Website, Schmebsite – Or, How Dreamhost Saved The Day

The last week has been chock full of website drama. I don’t mean the kind where you find out somebody’s posted something mean about you on their tumblr (thankfully, that hasn’t happened), rather I mean the sort where bits of code get screwed up and one finds oneself in a Gordian knot of horrible.

Friday was the first issue. I woke up to a message from my friend that her website wasn’t letting her log in to renew her domain name – and thanks to a long tangle of unlikely circumstances all converging on the same point, she had no way of a) accessing her account or b) renewing her domain. C) Because the domain had been transferred from her original provider to GoDaddy (gotta love those corporate acquisitions), she was now subject to a policy that said if her domain lapsed, it would be up for auction – in other words, she’d have to bid for it. (I don’t know what you’ve heard, but my understanding is that GoDaddy has subsidiary companies in place to bid for domain names in just this kind of circumstance, opening the original owner to the possibility of losing their name entirely unless they’re willing to cough up some cash.)

Luckily, some time on tech support with GoDaddy straightened her situation out, but not before frustration, tears, and multiple hours spent on trying to resolve the problem. Even once it was fixed, she was told the tech support person couldn’t figure out exactly what had happened to lock her out of her domain name, so that’s not terribly comforting.

My drama heated up on Saturday night, when I was trying to fix an error message that’s been popping up both when I make new posts and when people leave comments. (If you’ve left a comment, you’ll have noticed the super-scary code that comes up, even though your comment has actually posted).

I was asking for help with this on Twitter when a kind soul piped up with some recommendations – essentially, there was a way I could suppress the comment without actually fixing the code. The error message was due to a fault in the WordPress theme I was using.

The helpful individual sent some code over and let me know where in my functions.php file to put it (and yes, I was punching way above my weight class even attempting this, so the next thing that happened shouldn’t be a surprise…), and I did, and…

…my entire website broke.

That’s right. If you tried to access this site around 7:30pm Saturday night (and why wouldn’t you, I mean what, you have a life or something?) you probably got some very weird looking message about missing $end information. Because I broke my site. It turns out that I shouldn’t have been trying to edit the functions.php file through WordPress, which I didn’t know, because as I said, punching way above my weight class on this one.

So it looked like I was going to have to find a new theme, which was fine because aforementioned bad coding, but when I went to try and switch back, NOTHING HAPPENED.

That’s right. NOTHING.

Cue panic.

I went to Dreamhost’s online help and they were able to reset my theme back to the default, which was great, except that it made the whole thing very ugly and I didn’t want to use the default wordpress theme. I went back to the themes page and picked the theme I’d been using before, and clicked “activate”…

…and my entire site disappeared again.

And did I back anything up before I did this? No. Because why would I. Because who needs a backup. Since when has a computer ever gone through this kind of error. (ARGH.)

The next step, I think, is to uninstall the theme and then reinstall a clean version. And hopefully that will work, because I really like my theme and have spent a lot of time tweaking it to come up with something I enjoy looking at.

If you’re reading these words, you’ll know it worked.

Feel free to leave comments, and don’t be intimidated by the error message. Your comment will probably have posted, it’s just that I picked a WordPress theme with bad coding, and I’m not adept enough to fix it.



Update: It worked! I cannot speak highly enough of Dreamhost, who handle my web hosting and were able to restore the original template, then waited in an online chat with me until I could verify I’d been able to get my old theme deleted, re-installed and up and running. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go download a backup of my entire website and copy it to six or a billion computers.

2 responses to “Website, Schmebsite – Or, How Dreamhost Saved The Day

  1. How frustrating. I’m glad you were able to eventually sort everything out.

    • Rachel / @girl_onthego

      Thanks, me too! I was so glad the Dreamhost guys were able to get in and fix stuff – it was literally GONE. Oh well – a learning experience, for sure, even if the lesson was “RACHEL DON’T DO THAT.” 😉

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