The most difficult aspect of web site repair is diagnosing the problem. Sometimes it’s obvious – a clear error message, or a server issue that your host is aware of. But sometimes it’s not. Blank pages, cryptic error messages, intermittent slowdowns, all can be very frustrating.
Check From Somewhere Else
In many cases, what looks like a broken web site may actually be an issue with the computer you’re using to access the web site. Your browser could be buggy, you could have a virus, there could be a networking issue somewhere between you or your host, the possibilities are many.
The first thing to do is have someone else check the web site. Ideally someone as different from you as possible. A different browser, a different OS, even a different geographical location. This way, you can determine whether or not your web site issue is in fact a web site issue and not an issue with your computer.
If you can’t do this, a decent alternative is to clear your cache and cookies and/or use another browser.
What Has Changed?
Once you’ve determined that there is actually something wrong with your web site, it’s time to start the diagnostic process.
Some web site issues can seemingly pop up out of nowhere. But like with anything computer related, something somewhere had to happen to cause the issue. Have you modified your web site recently? Has your host changed anything on the server recently? You may not always know every change that could impact your web site, because you may not be the only person with access, but there’s a good chance you can find out.
Identify any changes that have been made in the time between when your web site last worked and when you first noticed it was broken and go from there. The changes may give you additional insight into a seemingly cryptic error message you have received, or they may tell you which of your backups you can restore from.
Check The Logs
If you’re like most people, one of your favorite things to do is comb through hundreds of lines of server logs filled with what looks like gibberish.
Luckily this popular pastime also has some practical use.
If you have the technical know-how to decipher these logs (well, even if you don’t), it can’t hurt to take a look. They usually won’t give you an immediate solution – but more often than not, they will give you some information to go on. Perhaps a related error, or simply a debugging message that is closely related to the issue at hand.
Tip: If you’re on a cPanel host, there will be an “Error Logs” icon in your control panel, and possibly a file entitled error_log in the directory in which your web site resides.
Ask Your Host
Presumably, your web site is hosted with a reputable hosting company and you have a way to contact them for technical support.
A host can do two things for you. For one, they should be aware of any recent changes that have been implemented on the server level. As this is one of the possible root causes of your web site issue, finding out exactly what’s been done may help you solve your problem.
Secondly, some hosts (note I say some, not all) will be willing to take a peek at your error logs and try to steer you in the right direction. Don’t demand it, if you’re on a $10 shared hosting plan it shouldn’t be assumed that they will, and if it wasn’t promised when you signed up, you’re in no position to expect them to. However, some hosts will, simply for the purpose of going above and beyond when it comes to technical support.
Consult an Expert
Some issues just aren’t worth fixing yourself. If you run a busy e-commerce store, you’re losing money every minute your site is down. In these cases, you may be best served by simply paying an expert to do the repair for you.
We offer web site repair services with a money back guarantee. If we can’t fix it, you don’t pay.
Sam Barrow (CEO of Squidix LLC) is a senior web developer and server administrator with roughly 11 years of experience living in Indianapolis, IN. His specialties include web design, web development with PHP, Java/Scala development, and UNIX administration using CentOS, Ubuntu and FreeBSD.