How To Troubleshoot WordPress Errors

DigiF9 Technology & Software
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How To Troubleshoot WordPress Errors

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For avid readers that have been keeping up to date with our WordPress blog series so far (https://digif9.co.uk/blog/), you will have successfully set up, secured and started optimising your site to suit your business needs. Everything is looking positive, users are interacting with your site, signing up for accounts, purchasing your products and providing positive reviews – life has never been so easy!

Then the unthinkable happens. One of those horrible error codes comes up on the screen with a bunch of jargon and you think what could I have possibly done in a previous life to deserve this? Well have no fear, the DigiF9 team are here in this week’s blogpost to talk all things WordPress errors related, and help get your business back online.

The first thing, and possibly the most important thing to understand is how your site is configured, and often it can be really helpful to have this drawn up in a diagram for you. If you are the developer, or you have worked with a service provider to get this set up for you, then a really key step to help expedite the troubleshooting process is having a high-level architecture drawn up.

Essentially this does exactly what it says on the tin – it shows you the primary components of your website, for example the customer login page, the admin login page, the backend database storing your content, as well as any plugins you have running on the site. This can provide you with pointers to narrow down exactly where that error code is pointing to an issue, meaning that you can get to the coveted solution faster. At DigiF9 we ensure that every client has full transparency into our development process, outlining clearly in the design phase, how each of the components links with others.

White Screen Of Death

*Disclaimer, it may be a different colour.*

Anyone using an electronic device will likely have seen a ‘white’ screen of death before. I use the term white in closed captions as depending on the device and your preference settings this could be a different colour, sometimes blue, black, or green. The colour will be the least of your concerns, that will be focussed on the fact you can’t actually do anything with the device as it is now completely unresponsive. All attempts of CPR have done no good here and you are now debating which window to throw the device out of to get the most satisfying crashing sound.

With WordPress a white screen of death is typically due to one of two primary reasons;

  • Memory Related Issues – You are currently exhausting the memory limit for your website
  • Code Related Issues – You are using a theme or plugin with poorly written code

What Do I Do?!?!

To identify which of these issues is the true cause you will need to access the website’s PHP error logs. You can do this by either;

  • Contacting your hosting provider
  • Using and error log software, such as Elementor to view the logs for your website

Once you have understood the cause of this issue, you should either increase the memory limit, disable a particular plugin, or roll back to the default theme to test and see if this removes the error.

Database Connection

Come in database can you hear me? Paging the database, why are you not responding?

To quote one of the great visionaries of our generation, Shrek – websites are like onions and onions have layers. Simple websites may involve one static page, but more complex websites require further features, one of which is likely to be a backend database, that stores user information for your customers. Databases are very powerful tools when they are connected correctly, but one connection issue and they will be lost.

Error Establishing A Database Connection

This error indicates that your website is struggling to connect to your database, and it is starting to get lonely. It is typically due to one of three reasons;

  • Database information in your settings is not correct / has not been updated
  • Your database has been corrupted
  • There are server issues that are preventing this connection running smoothly

What Do I Do?!?!

Within the wp-config settings you can ensure that the database details are correct, with a particular focus on the following four fields;

  • Database name
  • Database username
  • Database password
  • Database host

Once you have confirmed that these are correct and that your database is accessible, you should then contact your hosting provider to ensure that there are no issues on the server side.

Connection Timed Out

Throwback to that AOL dial up connection noise. (If you don’t get this reference and have only ever known Wi-Fi, you are one lucky duck).

As with all technological devices they are great when they work. But when you see that loading icon for a website keep spinning or freeze it can be one of the most frustrating feelings. It will be even worse if you are then greeted with the following error.

This Site Can’t Be Reached

Code red, as your customers will also be getting the same message! This is a classic memory issue, but the cause of the memory drainage is currently unknown. It is typically most common with shared hosting providers, where there is a restriction on memory allocation.

What Do I Do?!?!

You can increase your memory limit by editing the following files;

  • .htaccess – Find the line “php_value_memory_limit” and increase it
  • ini – Find the line “memory_limit =” and increase it

You should also be wary of the plugins and themes that you have installed as this may potentially be draining your memory, and you can deactivate these to test if this improves the memory performance.

403 Forbidden Error

You shall not pass!

Being denied access is never fun, particularly when it is to your own website! This error appears when attempting to load a page and typically means that your server is refusing you entry to that page, much like a bouncer after you have had one too many drinks…

This could occur for a number of reasons, such as;

  • You do not have the permissions in your files configured correctly
  • Your security plugins are faulty
  • There is something wrong with your server configuration

What Do I Do?!?!

To test whether it may be an issue with a plugin, simply disable that plugin and attempt to access the resource again. Working through plugins one by one will allow you to isolate the cause if this is the case.

