I keep reading that WordPress is the most popular content management system (CMS) in the world, and while that stat isn’t too important by itself, it means that there are a very large number of plugins, code snippets, etc. available.

Of course, with all these different plugins and code tweaks there are compatibility issues…and most of the biggest WordPress problems we see related to compatibility. Here’s how we diagnose WordPress issues as well as some useful links.

How To Troubleshoot a WordPress Problem

1. Duplicate the problem. For this particular problem, I tried logging in as a different user.

2. Do a quick Google search for the issue. Often times I can find the answer in a few minutes.

3. Check to see if the problem is caused by a plugin. The best way to do this is to disable all your plugins and see if the problem goes away. If it does, then you can just re-activate one plugin at a time until the problem reappears – plugin problem isolated.

4. If the plugin check doesn’t seem to isolate the problem, see if it’s your theme. Try switching your theme to the default design and then see if the problem goes away. If so, it’s a theme issue.

5. If checking the theme and the plugins doesn’t isolate the issue, it’s time to re-install WordPress.

  • Before you re-install, be sure to make a backup. I like to use the BackupBuddy plugin for all of our sites…it’s money well spent.
  • Next, the newer versions of WordPress have an ‘updates’ menu option on the dashboard. If you see that, you can try pressing the ‘re-install automatically’ button. If that doesn’t work, it’s time to start deleting and re-installing files manually.
  • If you have to delete files manually, do not delete the /wp-content/ folder because it has your uploads and your theme edits. However, you can delete the /wp-content/plugins/ folder if you wish (only it’s probably not necessary).
  • Also, do not delete the wp-config.php file in the root directory. You kind of need that.
  • Do not delete the .htaccess file in the root directory either…or at least make a back-up before you delete it. WordPress will create a new htaccess file on install, but it won’t contain any rules or redirects you might have added.

Once you’ve deleted the files that start with ‘wp’ as well as the ‘wp-admin’ and ‘wp-includes’ folders, you can grab a new copy of the software from WordPress.org, unzip, and upload everything EXCEPT the wp-content folder.

6. If re-installing WordPress doesn’t solve your problem, you’re dealing with something either really, really obvious or something really, really complicated. At this point, it’s OK to ask for help. The support forums on WordPress.org are helpful, as are some Q&A sites (Quora has a WordPress help section).

7. When all else fails, you can export the contents of your blog, create a fresh install, and then import. This is the last option, but it will get rid of most database problems.

Hopefully, you’re able to solve your issue in step #2 (I usually do).