Thanks to the 5.2 updates to WordPress, the good old maintenance screen for WordPress is gone. Now we have “The site is experiencing technical difficulties.” screen. So what does it mean? Well, frequently, it means “wait 5 minutes”.
The two new error messages are:
- The site is experiencing technical difficulties. (for trying to access public-facing pages)
- The site is experiencing technical difficulties. Please check your site admin email inbox for instructions. (for trying to access wp-admin pages)
In the past, WordPress would say “Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance. Check back in a minute.” which was a very useful message to give. It told both the site admin and visitors what was going on — maintenance.
This new message is FAR less helpful, and it gets thrown for just about everything. Maintenance, updating plugins or themes, it’s just throwing this new message.
How to monitor your site for these errors
The easiest way to monitor for these errors to keep an uptime monitor running on your website checking for a keyword (just make sure the keyword is NOT in the phrase “The site is experiencing technical difficulties”).
A free method to monitor your website’s uptime is using UptimeRobot. You can create a free account and have your website added in a couple of minutes. Below is a video walking you through creating a monitor:
Most likely answer for experiencing technical difficulties
The most likely answer is that you are running a theme or plugin update. This could be via the WP dashboard, a third-party tool such as MainWP or ManageWP, or you are doing some updates via FTP. Any of those will throw this error until the update is done.
The next most likely answer is that there is a server process running from your hosting company which needs to finish.
The answer for both of these is to just wait 5 minutes for the process to complete.
Other possible technical difficulties
So if waiting 5 minutes didn’t work, then it’s probably something else.
Anything in WordPress which is throwing a fatal error will be reported with this new message.
Next things to check:
Turn on WP debug and check for displayed errors.
WP debug is a feature that allows PHP errors to be displayed on the website. This allows you to read the error messages.
How to turn on debug depends on your hosting. Here are a few options:
Once debug has been turned on, try loading the page again (you may need to clear your cache on your website & browser) and look for error messages. Frequently the message will include a plugin or theme name — this normally means that particular plugin or theme is having problems. In that case, you should deactivate the plugin if possible.
Read your error logs.
PHP errors (and some other errors depending on your hosting settings) are frequently written to text logs that are stored. How long these logs are stored and where they are stored varies greatly. Here are a few options:
- Flywheel hosting – how to view & access error logs
- General cPanel hosting – most cPanel hosting offers access logs
- Check your file viewer in your website’s files and look for error logs (they normally have the word error in them). They could be in the main directory, or they could be in wp-content.
- When in doubt, contact your hosting or developer.
Make sure that you are running a currently supported version of PHP.
To do that, visit the PHP current versions page and see the current versions. Then contact your developer or hosting company to find out what version of PHP your website is running.
If your PHP is out of date (a number less than what is currently supported), then you will want to have a developer update your site. PHP updates can go smoothly, or they can become a nightmare. You should have an experienced developer deal with PHP updates.
Tried all that and WordPress is still experiencing technical difficulties
If you have a supportive hosting company, then try contacting them and seeing if they can help. They may, they may not. Hosting companies are responsible for providing servers for you, your actual website is generally your problem.
When in doubt, contact a WordPress developer. Make sure that you include what hosting company you are with and what theme and plugins you are using. A number of good WordPress developers specialize in particular setups and won’t work with all hosting or all themes.
If you are not technically proficient, you should also consider getting a developer on retainer to handle your website maintenance. This normally costs $20+ per month. Anyone trying to charge you less than that is probably not very good.