It seems that the blogging world is basically divided into two camps: WordPress people and Blogger people. I haven’t tried Blogger, so I’m not here to endorse one over the other. I found WordPress.com by doing a quick Google search about blogging platforms, read good things about it, and went with it without too much research into anything else. I stuck around there for a couple months, then decided I’d be better off with a self-hosted WordPress.org site. Why? I touched a little bit on it in this post, but mainly because:
- I wanted the freedom to sell artwork through my site (not allowed on a free WordPress.com site)
- I wanted the freedom to play with the CSS and change the look of my site (a feature you have to pay for with WordPress.com)
- I already owned a domain name and was already paying for hosting from a portfolio site I built in school. I wasn’t that in love with my existing site (for one thing it was built in flash which is bad, bad, BAD for SEO!) and I wanted to integrate my portfolio and blog into one place.
These and a couple other reasons were enough to convince me I should be hosting my own site, so I switched over to WordPress.org, easy as pie. The only problem was that the theme available to you when you self host are not the same themes you can choose from on WordPress.com. The theme I had been using wasn’t an option anymore, and WordPress defaulted to the starter theme, called Twenty Ten. I looked through the other theme options they offered, and eventually decided to just stick with Twenty Ten and customize it as much as I could. It offered a lot of features I wanted, and when i needed help there were tons of Twenty Ten tutorials available online. For someone a tad bit rusty with my CSS, this was a huge plus.
But I overlooked one very big thing. WordPress tells you, over and over, that you should NEVER directly edit your Twenty Ten CSS file. Since its the default theme, it gets updated with every WordPress update. That means if you upgrade to a new version of WordPress, your changes will be overridden with a brand new CSS file, and your site will default back to Twenty Ten’s original look. Not good to lose all that work with a click of a button. And don’t even think about going to the WordPress help forums when that happens. You’ll basically get a response equal to “Well dumbass, you should NOT have been directly editing Twenty Ten in the first place. We TOLD you that.”
What they recommend is that you create something called a child theme, which is a fancy way of saying a theme that REFERS to Twenty Ten, but stands on its own enough to not be affected when WordPress (and the default Twenty Ten theme) updates. The problem was, by the time I realized I should have made a child theme I had invested a RIDICULOUS amount of time into customizing my site (this was before i discovered Firebug) and i thought it was too late to create one. I REALLY didn’t want to start from scratch, so I just kept editing Twenty Ten and hoping I wouldn’t need to update any time soon. For those of you who are wondering why that’s such a bad idea, it’s because you miss out on any cool new features WordPress comes up with. Also, WordPress updates their security with each new version, so if you turn down these security fixes you’re greatly increasing your chances of getting hacked. Not a good risk.
Then I discovered this alternate solution on one of the WordPress forums. Basically, you go to your hosting site, and through FTP you download a copy of all the Twenty Ten files (they’ll all be together in a folder). Then you find the Stylesheet for Twenty Ten (Style.css), and copy your existing Stylesheet (in your WordPress admin menu just go to Appearance–>Editor, and copy and paste EVERYTHING in the Style.css file). Replace the content on the Twenty Ten stylesheet you downloaded with your current one. Also, make sure you change the theme name at the top of the Style.css file. I renamed mine “rabbit”. Then you just rename the folder containing all of the former Twenty Ten files, zip it, go to Appearance–>Themes, choose “Install theme” tab, then click on upload. Upload your zipped folder and activate the “new” theme.
Now you can update WordPress without losing a thing! Well, I had to re-link my header and background images from my image library, but everything else stayed intact. YAY! I made it through the transition unscathed. I always get a little nervous about these things.
So here’s where my heart attack comes in….
After updating WordPress, I see that I have seven plugins that needed updates. No sweat. For those of you who don’t know, a plugin is a feature you can download to add to the functionality of your site…sort of like an app for your site. There are plugins for slideshows, putting images in your sidebar, reducing spam…all kinds of good stuff. Anyway, seeing that I needed updates, and feeling cocky (hey, I had gotten around my lack-of child them problem!), I clicked the box next to each plugin on the list and selected “update all”.
This is when disaster struck.
Everything went smoothly until I got halfway down the list, and a red warning box popped up. I don’t remember what it said exactly, something about a system error and incompatibility. I decided to go back to the admin area and saw an empty white screen with this unsettling warning:
Fatal error: Allowed memory size of 33554432 bytes exhausted (tried to allocate 122880 bytes) in /data/22/2/63/140/2063955/user/2262583/htdocs/wp-admin/includes/template.php on line 1494
You do not EVER want to see the worlds “Fatal error” with anything concerning the site that you so lovingly constructed. This completely freaked me out. I couldn’t access the admin area of WordPress at all. Oddly enough, when I typed in my plain old web address everything was fine. My actual site was still in existence and doing fine, but without access to the Admin area I couldn’t make any changes or additions to it.
Google time. After all, Google has gotten me through many a crisis (and reminded me how to jump-start my car on more than one occasion).
Doing a bit of research, I learned that when a plugin becomes incompatible (like after an upgrade), it can wreak havoc with your site. I was pretty sure that’s what had happened to me, since everything was just peachy until I decided to update plugins. I read that if you just delete the offending plugin everything should go back to normal, but I had no idea which one was running amok (I had 15 installed, and I had clicked “update all”).
One site I found recommended going back to your hosting site and downloading your entire plugin folder to my hard drive through FTP. Then delete the contents of the WordPress plugin folder on your hosting site. Now, add the plugin files back in one by one, refreshing WordPress after each plugin is added. When the ominous white screen reappears, you’ll know which little bugger is causing the problem and you can delete it to oblivion. Turns out the plugin screwing up MY site was one that I didn’t even USE anymore and had forgotten to delete. Nice, huh? I felt a little better when I read that this is a fairly common problem that happens to most WordPress users at some point or another.
So there you go! Why write this whole novel on two problems that turned out to be basically nothing? To show you not to be afraid, and not to panic when something goes awry. Just take a deep breath, read a couple of tutorials, and go at it!
And if you still can’t fix it after that?
Well, then you have my full permission to panic.