If it is a problem with the file permissions, you should locate the .htaccess file, back it up and delete it from the server. Then if you launch the site with no issues this then you have found the problem child. If this is the case you will need to generate a new file by going into WordPress admin, select the settings tab and choose permalinks. This will then allow you to generate a new file.

404 Error

Your website? Never heard of it…

It’s a toss-up between 403 and 404 as to which is the worst error code to receive, essentially, it’s a question of would you rather know the site can be found, you just wont be allowed in (403) or the site cannot be found at all (404)! This is probably the moment you start sweating, thinking your website is gone…

What Do I Do?!?!

As with the 403 error it is likely an issue with the server configuration. In this instance you should again access permalinks, within the Settings section in the WordPress admin dashboard. Update the links within this section to ensure that they are correct, and that WordPress is pointing to the correct links for your website. Once you are greeted with the ‘permalinks structure updated’ message, you should once again try and access the website.

502 Bad Gateway

Not more error codes…

Into the 500 series of error codes now and the 502 error can be just as frustrating – it essentially means that the hosting server is taking too long to respond to the request to load the site, and so it will throw a strop.

What Do I Do?!?!

This error code can be trickier to resolve, as it can be due to an issue with the hosting provider, your website itself or even your web browser. So we recommend trying the following;

  • Hosting Provider: Contact your hosting provider to see if there are issues at their side
  • Website: Update your themes and plugins to the latest available version
  • Web Browser: Reload the website after clearing your browser cache
503 Service Unavailable

Sorry, this is unavailable please try again later…

Continuing the 500 series, is the 503 error code, which is just as deflating. You are essentially being told that the website is there, you just can’t connect right now, as the server is not able to get a response back. This is typically due to overload on the memory side, or issues with your server configuration.

What Do I Do?!?!

Similar to other issues affecting the memory of your website, you can edit the configuration to add further memory capacity, or attempt to isolate the plugin causing the issue by disabling one by one and testing the memory usage on the website after. You can also contact the hosting provider to see if there are issues on their side that are affecting your website performance.

504 Gateway Timeout

Loading, loading, loading, nope not bothering.

Similar to the connection timed out issue, this time your gateway itself is the issue, and cannot load the website due to this issue. This is a server level issue, but can also be caused by plugins, issues with the hosting provider, or additional software affecting gateway traffic, such as a firewall.

What Do I Do?!?!

The first point of call should be to disable plugins one by one and attempt to isolate the cause of the problem, as well as contacting your hosting provider to see if there are issues at their side. If this does not resolve the issue, you should refer to your high-level architecture, and identify if there is additional software in place that could be slowing down or impacting traffic, and then disable it one by one to see if that is causing the issue.

Redirect Loops

We’re going in circles here…

Whether its technical or non-technical, no one likes being trapped in a loop, going around in circles trying to find the endpoint. Computers are no different, and after one too many redirects will throw up an error message saying that there are redirection issues, and the page will not load.

This is typically due to one of two primary issues;

  • User configured unnecessary redirections
  • Faulty SEO plugins

What Do I Do?!?!

SEO plugins are a powerful tool for building your web presence but can occasionally throw in a few unnecessary redirections. If you have not configured redirections yourself, you should disable any plugins you have one by one to try and identify the culprit. Then once you have, banish this plugin from your website forever!

Not Receiving Emails

Wait no one told me about that…

Sometimes we misplace emails, sometimes they misplace themselves in the junk folder, and sometimes we never receive them at all! As a WordPress admin, you need notification emails set up, so that you are kept up to date and informed of any issues with your website or any items you need to be aware of. But occasionally users experience issues and are not receiving email notifications.

What Do I Do?!?!

In the event that you are not receiving emails, it is likely for one of two reasons;

  • Improper server configuration
  • Limited number of emails allowed by the hosting provider

To fix this you should either query with your hosting provider if there are limits on the number of emails that it will process for you, or set up your own mail service. You can do this with an SMTP plugin, which uses a different protocol to send emails. Here you can then connect your Gmail, Outlook or other email provider to the plugin and get back to being notified.


Whilst not an exhaustive list, this article provides a breakdown of some of the most common issues experienced on WordPress, and the steps you should take to troubleshoot them. To summarise, you should ensure that whether you designed the website yourself, or a third party did, you have full visibility into the various components, and a high-level overview or architecture diagram to refer to, so you are aware of exactly what you have running which may be causing these issues.

At DigiF9, not only do we provide full transparency into the planning, design and final deliverable for all development work, but we offer very competitive and fully flexible support packages from our highly experienced and super helpful team. We fully immerse ourselves within each client environment to offer a bespoke service as an extension of your team. If you would like to request a quote for a development project, or need some assistance with an existing product you have, contact sales@digif9.co.uk today!

  • Web Design
  • Wordpress
  • Web Development
  • website
DigiF9 Web Designer & Developer

We are a growing team of developers and designers who help companies take the next step and transform their digital online presence.

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