Any WordPress user knows that website problems are, sadly, unavoidable from time to time. Even the best coding is never perfect, after all. So, eventually, you may need to face the complexities of debugging in WordPress.
But don’t worry: it’s actually a fairly simple, fast process. You can use various methods for debugging WordPress, with one for every experience level.
This post will explore the debugging in WordPress process, covering how it works, how it can make coding more streamlined, and numerous tools and features for effective debugging.
WordPress Debugging – The Purpose
If you have no experience of debugging, relax — it’s a simpler concept than you might imagine. It’s just the process of finding and fixing code errors.
However, as debugging involves eliminating bugs that could cause significant problems and disrupt the user experience, it is a crucial component of all development projects. Debugging examples include:
- Reviewing code
- Pair programming
- Running unit tests
It’s best to undertake debugging in WordPress before your project goes live: aim to slot it in as the last phase of your testing and reviewing process. As a result, you can enhance your code quality and provide a high standard of User Experience (UX).
But while debugging strategies and tools are vital for developers, anyone can use them. If you’re a site owner, for example, you can take advantage of debugging to gather helpful information on errors affecting the performance of your websites.
What kind of errors? Your site could crash completely out of the blue, or you might even run into the dreaded White Screen of Death (WSoD) — when the user screen turns white suddenly. They could be the result of a problematic theme or plugin, as there may be an overdue update or serious compatibility problem.
Regardless, identifying the exact root of a website error can be frustratingly complicated and time consuming. The process often involves extensive troubleshooting to eliminate possibilities, such as turning off every theme and plugin until you reach a conclusion.
Yes, it can be lengthy and tedious if you have lots of themes and plugins on your site. But debugging makes it more straightforward, with debug mode notifying you of any PHP alerts and errors affecting your website.
Effective WordPress Debugging Techniques
You can choose from multiple techniques for debugging in WordPress, and some are easier than others. Fortunately, a solid debugging system is built into the Content Management System (CMS), and you can use numerous plugins and tools as well.
Ready to get started? Here are three helpful tips for WordPress debugging to keep your site running smoothly.
Manually Switch WP_DEBUG Mode On
When debugging in WordPress for the first time, activating its built-in feature is one of the simplest, fastest techniques. You need to edit your website’s wp-config.php file to do this: this file contains an activity record from across your whole site, helping you to efficiently spot and resolve issues that emerge.
So, how do you activate the WP_DEBUG mode? Go to your website’s root directory with your hosting provider’s File Manager or with a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) client. Look for the wp-config.php file under public-html and open it. Next, copy and paste this snippet of code:
// Enable WP_DEBUG mode
define( 'WP_DEBUG', true );
// Enable Debug logging to the /wp-content/debug.log file
define( 'WP_DEBUG_LOG', true );
// Disable display of errors and warnings
define( 'WP_DEBUG_DISPLAY', false );
@ini_set( 'display_errors', 0 );
// Use dev versions of core JS and CSS files (only needed if you are modifying these core files)
define( 'SCRIPT_DEBUG', true );
However, you should put this in ahead of the line reading *That’s all, stop editing! Happy blogging*. Make sure you save your changes when you’re finished. If you want to turn off the debugging mode for any reason later on, you can do that in this same file — just swap the true value to false.
Open the WP_DEBUG Log
Did you spot the line referring to the WP_DEBUG_log in the previous section? It is similar to the debug mode. Error warnings, notices, and messages will be presented on your dashboard by default when the WP-DEBUG mode is activated.
But if you want to browse a full list of these notices, you need to turn on the WP_DEBUG_LOG feature (as covered in the previous section). When you activate the feature, every error is saved to a debug.log file, which you can get to via your FTP client or File Manager. The file can be found under the public_html folder, just like the wp-config.php, though it might be in your wp_content folder too.
Explore Debugging Plugins
Do you feel uncomfortable with the idea of editing your website’s files? Don’t worry — you’re not alone. Many WordPress users will feel the same. For complete beginners or users who would prefer to activate debugging with a plugin, you can pick from a number of them that will do the job.
Debugging plugins offer several benefits even if you turn on the debug mode through your website’s files. For instance, these tools may locate more details about troublesome bugs and allow you to monitor your site for PHP errors more easily.
There are a variety of plugins to consider, with Query Monitor being one of the most popular. It is a free tool designed to make debugging various WordPress issues simpler, covering PHP errors, stylesheets, database queries, and more. You also get a developer panel which can be accessed through your dashboard. After you install and activate the plugin, it’s easy to get started — just go to the menu toolbar at the top.
WP Debugging is another, slightly lesser known, option, but we suggest that you only work with one third-party debugging tool on each website to avoid problems with compatibility.
WordPress Debugging in Plesk
Plesk users have additional opportunity to enable WordPress debugging through the usage of WP Toolkit. WP Toolkit is a single management interface that enables you to easily install, configure, and manage your WordPress websites.
So, what exactly do you need to do?
- Click on “WordPress” link in the sidebar menu
- You will see the list of your WordPress websites.
- Select the one you want to switch on debugging on.
- On the right you will see “Tools” section. There you will find “Debug” toggle.
- You may switch it on OR proceed to the debug settings section in order to seelct the options you actually need
Bugs are inevitable with a new website, particularly when dealing with themes and plugins. As a result, code debugging is a crucial process, but newcomers are sure to wonder how it all works and how to achieve the best outcome.
Remember — there are three techniques you can use for WordPress debugging:
- Edit your website’s files to manually turn on WP_DEBUG mode.
- Navigate to your WP_DEBUG_LOG for a record of all saved notices and errors.
- Explore the debugging plugins available.
- If you are the user of Plesk – just utilize the power of WP Toolkit
We hope this guide has helped you learn more about debugging in WordPress, and makes it easier to keep your website running as it should.