Fighting the WordPress White Screen of Death


We’ve all been there: We’re editing the WordPress theme file, setting a new function and *BAM*: We view the site and it’s nothing but a sea of white pixels.  There’s no messages, no errors, nothing to indicate what you’ve done wrong.  And it’s frustrating: sure, removing the change would fix the problem, but I (as I’m sure you agree) would rather know why it’s not working so it can be fixed, not rolled back. A lot of people don’t realize this, but WordPress, by default, squelches error messages – any alerts, notifications, or messages that tells you about a problem.  It’s good if you’re running fine because those messages can show up even if the site is running fine (old functions, alert messages, etc).

The good news: you can enable them with one line of code.

The wp-config.php File

Head into your FTP program and connect to your server.  Open the wp-config.php file in your root directory.  You should see a line of code that looks like this:

define('WP_DEBUG', false);

This ‘WP_DEBUG’ function is an on/off switch of sorts for those error messages.  Switch that value to true and then refresh your site.  You should start seeing any and all error messages causing the site to fail.

The caveat

Keep in mind that if you have a high-volume site, your visitors are more than still visiting the site.  They’ll also see the error messages, since they show up on both the front-end and back-end of the site.  Fix your error, switch ‘WP_DEBUG’ back to false, and keep enjoying your site!