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Updates are important, if not to say mandatory. They make your site more secure, more compatible, more functional and durable. Nevertheless, they can also cause sites to break, usually caused by numerous different kinds of conflicts between old and new code

If things break in your live website or WooCommerce store, I hope you took that backup before and you use it now to roll back to the prior version. Then you start fixing the issues on a staging site. Here are some tips on where to look.

Check in with others

If you are experiencing a problem after an update, chances are other users have the same one. So before going on a long hunt, it can always safe time and energy to just look into the theme and plugin documentation, change log and support forums. They may already be a fix or you can at least join the discussion.

Re-save settings and correct shortcodes

If a plugin feature or some grid or slider doesn’t load properly after an update, you often only need to re-save all your options. Navigate to the plugins settings and click “Save Changes” or “Update”. This way, the database gets reconnected.
While you are in the settings pages, also make sure that all your options are still set the same way and for example images are still linked correctly. With some major plugin updates you do have to re-choose your options, with other re-saving does the trick.

For plugins that use shortcode to integrate certain functionality, also check the shortcode in the documentation. They may have changed it to make it better in the long run. That means though that you need to update your codes as well.

Clear all caching files

Display problems can also occur, when cached files interfere with new code and therefore with the loading of your site. Delete all cached files from your caching plugin – usually by logging into your Dashboard. Then also delete all cache from your browser. Then try viewing the site again and also check in incognito mode or a different browser.

Debug the white screen of death

If your site breaks after the upgrades, you need to identify the php errors or the javascript conflicts between theme and plugins. To get everything back to running, you need to eliminate as many variables as possible and isolate the issue. A live site should be in maintenance mode during the process, but I recommend to always only use staging sites for this.

1. Deactivate all plugins and your theme

  • Log into your site via FTP.
  • Go to wp-content and rename the plugin folder, for example to “plugins-off”.
  • Move your active theme out of the themes folder, for example just loosely into the wp-content folder.

2. Activate a default theme and check your site

  • Log back into your site. You should now be able to access the backend.
  • Activate the newest twenty… (something) theme.
  • You can take a look at your plugins page. All plugins should now be deactivated.
  • Check your website. It should be accessible now, it just looks awful and has hardly the functionality it used to, as you switched the theme and deactivated all plugins.

3. Move theme and plugins back

  • Now that you are back in your site, re-name the plugin folder back to “plugins” and move your theme back into the themes folder.

4. Turn on debug

  • Either edit your wp-config.php file. You need to change the line define(‘WP_DEBUG’, false); to define(‘WP_DEBUG’, true); OR
  • Install the plugin Debug and activate debug mode.

5. Activate your theme

  • Go to your themes in the Backend and reactivate your theme
  • Check your site and take notes of any errors.

6. Activate plugins your theme depends on

  • If your theme is depending on other plugins, you first re-activate these.
  • Check your site and take notes of any errors.

For every error you find, check the themes and plugins support forums for fixes. Resolve any error you have.
Some are warnings and notes, which are not critical. But hopefully the developers are still trying to fix them.

7. Activate your plugins one by one

  • Now you can activate one plugin at a time and look for errors. If there are any, try to find a fix.
  • If there is no fix, maybe you can exchange the plugin
  • If its a custom plugin, you will have to fix the errors yourself or (re-) hire a developer.

Once you made it through all the plugins, your site should be back and running as it did – just better and updated 😉

8. Deactivate debug

  • Don’t forget, now you also should deactivate debug mode, either be renaming the line in the wp-config.php to define(‘WP_DEBUG’, false);
    or deactivate debug mode in the Debug plugin.


Now you can finally go back to your live site, (re-)update everything and include your newly found fixes.
You need some help? Hire me.