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A New Theme, Part 2: When Your New Theme Crashes Your Blog

Posted By Guest Blogger 20th of January 2013 Blog Design 0 Comments

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.

About Guest Blogger
This post was written by a guest contributor. Please see their details in the post above.
  1. yeah may be i will face these problems then i will surely try these tips..i like this post..
    thanks for sharing..

  2. This was good information and reminders to have a global perspective. I will admit I never know that In Israel, that folks get up early and go to work on Sundays. I had no idea. I can remember in Germany Sunday was like a ghost town and it was hard to find even a restaurant open.

    Thanks for the information and thought provoking post!


    • Yeah, that always seems to shock people :) In Israel, many places are closed on Friday afternoons and evenings, plus most or all day long on Saturdays. Much more is open than in the past, though.

      Glad you enjoyed the post!

  3. That exact scenario happened to me once. I was putting up a theme I found online, and BAM, my site, and the wordpress back-end was down. Godaddy Support was clueless. I eventually fixed it myself by replacing the broken theme with a different theme renamed to the name of the broken theme. This substituted the files and brought everything back online. That experience did however convince me to use a backup service for the whole blog. I use and am very happy with Blogvault, but there are quite a few other good options out there. Thanks for the good piece.

    • Sorry to hear it happened to you too, Michael – it’s a scary moment when it does! Fortunately, the folks at HostGator were great help to me. Good thing you were able to resolve it on your own, and thanks for the extra tips reg. renaming the broken theme and using a backup service.

  4. this is such perfect timing this just happened to me but like an idiot i did when my audience was awake and i got a bunch of frantic emails.
    I like how you remind people to think outside thier own personal timezone

    • Thanks, Marty. Look at it this way – your audience cares about your blog enough to send you frantic e-mails when your blog crashes. That’s fantastic :) Hope the post helped you resolve this challenge!

  5. I could hug you. I just had this happen after reading this early this morning while working on a client’s site. Thanks for your great timing!

  6. Hey,

    Your post is really informative and these tips will help me a lot whenever i face a problem.

    Jenifer Taylor

  7. Excellent tips, thanks for sharing Ayelet! I also do any theme changes at 1:00am in the time zone of my biggest audience, the Philippines in my case, but not on weekends.

    It may also seem tedious to some, but I also do a simulation on a test site before I do the actual switch on the live site. I basically restore a backup of my files and database on a test wordpress installation on a subdomain of my live site and create a replica, and then do the switch there first. This also makes me confident my backups are working.

  8. I always make sure to deactivate the plugins and widgets when installing a new theme but once i lost the home page, but was easy to restore

  9. Oh man, the dreaded site crashing nightmare. I can only tell you bro that it’s not a pretty feeling. I’ve been there on a couple of occasions and me not being behind the scenes techie person didn’t make it any better. When I run in to these kind of issues, I usually try and get my tech guy on the line and within a few hours or so, I’m back in business. Anyway thanks for sharing. I really enjoyed it.

    • Definitely not a pretty feeling! Good thing it’s easier than ever to find tech support or learn how to fix tech challenges ourselves. Glad it worked out for you and that you enjoyed the post!

  10. While not an option for the less technical people, I run a dev copy of my website on a Linux box at home, so I can test all changes and upgrades in a controlled environment first, before applying the changes to my live site.

  11. Great post Ayelet. Even I had to face these worst things with some of my websites. It’s horrible. And, if you’re less techy and are hosted on a server the customer service of which is even more horrible, then your fate is at stake. Poor man indeed !!!

    So, first, get your site hosted on a server where you can get best of assistance when needed. Have a dummy site. Make that site invisible to search engines. (you can do this easily directly from WP dashboard). And, then make your hands dirty into delving anything which you want on your site, be it a new theme installation, any customization of theme(s), speed checking… just anything you wanna play around. If all sounds good, then apply those to your live site. However, it’s better to host both of your dummy site and your other site(s) with the same hosting service so that you can test their customer service off and on and how they help you when you need them the most.

    Nice reading

  12. there is so much to know about. i hope i will never get in the situation to crash the site. but thank you for the post.

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