Elementary my dear WordPress (Image by david__jones via Fllickr)

Elementary, my dear WordPress

I was confronted by two unusual occurrences this week, with two different wordpress installations.

The good news is, both were remedied quickly.

This blog is about the process of elimination I followed in trying to understand the issue.

I hope this insight will help you feel in even more control of the superbly user-friendly content management system known as WordPress!

Today’s two issues involved a theme and a blog post.

Here’s how it played out.

My widgets are missing

A person who had installed their own copy of WordPress last week, presented with a confounding issue.

On her home page, her right hand column of widgets all showed.

However, on any of the internal pages they disappeared.

I tested the following things:

  • whether the default or single column templates were being used for each page
  • whether her permalinks were set correctly, eg, something like /%category%/%postname%/ or similar
  • whether she was using the native menu system or the appearance menu system, on the off chance there was a wayward setting
  • whether she was running any unusual plugins
  • whether the problem was related to her theme

Voila! It was.

It turns out that the issue was occurring with her installation of the Twenty Eleven WordPress Theme. This is one that I don’t use so had never encountered this before. (If you are one of our clients, you will have a custom theme and not the Twenty Eleven theme, so all should be fine).

I tested the theme by activating the Twenty Ten theme and that fixed the problem.

That wordpress user is now on a mission to find another theme (if only she would use our $950 + GST offer of a simple, customised theme and all the security and analytics and social sharing settings, she could now be focusing on content creation, but each must find their own way).

It is worth noting that had my theme test not worked, I would have Googled something like “right hand column disappears wordpress” and worked through the various forum entries that might have existed. It rarely lets you down, given that WordPress now accounts for around 18 percent of websites worldwide.

Where did that post go?

The other issue occurred during a clean installation of WordPress.

I had popped in and edited the default, Hello World blog post and updated its title, content and category, only to find that it would not display in the blog index page or in the Recent Posts widget.

This was a new one on me.

This is what I checked:

  • made sure the post had been published
  • made sure permalinks were correct and the ‘slug’ for the post (the actual link) was correctly formatted
  • tried a different Recent Posts plugin
  • updated the categories
  • set and reset the Settings>Reading settings to make sure WordPress was calling the right page as the blog index
  • added a new blog post to see if that would show

Voila! It did.

As it turns out, there must have been some corruption or gremlin in that Hello World post that was causing the issue because the second and subsequent posts have published perfectly.

I am hoping that be sharing some of the thinking that goes into troubleshooting will help you stay in control of your blog and solve problems without having to pay me or a fellow WordPress evangelist to do so.

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