Surviving the White Screen of Death

I’m all too familiar with the blue screen of death. But I had no idea there was now a white screen of death (WSOD).

For too long when people tried to go to the main page of this website (communicateandhowe.com), they may. have found only a white screen. Nothing on it. No error messages. No images. Nada.

But only sometimes. Sometimes they got my home screen.

I act as my own IT department and I was busy enough that I pushed off looking into this problem. Why? No one complained about it or even mentioned it. Nobody. So maybe it was just me?

Besides my stats showed a healthy number of visitors. And as far as I could tell, the rest of my website was always available. Knowing that most folks land all over your website and not often starting with the homepage, I figured I could put off investigating and cross my fingers that the tech gremlins might decide to go away.

I figured that having someone look into the problem would be like taking a car to the mechanic. Sure enough when you do, that problem that you’d like to have fixed doesn’t happen when the expert looks at it.

Then a month ago, Steve Heye sent me a message saying that he was only getting a white screen when he tried to go to my website. I explained the problem and asked if he had any idea what might be going on. Steve is a recognized IT guru so when I didn’t hear back from him quickly, I knew I had a problem I couldn’t ignore.

How I survived WSOD

I figured the place to start was support at Bluehost which hosts my website. They pointed me to my error log that indicated a problem with one of my plugins.

Now I knew plugins could cause website issues. I even knew that a good strategy to identify the problem plugin(s) was to deactivate all of them and then reactivate them one by one.

Doing so never occurred to me because my problem wasn’t consistent. Though that a plugin was the probable cause didn’t surprise me.

Since I knew which plugin was causing errors, I deactivated it. Unfortunately, I still got the WSOD a day later. The error log still pointed at the same plugin. Hmmm.

Back to Bluehost who pointed me to instructions on dealing with WSOD. I greatly appreciated that diagnosis.

I now knew that WSOD was related to the WordPress platform and indicated an issue with a third party script, plugin, or theme. Possibly more than one or a combination of them.

That made me feel a whole lot better. It wasn’t a freak problem that only affected me and there was hope I could fix it myself because there were step by step instructions to help walk me through it.

The prescribed fix involved working through the C panel. I tried but that wasn’t working for me so I decided to try the deactivate/reactivate strategy.

Voila! Success!

I’m sharing my experience because I figure that there are likely to be other nonprofit communications folks that don’t know about the white screen of death or how to go about surviving it–and without needing to use your C panel! I hope this post helps.