Deep breath and count to 10
Ok, relax! I know that sometimes WordPress Development can be frustrating. It may make you want to pull your hair out. Luckily with these 5 tips you can get unstuck and get back on track creating your next Amazing WordPress Website. These steps should loosely be followed in the order listed below.
1.) Ask yourself this important question
What changed? Usually, with WordPress Development, what happens is you are working and everything is good. You do some minor tweaks and check the website and…uh oh. Now the site won’t load, or an image or button is in the wrong place.
It may seem simple but usually the best course of action is to ask yourself, “What changed?” It’s like when you lose something, (your car keys, wallet or purse, or cellphone), and you retrace your steps to the last place you know you had it.
When your website is working and then “all of a sudden” stops working, it is almost always because something changed. Hopefully, you are using version control, but if not then you just need to retrace your steps.
When was the last time you knew the website was good? What did you do since that time. If you have only been working in 1 code file you can CTRL+Z until you get back to the last time you opened the file.
You can do this slowly, step-by-step, until you see the problem. Eventually you should get back to a state where the website is working again. Then you just need to figure out what you did that broke it and figure out how to re-add your change without breaking everything.
2.) The infamous Google
First, I would like to say that there is NOTHING wrong with using Google. It doesn’t mean you are a bad developer, or a n00b. Programming is such a large topic and it’s growing every day. It would be nearly impossible for everyone to remember every single feature of a particular language or platform. jQuery has TONS an TONS of methods. You can’t be expected to commit them all to memory.
Every WordPress Developer Googles. What makes a good developer IMO is a developer that knows HOW to Google. Not everyone Googles the same. Knowing what to look for and quickly searching is an art form.
Here are some tips to minimize the time you spend on Google and maximize the time you spend writing code:
- When you get an error message, GOOGLE THE ERROR MESSAGE. You would not believe how many times I hear a developer say, “I’m getting this error and I don’t know what it means”. Then I say, “Did you Google it?”. Usually, they say, “No”. If you get an error message that says, “Index out of bounds for type (Array)” and you are using PHP then a good “Google” might be, “Index out of bounds for type (Array) error in PHP”.
- When you are looking at your results don’t click on a result in the list. This will take you to that page in the same window. A lot of times you get to a website, go a few pages deep, realize it isn’t what you want and then you have to try and find your way back to the search results. When you are on the results page you can either right click on the link and select, “Open in new page” or you can click your scroll-wheel down on your mouse if you have one.
- Try variations on the error message and take out any code file specific parts of the error. For example, if you have a variable called, “mySuperCoolObject”, and you get an error, “Object reference not set to an instance of an object [line: 43, char: 67, mySuperCoolObject]”, you would want to strip out the bit inside the “”. It’s too specific and your search results could be tainted.
I know what you are thinking. “Why is StackOverflow #3? When I do a Google search I usually get StackOverflow results. Why isn’t this included in #2?”
What this item means is actually ASKING a question on StackOverflow. Let’s say you have a very obscure or unhelpful error message and you have Googled, and didn’t find anything about it. You can go to StackOverflow and post the question to see if anyone can help you answer it.
The people on StackOverflow are pretty unforgiving when it comes to the quality of the question. So don’t post the question, “My website is really slow, how can I speed it up.” Your question will not be answered, you will probably get a bunch of unhelpful snarky comments, and then they will take your question down.
Your question should look like this:
My site was pulling a SiteSpeed score of 98% then I added the “Image Processing” plugin called, “Image Processor”, from https://www.imageprocessorsonline.com. After adding this plugin my site started running really slowly, (the SiteSpeed score went down to 23%).
You see the difference? The first approach makes you look lazy and makes it look like you just want someone to fix your problem for you. The second approach shows that you did a fair bit of research, and it lets the potential helpers know what you have already tried.
4.) Facebook Groups
Facebook Groups like this one, are a great place to seek help. They are usually full of people that can help with your question. The best part about Facebook Groups is that most people in a Group have notifications turned on for Facebook on their phones. You usually get an answer pretty quickly.
The downside is that, unlike StackOverflow where people are “ranked” so you know that they know what they are talking about, in a Facebook Group you usually can’t tell the difference between a Beginner and an Expert. If you ask a question in the group make sure it is thorough and wait to see if other people in the group agree with a particular solution before you spend time implementing it.
One other important tip for Facebook Groups is that a lot of them are Closed Groups. Meaning you can’t post a question or search for other questions until you are given access to the group. This leaves you at the mercy of the Group Admin. Its a good idea to sign up and join the groups that interest you BEFORE you need help, that way you can get immediate access.
5.) CoWorkers, Programmer Friends, or Colleagues
This last option should be your last resort. If you have tried all of the steps 1-4 and still don’t have an answer to your problem and you have spent about an hour spinning your wheels it is time to ask someone familiar with what you are working on. Especially if the problem is because of a specific technology your company might not be using in the prescribed way.
There are several reasons why this should be your last resort, and here they are:
- If you are constantly bothering your coworkers with questions, you are not getting work done, and THEY are not getting work done. Now, no one has a problem answering the occasional question but if you are asking a coworker for help more than 2-3 times per day then maybe you should schedule a time to sit down with this coworker and see if they can help you get a better understanding.
- If you are going to ask for help you need to understand the problem as best you can so you can understand the solution your coworker gives you.
- When programmers are interrupted it can take as long as 15 minutes for them to get back into what they were doing before the interruption. So your 2 minute question could actually take 20 minutes of developer time away from whoever is helping you. If you have a quick question for a coworker its best to send an email or instant message. That way they can finish what they are doing and then read your question without it being such a disruption.
If you work on your own as a Freelancer then obviously you won’t have coworkers, but you might have other programmer friends you could ask.
Ultimately, finding the solution on your own is the best option. That is the method that will help you get better faster. Don’t be afraid to Google, literally EVERYONE does it. Find your solution by posting a question on StackOverflow or in a Facebook Group like this one. Don’t feel too bad about disrupting a coworker, after all, part of being on a team is helping each other out.