Finding Information and Help

In working with WordPress — or any type of website — there are times when we run into problems. We present this lesson in order that you be equipped from the start to troubleshoot any issues that come up.

WordPress is a massive subject with a whole lot of details. Our goal in this Course has been to provide all of the basic, essential information on running a self-hosted WordPress website in concise lessons. It’s neither practical nor desirable for us to include information on absolutely every aspect of WordPress. So it’s crucial that you know how to locate additional information, particularly when you run into a problem.

The WordPress Codex

The WordPress Codex is, as they describe it, “the online manual for WordPress and a living repository for WordPress information and documentation.” It is “the horse’s mouth” for WordPress information, and every WordPress user should be familiar with this excellent resource.

The Codex has detailed information on just about every aspect of WordPress. But be aware: a typical Codex article includes sections for not-particularly-technical people as well as sections aimed directly at PHP developers. Don’t let the mysterious sections discourage you from utilizing all of the great information designed for users just like yourself.

For some strange reason, there’s no search function for the Codex specifically. Rather, the search box provided searches the entire wordpress.org site, which includes the Support Forums and the Plugin Directory. I don’t find the Support Forums useful for searching, since much of the information is years old and WordPress changes quickly. And when you’re looking for information, a list of plugins is not at all what you need. So, let’s say you want to read in the Codex about Post Formats. Try searching Google with a string like this:

post formats site:codex.wordpress.org

or even just:

post formats codex

for a list of search results including only or primarily Codex articles.

“Help” Tab on the Admin Screens

On most of the Administration Screens at the top right is a hanging tab labeled Help. Clicking on this tab shows one or more links to information directly related to that Admin screen.

General support forums

There are the WordPress.org Support Forums. You may get help by posting there, especially if you use your best forum ettiquette. However, when results from these forums show up in your searches for information, they will often be outdated, or questions which were never answered at all.

There is also Stack Overflow, “a question and answer site for professional and enthusiast programmers” which is free and doesn’t even require a login. Again, with some effort and showing a lot of courtesy, you may get good answers to your question there.

Googling for WordPress information

google_search-400x259For WordPress-specific problems, I find that judicious Googling is the most useful. There are thousands of blogs dedicated to discussing WordPress, and many of them provide very valuable free information. Start your search string with “wordpress”, and add the essential terms that define your issue. On Google, you can choose Search Terms > Any time > Past year to limit search results to only those published in the past year. This is a good idea when looking for specifically WordPress information, because WordPress changes so much in a year that older information is often not useful.

Then review the search results information carefully. Does a search result appear to address your exact question? Does the excerpt shown seem generally respectable? Does the URL show a domain which you already know and trust, or does it at least sound like a serious, relevant site? Click through to a search result site and see if it does address your problem, and if it seems like a smart, reputable site.

Googling for WordPress information may produce a solution for you within seconds, or it could take a lot longer, but the information is almost always out there somewhere. This is where your patience, determination and search skills can really make all the difference.

Be sure to maintain browser bookmarks (or “favorites”) for useful sites you’ve come upon. Using tags to organize your bookmarks makes it actually possibly to retrieve that article on an obscure WordPress subject you once located with great effort.

Product support forums

Often, the main avenue for support will be an official online forum for the theme or plugin. If you want any help, it’s crucial to use impeccable manners on these forums. Most forums post their rules, and you should read them before posting. But almost every support forum will want you to (1) search their forum for answers to your problem before you post, (2) in your post, provide full, detailed information about the problem, including a URL to the problem site if at all possible, (3) be extremely courteous, and (4) be patient – it may take a day or two to get a reply.

Product email support

If support is via email, again, courtesy is of the essence. Explain your problem succinctly and clearly, and provide all the relevant information they may need. Don’t show a lack of respect and professionalism by sending an email which has typos you didn’t bother to correct. Sign your real name, and thank them in advance.

If your issue is not with a theme or plugin, there are other good options.

Geeky colleagues

Wherever you can find geeks and make friends, do it! There’s nothing better than a friendly associate who does similar work and doesn’t mind looking at your problem and offering help if possible. Try to get out there in cyberspace and meet people who produce websites and work with WordPress. You can find them via blogs, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Be nice to them and keep their contact information. And when they ask you for help, do your best.

Work around the problem

This is a true professional web developer’s secret: many times, the solution to a problem can be to do it a completely different way. Inexperienced web developers will often fall in love with an idea and spend huge amounts of time insisting on making it happen, when there’s no compelling reason for it in the first place. If you’re really stuck on something, give some thought to whether you could work around the problem and avoid it completely.

Paid WordPress support

If you are truly stuck with a problem you can’t solve or work around, you might consider paying a WordPress specialist to solve it for you.

Elto.com offers a system in which their stable of WordPress developers will perform “tweaks” on your website for specific prices.

Elance.com is a freelancer marketplace; a search for “wordpress” produces 101,056 results.

Googling “WordPress consultant” (or “developer” or “expert” or “specialist”) will produce a vast number of results. You might want to limit your search to your local area. In any case, you’ll need to check out each consultant’s website and contact the best-sounding ones directly.

For a person managing a WordPress website, knowing where and how to look for information and assistance is foundational skill. If and when something goes wrong, which is inevitable, you’ll be glad you learned to research and reach out for help.

Posted in WordPress resources