Websites freak out, act funny, and just plain break every day. They’re more like carnival rides than touring cars sometimes. Do you know what to do when things go wrong? While you can always call up your IT company or web designer, those service fees can rack up. But with a little bit of training, you can address most issues with your site on your own, or at least know when to stop and call a professional.
Your first resource for website help should be your web designer or marketing company. Roundpeg offers public seminars and individual training for small business owners. However, the Internet is full of helpful people and resources to help you out right now, for free.
Answer Your WordPress Questions
Before we go over the resources below, you need to understand an important distinction: WordPress.com is different than WordPress.org. WordPress.com is an all-in-one blog and website service that’s completely managed by WordPress technicians. Self-hosted WordPress websites use the software from WordPress.org and are completely customizable and managed solely by the website owner.
I’ve linked to resources from both sources, and both are WordPress at the core. The WordPress.com tutorials are straightforward, with minimal lingo. And WordPress.com skills transfer really well to the self-hosted version as well.
Most WordPress website owners focus on adding new blog posts or editing content on their webpages. However, if you’re not blogging regularly, it’s easy to forget those skills. Get refreshed with these WordPress.com support documents.
One of the most useful features of WordPress is the deep integration with popular social networks and media services. You can easily put video on your website, add spreadsheets, audio files and more with shortcodes. While shortcodes are an intermediate WordPress skill, they are too useful to avoid. Get familiar with all of them here.
All of the information in the links above is applicable to self-hosted WordPress sites too. Go deeper with WordPress.org. There you’ll find technical details of managing the software on your own.
You can even learn more about posts and pages. Be careful with what you learn from WordPress.org, though. It’s easy to get in over your head. When the troubleshooting article starts looking like a scene out of The Matrix, it may be time to get professional help.
Answer Questions About Your Web Design
Still having issues with your WordPress site? Problems that look like WordPress issues can sometimes be linked to the theme itself. You’ll need to search a little harder and maybe make some phone calls to troubleshoot this. First, find out who programmed your web design. You may have a completely custom design produced specifically for you, an off-the-shelf theme, or a partially custom theme.
An off-the-shelf theme is one designed and sold by a design company. They’re built to look finished with little interaction from the website owner. What I’m calling “partially custom” is a web design built on top of a framework. The company that built your theme or framework may have support documents and discussion groups to answer common questions. They might even offer to fix it for you, for a price. If you’ve got a completely custom theme, your only option may be to contact the original designer.
What if I can’t find the answer anywhere at all?
One of my good friends works for a power utility company maintaining their communications equipment. He trained for years to get this job. When he gets stuck on a problem, he Googles for help. So, basically, Indy’s lights are on right now because of a simple Internet search.
The lesson here: when all the manuals, support docs, company forums and phone calls fail, a search engine may be your best friend. You’ll find blog posts and additional discussion groups where users just like you may have already solved your problem. Keep your search simple, use three or four words in your search query. If you’re feeling fancy, try using special operators that let you search faster and more effectively.
When your website seems to go off the rails, don’t panic. Things happen, websites break. That’s the real world of the Internet. But with plenty of resources at hand, you can probably address the issue yourself. And if you discover the whole thing’s way over your head, it’s ok to stop and call an expert.