Solutions to 6 common WordPress problems

Spinning your wheels?

As a WordPress consultant, I see the same questions and frustrations time and time again. Today, I’ve written about six common WordPress problems along with some solutions to try on your site!

1. Spacing problems in the WordPress edit screen

This is one of the most frequent WordPress problems users encounter. They’re trying to type in a post, and the spacing gets all messed up. It’s especially common if you’re copying text from a document into WordPress. There are a few things you can do:

  1. Go into the TEXT view and remove any extra HTML that reads like  
  2. Don’t paste your text into the post until you turn on the plain text mode (it’s a T on a clipboard).
  3. Highlight the offending text and click the eraser button so it will clear extra formatting.
  4. Avoid trying to micro-style your text. Just use the predefined headings, bullet points, and/or blockquote, and don’t try to treat WordPress posts like a Word document.

If none of those things work, you might just be using a poorly coded theme. Try upgrading to a premium theme framework like Genesis, and you’ll see about 75 percent of your spacing issues disappear.

2. Post publish dates

Removing the date can be a cinch if you’re running Genesis. Otherwise, you might have to use CSS to get the date off. Here are the two methods I recommend:

  • For Genesis users, simply download and install Genesis Simple Edits. Then navigate to GENESIS > GENESIS SIMPLE EDITS and where it says Entry Meta, erase the [post_date] shortcode and hit save.

Modifying the postdate usage in WordPress

Other themes might have the option in their customize area, so check the FAQ from your theme before you try the code below.
For non-Genesis users with an uncooperative theme, you’ll want to put this CSS code into your theme’s stylesheet. To find the sheet, go to Appearance > Editor. Then you have to find where the date is referenced in your sheet (and it’s different for every theme). You can use the find function on your browser and look for the code that says

.entry-header .entry-meta {

Then add this line of code under it. (You don’t need to delete the code under it; just add one line to what’s already there.)

display: none;

So the whole thing might look like…

.entry-header .entry-meta {
	display: none;
margin: -5px 0 15px;
	color: #333333;
	font-family: Helvetica, sans-serif;
	font-size: 16px; font-size: 1.6rem;

3. The “white screen of death” after an update

First things first. Before you attempt to perform an update, back up your site. Updates are risky because one wrong line of code can cause what developers have nicknamed the “white screen of death.”

If you’re only performing one update, you might think that the particular plugin you’re updating is the cause of the errors. It might not be. It might simply be that updating caused an incompatibility with another plugin already installed.

File managerThe easiest way to figure out what’s causing the issue is to deactivate all your plugins. If the error disappears, you need to install them — one at a time — testing your site after each one. If uninstalling all the plugins still doesn’t clear the error, try reverting to the WordPress default theme (like 2015, for example). It could be your theme and plugins aren’t playing nicely together.

Unfortunately, a lot of free themes are more trouble than they are worth.

If you can’t get into your site at all, you can log into your hosting account, go into your cPanel, and navigate to the File Manager. Download the whole contents of the plugins folder (which will be inside the wp-content folder) and save it on your desktop. Then delete all the plugins from your plugins folder in the file manager on your server. Recheck your site to see if you can get back in. If you can, then you can slowly upload one plugin at a time, while checking your site’s functionality each time.

If none of that works, you can call your host and they can walk you through how to restore a backup.

4. Avatar-based profile photos

Whenever you leave a comment or reply to someone on your blog, you might see that there is a blank profile square where you can add a picture. The only problem? When you go to Users > Profile on your dashboard, there is no place to upload a photo!

That’s because that photo is populated by an account you need to have called Gravatar. And to make matters more confusing, the only way to have an account with Gravatar, is to have an account with So if you sign up for a account, then you can sign up for Gravatar. The trick is to make sure that the email address you use for all of these accounts is the same as the user email on your self-hosted WordPress blog. Once in the Gravatar dashboard, you can upload a profile shot. Then, by way of magic, your profile on your blog will be updated as well.

Example of Gravatar usage in comments

5. Favicon updates

Many WordPress themes don’t allow you to adjust the little icon that appears in the browser tab when someone is viewing your site. The easiest and simplest way to do this (without having to add another plugin), is to perform the following steps:

  1. Create your icon (or resize a logo) to 16×16.
  2. Save the file so it has the name favicon.ico.
  3. If you want help with this, you can use a favicon generator website to convert the file for you (though most computers will allow you to rename the file and add the extension without issue).
  4. Log into your server (through your hosting account) and go to your cPanel, then file manager.
  5. You want to search your folders until you find the favicon.ico file that already exists. Some themes have it in the themes folder (under images), some just have it in the WP-Content folder. You might have to search a bit.
  6. Upload the file and when the computer asks you to overwrite, say yes. Then you need to clear your cache and wait a bit, and the new favicon should start appearing.

Example of favicon display in browser

6. Featured images in social media sharing of content

If you’ve gone through this checklist and nothing works, I say surrender. There are some WordPress problems that are out of your control, though I’d be shocked if none of these solutions worked for you.

  1. Example of image display Facebook uploadMake sure you have a set featured image.
  2. Use plugin like Yoast SEO or Social Warfare, which gives you a particular spot where you can upload a photo JUST for Facebook.
  3. Make sure the photo is at least 940 pixels wide to get that nice preview look.
  4. If you’re sharing your home page (especially if it’s static), make sure you’ve set a featured image for the page itself.
  5. Experiment with sharing the shortlink vs. the long permalink.
  6. Try copying and pasting the link directly rather than simply clicking a share button.
  7. If you’re sharing on a page you manage, go ahead and use that nifty upload image button and try manually updating it (not available for profiles).
  8. Change your theme.

What are the most common WordPress problems you’ve encountered?

Image by: Zebra Pares via Compfight cc

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