This guest post is by Ayelet Weisz of All Colores.
Yesterday, we talked about preparing your blog for a theme upgrade. You read it, worked through all the steps, and now you’re ready to go.
So you get up on Saturday morning and sit down to work, a breeze coming through the window. You turn on some music as you browse through potential new themes for your blog. You find one and click Install.
Excited that you’ve found the perfect match for your blog, you click Activate.
Then you see this message:
Fatal error: Call to undefined function wp_get_theme() in /home/colores/public_html/allcolores.com/wp-content/themes/path/library/functions/utility.php on line 119
You think to yourself, “Fatal error?! I better refresh the page!”
Then you discover that fatal means fatal. Not only do visitors have no ability to access your blog—you have no ability to access your dashboard!
Not even if you left an additional tab of it open. Moving backward in your browser might work, yet any other function you attempt takes you right back to the fatal error message. Is your blog lost for good?
Why would a site crash on theme installation?
Like houses, some themes are built better than others. Files in the theme might have been tempered with or coded incorrectly, or the theme might require a more updated WordPress version than you’re using.
As you browse through themes online and explore their demo sites, there is no way for you to guess which theme would cause your blog to crash. In fact, the tech support agent in the hosting company I use said there’s some chance that the same theme that crashed one site would work fine on another one.
Either way, unless you’re the one who created the theme, it’s likely not your fault that this happened.
The best times to crash your site
Let’s face it—there is never a good time to crash your site.
However, if it must happen, the least harmful times are:
1. When your largest audience is asleep
If you can experiment with your blog when it is night time or very early in the morning in the time zone of your largest audience, that would be best. This way, the majority of your visitors won’t be bothered by bizarre, constant changes to your blog, and the quality of their stay won’t be ruined. Moreover, these visitors might never know something had ever gone wrong with your theme upgrade.
2. When your second-largest audience is enjoying a weekend
A weekend in one country might not fall at the same time as a weekend in another country. Weekend days in the United States, for example, are Saturday and Sunday. In Israel, on the other hand, the weekend starts on Friday evening and ends on Saturday evening. Folks get up early and go to work on Sundays.
If you plan to do any kind of work on your site and you can’t work on everyone’s night time—or anyone’s night time, for that matter—make sure you do your blog changes on a weekend. Some people, though not all, spend less time on their computer on weekends. Instead, they hang out with other people who have the day or two off … leaving you to take care of your blog.
Now that you’ve picked a good time to flip the switch, let’s see what you can do to minimize downtime that arises if your installation goes wrong.
If it all goes wrong
If your site crashes after you installed or activated a theme, there are a few things you can do.
Option #1. Put on the tech hat
Since the theme caused your website to crash, you need to erase the theme from your dashboard.
However, if you’ve lost access to your dashboard, you need to log in to your control panel on the hosting company’s website and erase it there.
Following that, reactivate WordPress’s basic theme—the one that showed up when you first installed WordPress. It’s either Twenty Ten or Twenty Eleven.
You data is usually safe in this case—the fatal error turns out not to be so fatal after all. Once you switch back to the basic theme, you’ll be able to log in both to your blog and your dashboard. Switch back to the theme you had earlier, before you tried changing it, and everything will be back to normal.
This process will undoubtedly require you to delve into technical tasks. If you are not tech-oriented and fear you might cause a truly fatal error, check out option #2.
Option #2. Contact your hosting company’s tech support team
The challenge you’re facing was caused due to a WordPress theme. Therefore, it might make sense to contact the theme’s creator or WordPress.org. It might—but contact your hosting company’s tech support anyway.
It took only ten minutes for my theme issue to be resolved once I started an online chat with a representative from my web host.
Note that you might need to provide your billing email address and password for security verification purposes. Then, the agent will do what was specified in the previous section—she or he will remove the malfunctioning theme from your system and reactivate the basic WordPress theme that came with your blog when you first launched it.
Make sure to ask the person assisting you to stay on the line while you verify that returning to your previously-regular theme causes no issues, and then go off on your merry way.
Fatal doesn’t always mean fatal
The most important part of this process is, of course, to breathe. Remember that there are plenty of sources to get information and support. Blogs like ProBlogger, WordPress message boards, Facebook and LinkedIn groups for bloggers, good ol’ Google and your hosting company are just a few examples.
Mishaps happen. Hopefully, a little quick research and asking for help will help you resolve them in no time—and you might even gain new knowledge and tools along the way.
And once the issue at hand is resolved, don’t forget to do a happy dance.
Has a theme ever crashed your blog? What did you do to fix the problem? Share your tips with us in the comments.
Ayelet Weisz is an enthusiastic freelance writer, blogger and screenwriter. She celebrates the everyday and extraordinaire joys of life on her travel blog, All Colores. Get her free report, 48 Must-Live Israeli Experiences, and connect with her on Twitter.