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10 Common WordPress Theme Issues & How To Fix Them

There are thousands of forum posts opened everyday not only on WordPress.org but also on other forums and of course nearly every theme developer’s support site regarding very common issues that can be solved very quickly and easily. I’m sure theme developers and community members are pretty bored of answering these questions over and over again, so I’ve decided to write the following post which addresses some of the most common WordPress theme issues so you can bookmark it and have it ready at your disposal.

1. Stylesheet Is Missing

You’ve just downloaded or purchased a super awesome theme and you go to install it and see the lovely message below:

stylesheet-missing-wordpress-error

Well your first thought might be…

“the developer screwed me and gave me a theme without a stylesheet”

Of course it is possible the zip file you received didn’t have a style.css file, but more likely the issue is you didn’t upload the root theme folder.

The Fix: Locate the folder you have of the theme on your desktop and open it (if it is zipped, unzip and open it). Now when you open it you should see all your files in there, if not the theme is likely in a sub-directory. For example my premium themes all have the theme inside an “Upload” folder. Generally it’s somewhere obvious and the actual theme folder will likely be named the same as the theme. Once found zip it and upload via WordPress or upload the unzipped folder via FTP.

2. Sample Data Import Errors

You’ve got your theme installed and now you are uploading a sample .xml file the theme developer was so nice to provide you with and yet again you get an error!

import-wordpress-errors

The Fix: The “failed” to import error is usually 1 of 2 things.

a) The first is that it could be trying to load posts or taxonomies from custom post types that do not exist yet.

  • Activate Theme: Make sure the theme you are going to use is active.
  • Double Check Theme: Make sure the theme actually includes these custom post types and taxonomies – maybe ask the developer or if you know how look yourself

b) For errors like you see above “Failed to import Media” these mean that the images aren’t being downloaded.

  • Did you check the box? Before running the import did you you need to check the box that reads “download and import file attachments”.
  • Are the images accessable? It’s possible the mages aren’t accessible from the server. You could open the sample data in a text editor and try and locate one of those files and test the link in your browser. But the easiest is probably to contact the theme developer and let them know that the images aren’t downloading.

3. Homepage Doesn’t Look Like The Demo

It would be so awesome if any theme you activated looked exactly like the demo once it was activated, however, in most cases this isn’t the case.

The Fix:  Below are some possible fixes for this issue:

  • Use The Homepage Template: A lot of theme developers use custom page templates for their homepage layouts. So you should first of course read the documentation files, but if there isn’t any or you are being lazy head over and create a new page, while in the editor under Page Attributes -> Template” check to see if there is a Home or Homepage template. If so, then you probably need to create a page with this template then head over to Settings->Reading and set it as the static page option.
  • Reading Settings Are Wrong: Another reason might be that the theme doesn’t require any page template for the homepage layout but you currently have your site set to use a static homepage. So head over to Settings->Reading and set the first option so “Front Page Displays -> “Your latest posts”

4. My URL’s Are “Ugly”

By default the default WordPress url structure isn’t very “pretty” much less SEO-Friendly. So if your urls aren’t looking that great (site.com/?p=1) then simply go to Settings->Permalinks and set your options to look as follows (or choose the one that best works for you):

WordPress-Permalink-Settings

5. My Posts Are Returning 404 Errors

If you have posts that are now returning a 404 error page, don’t panic (yet) most of the time your posts are still there and you just need to update your permalink settings to fix the issue. This is very common with themes that use custom post types. Whenever you activate a new theme that uses custom post types you should reset your permalink settings.

Github 404 Error

  • The Fix: Go to Settings->Permalinks and click the save button

If this doesn’t work you might have to update your .htaccess file manually. Read more about using WordPress permalinks.

6. My Menu Is Blank

For those who use WordPress on a daily basis you will likely not have this issue, but if you are very new to WordPress or you used WordPress a few years ago and just getting back it you might be confused as to why your menu is blank when you install the theme.

The default WordPress theme has a fallback for the WordPress menu in case there isn’t any setup, however, not all theme developers have added this to their themes.

7. New Theme Uses Featured Images But I Have A Ton Of Posts Without Them

Prior to WordPress 2.9 there wasn’t any featured image (post thumbnails) support in WordPress so many themes used meta options or custom fields for defining featured images or they didn’t have any sort of default post image.

So maybe you are switching from an older theme to a new one that does support featured images or maybe your prior theme was just very minimal and didn’t use them. We’ll you aren’t going to take hours to go through your hundreds of posts to set the featured image (or maybe you are) so there is a quick solution for this and it comes in the form of a plugin!

  • Fix: Use the “Easy Add Thumbnail” plugin to automatically set featured images on old posts.

8. Slides, Accordions, Toggles, Tabs…Not or Stopped Working!

A lot of WordPress themes these days make use of java-script/jQuery to enhance the themes adding things such as image sliders, toggles, accordions, tabs, mobile menus, image hovers…etc.

If the these features are not working on your theme or suddenly stopped working its most likely do to some sort of javascript error causing everything to break.

The Fix: The first thing you should do is disable all your plugins, clear your cache and re-load your site to check if everything is working how it should be. If it is, then now you can activate your plugins back 1 by 1 and as soon as it breaks you’ll know that last plugin was the one causing issues (make note of this plugin, deactivate then keep doing the same). Once you know the plugins causing the issues you can either search for another plugin that does the same functionality but is compatible or you can contact the plugin or theme developer to let them know of the conflict (first you should look for yourself if you can with firebug to see what the actual issues so you can contact the appropriate person – if its a plugin error, the plugin dev or if its a theme error the theme dev.

9. Styling Changes Aren’t Doing Anything

W3 Total Cache WordPress PluginSo you have your theme all setup and now you want to change the way it looks to give it more of your own “personality” and really make it match your brand, business, niche…etc. So you’ve started adding some custom CSS to your site or modifying the stylesheet but whenever you refresh your site none of your changes are taking affect!

The Fix: There are a few things you should check to ensure your edits take affect:

  • Disable Cache: The most common issue is that you have some sort of caching plugin such as W3 Total Cache installed which is caching your CSS. If you do, you should disable it.
  • WordPress Customizer: If using the customizer you should try clicking the save button then refreshing the page to see if the changes take affect.
  • Background not changing: If you are simply trying to change the background using the WordPress background dashboard you might be having issues if the theme you are using has an image set for the background. You could upload a new image just to test because that should override it. Uploading a 1px solid color and setting it to repeat might be a decent option as well.
  • WordPress Editor Changes: If you are trying to make changes via the WordPress editor at Appearance->Editor the changes might not actually be saving due to server pemissions, but if this is the case you will receive an error. You can learn more about setting file permissions here.

10. I’ve Updated My Theme And All My Changes Are Gone!

If you are an experienced user you might laugh at this, but this seriously happens to people and its not a laughing matter to them.

Why this happend: The most likely cause is that you made manual changes to your template files such as the style.css file (usually). Then when you updated everything got overwritten with the default theme code.

Ho to prevent this from happening: When you want to make edits to your themes  you should be doing it in several ways:

  • Custom CSS Plugin – If you only need a few small tweaks you could use a custom CSS plugin to make your tweaks and ensure they aren’t deleted during a theme update.
  • Create A Child Theme – Creating a child theme is probably the best method of customizing your theme and will allow the greatest flexibility and even allow you to edit template files (besides just style.css), remove or add new scripts as well as add custom functions.
  • Keep A Changelog – Whether you are editing the template files manually (best no to) or using a child theme, creating a changelog is a good way for you to keep track of all the tweaks you’ve made to the theme. It’s especially useful if something breaks so you can back-track and see where you might have made a mistake.

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