I admit I’ve learned to block out the color yellow in my WordPress dashboard, particularly when it’s associated with the word “update.”
This is what WordPress users know: keep your installation updated for security reasons, and, before you update, backup your WordPress files and database. Logical, good advice. It’s that second part, the need to backup your stuff and theoretically prepare for a possible WordPocalypse that makes people hesitant to update their installation. Concern and, well, laziness.
I love WordPress. It doesn’t mean I haven’t had the happy experience of going ahead with the update and experiencing the four stages of WordPress grief.
Shock And Panic
Oh…that’s a lot of white.
You’ve heard of the black death? There’s a white one, too, and it can be heart-stopping. Because the last thing you want to see for your website or dashboard is…nothing.
How frustrating to have a serious problem and you can’t even access your dashboard to deal with it. Reading support forums from users who have experienced the White Screen Of Death (WSOD) reveals an incredible amount of frustration and a strangely broad variety of solutions.
- Removing blank spaces in the functions.php file.
- Increasing php memory.
- Wonky file permissions.
- Realizing you’ve been hacked.
- Deactivating your plugins and adding them back one at a time.
- Emailing that guy you kinda know who is “good with computers” who might be able to help.
The WSOD doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with an update (you might have just added a plugin), but if you’ve experienced it, you probably added it to your mental list of negative things that WordPress does, and it chips away at your trust.
It makes you hesitant to do anything that changes a currently working system, such as updating to a new version.
I killed everything!
You’re happily working with WordPress and you know it is based on a database. When you see an error that says it can’t establish a connection with your database, that inward feeling of despair, which comes from just wishing things would work when they aren’t, sets in.
When I get database messages, my first thought is that maybe that last blog post was too inflammatory and the universe was letting me know. My second is to hop onto support forms to figure out what I did to break things this time.
I’m not an expert with code, and I spend a lot of time on support forums reading the advice of those who are much better. From that comes a couple of lessons learned:
- Not every person who says they’re an expert at code actually is.
- Backup, backup, backup. Before you do anything, backup. Have regularly scheduled backups happening whether you plan on doing anything at all. Backup any files you’re going to be working with so you can restore them quickly.
- And also, backup.
Regret And Remorse
I regret installing 53 plugins.
There are a lot of WordPress plugins. Some are less good than they ought to be, and some good plugins don’t play nice with each other. WordPress users know this, because you’ll often see in FAQ sections, or on forums, a conversation like this:
Will this plugin break my site?
It might. Backup your stuff.
Opinions on plugin use vary, from keeping it at the low end to finding a plugin for everything. Generally, I try to keep it as minimal as possible. Having gone through the deactivation and troubleshooting scenario ad naseum, I end up pruning out plugins that I decide aren’t really necessary each time, whether they were the cause for the issue or not. I want as few plugins as possible, preferring to utilize what my theme offers and what I can do on my own.
For example, there are some good plugins that can handle a 301 permanent redirect should you change your permalink structure.
However, that’s something you might be able to do yourself in the .htaccess file. If I can do it without a plugin, I will. Lots of plugins mean lots of variables, and more security-babysitting. The upkeep of lots of plugins can train you to put off updating WordPress.
Researching your plugins and themes goes a long way. I’ve used my share of pretty-faced themes that wreak havoc inside.
I will have to update.
Yes, you will.