appearance -> Themes, then click the Activate button for any default theme.

    Method 2:
    If you do not have access to the WP Admin dashboard, you can still use FTP access to switch to a default theme. Log in to your site’s FTP account and navigate to the folder “/wp-content/themes”. Identify your currently active theme and download it to your desktop as a backup. You now need to delete all other themes in this directory except for one default WordPress theme e.g., TwentyTwenty. Once you have deleted those, your WordPress site will automatically switch to the only theme available. If your access issues were due to your theme, you should be able to log in normally now.

     

  6. Backup & delete your .htaccess fileSometimes a misconfigured or corrupted .htaccess file can cause the dreaded “internal server error” aka the HTTP 5xx error codes. Here is one workaround for this issue.

    You will need FTP access to your website files. Because .htaccess is a hidden file, you will need to ensure that your FTP client is configured to display hidden files. You will want to download the .htaccess file to your own computer for backup purposes, and then delete it from your website directory.

    If you are now able to log into your WordPress Admin dashboard, go to the page Settings -> Permalinks. Without making any changes, click the Save Changes button to generate a new .htaccess file and refresh your permalinks.

  7. Refresh your PermalinksSometimes your SEO-friendly permalinks and/or SEO-friendly URL structure is updated or configured incorrectly, which can lead to unexpected 404 (Page Not Found) errors on your site.As shown in Step 6 above, it is trivial to refresh your permalinks without making any other changes to your site. Simply go to your WP Admin dashboard and click on Settings -> Permalinks -> click Save Changes without changing anything. 

Section 3: Some Useful Tools 

  1. Is the site down for everyone or just me? https://downforeveryoneorjustme.com/ 
  2. Is your site loading, but slow? You might get some insight with the online tool Pingdom (https://tools.pingdom.com/).
  3. Speaking of insight, Google’s Page Speed Insights could add some clarity: http://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/ 
  4. If your site loading times seem slow, especially the images, then the Website Image Analysis Tool will point out how your website’s images can be improved for loading times and size. https://webspeedtest.cloudinary.com/ 
  5. Aside from the tools above, you will find some more useful links at https://www.practicalecommerce.com/18-Free-Tools-to-Test-Your-Website. 

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