website down or not working? how to get help

 

I get a lot of people contacting me with ‘HELP! My website has disappeared!’, ‘my website is down’, ‘I can’t get this plugin to work’, ‘I’m getting a big error and I don’t know why’ or even ‘I’ve lost my website’.

The dreaded 500 page error has often just flashed up on their screen or the brand new, it’s going to be wonderful plugin isn’t playing ball, and they go into panic mode. What did I do? Agh, I’ve broken my website! Why is my website down? Followed by a big dose of ‘I’m useless at this and don’t understand technology!’

The thing is that most of these problems have happened to all of us, yes, even web designers. In fact I’ll swear that a big 50% of my job building websites is fiddling around added to a huge lump of trial and error. Which is why, when you buy hosting, or a wordpress theme, or a plugin what you are actually paying for is the creator’s expertise.

Your host is there to serve you

Every hosting package will come with support. There are some things that are beyond your control and the dreaded error pages are often generated because the server is down, or you need more room or your website is going bonkers because a small setting needs to be tweaked. It happens to the best of us. So when I recommend hosting for my clients or my gorgeous course ladies I always recommend hosting with great support. (I use Siteground, in case you need a recommendation)

Often your hosting company will have a live chat function. I find this invaluable as I always get through within a couple of minutes and I can get on with other things whilst waiting for them to explore and fix the problem. AND you don’t have to listen to that awful musac while you are in the queue.

Buying a wordpress theme? You are buying the creator’s expertise and support.

The best wordpress themes come with fantastic support. Each and every theme is different and each and every theme is set up in a completely different way. The wordpress dashboard can be transformed when you upload a new theme and this can often put newbies off and leave them running for the duvet.

BUT luckily when you bought the theme, you didn’t just buy the technology, you bought support. In fact, you will have specifically bought support and updates for a year. When you are asked to renew you will be renewing this support (so your theme doesn’t just stop working after a year!). So read the supporting documentation and expect the controls to be a little different to what you are used to. Watch the support videos, they will often take you through step by step and will save you a headache later. And if you get stuck, login to their support website (this may be in the online shop where you bought the theme) and search their comments for your problem. Still no joy? Try live chat if they have one or raise a ticket to get your problem solved quickly. The number of times I’ve struggled on trying to solve an awkward issue myself when I should have tried for 10 minutes and then asked the experts I just can’t count!

Downloaded a new plugin? The best plugins come with the best support

The wordpress world is a strange place. As wordpress is essentially free and open for developers or non-developers to play with there is a HUGE range of themes, plugins and widgets to add on. Of course, these range in quality and I always read the reviews of plugins before I install.

Some plugins cost a little but come with great support. But even some of the free ones are well supported. When you download or search for a new plugin for your website, make sure you check when it was last updated and whether it is compatible with the latest version of wordpress. Recent updates will mean the developer is still actively supporting their plugin. Yay!

Then, if you get stuck integrating the plugin with your website – ASK! Read the accompanying documentation (often found in the original download or at wordpress.org) Go back to the website that sold the plugin and raise a ticket for help, login to wordpress.org, search for the plugin and click support. You may even find other users asking the very question you needed to ask.

5 golden rules of wordpress support

  1. Don’t be shy – if you get stuck, other people will have been stuck before
  2. You’ve paid for support so use it!
  3. There is no such thing as a silly question. Everybody was a newbie once.
  4. If you don’t understand their answer, tell them, they are there to help you.
  5. Still not working? Have a break, get some sleep and some problems will magically solve themselves overnight.
  6. If you have spent ages trying to solve a problem, contacted the support, had a break and asked your nominated professional and it still isn’t working don’t throw your computer out of the window, try another host / theme / plugin. There are SO many options that you don’t have to struggle to fit a square box into that round hole.