How to find bugs and track errors in WordPress

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How to find bugs and track errors in WordPress by zing design

WordPress has worked it’s way into the web developer’s toolkit in the last few years as a platform for quickly building feature-rich websites. It’s simple, intuitive CMS is well-loved by less technical users and it’s plugin-centric philosophy makes it almost infinitely extensible for developers.

This ability to simply add on bits of functionality is what makes WordPress so valuable… and potentially risky. While WordPress itself is generally sound, the plugins available are a mixed bag. Even the premium plugins can be full of bugs which have a habit of slipping under the radar. This kind of makes sense, as developers with a range of experience build plugins. Also a plugin built at the time of WP version 2.7 is bound to have compatibility issues with the relatively stricter version 3.8.

Tracking errors is made tricky by the fact that WordPress has no built-in method for identifying them. Any developer in their right mind will have WP_DEBUG switched firmly to false on any live site, and few will take the time to rummage through error logs, at least not on a regular basis.

Here are a couple of big reasons why bugs can cause problems for WordPress developers and webmasters:

Bugs can scare people off your site

Errors slow websites down, they make processes inefficient as they require extra CPU power. Slower websites can mean visitors abandon your site and move on to another site. Slower page loads can be caused by a number of factors; large images, uncached file and uncompressed code. Bugs can also have an impact on the total load time, and for every second users have to wait, the bounce-rate steadily increases.

Bugs cost money

Serving websites costs money, plain and simple. Maybe adding the cart throws a 500 error? Or perhaps a product page doesn’t load? These scenarios cost your business money – potentially a lot of money. Both in lost sales and harming your brand. Not to mention that a buggy site can often be a slow site and that can cost you even more.

Every hour that developers have to spend digging around looking for the root of a problem is an hour they could be doing productive stuff, so bugs can be costly in this respect as well.

So what’s the solution?

WordPress error tracking in the past has either involved dodgy WordPress plugins or routinely checking error logs, neither of which are much fun or efficient. We need a tool that can easily identify bugs so that we can fix them and make our sites run faster and more cost-effectively…

Enter Mindscape’s Raygun: a tool to help developers blast errors.

Raygun, a web-based service built for tracking errors in software turns out to be just as useful for tracking errors in websites and apps. They’ve even got a WordPress plugin, so integration is a piece of cake.

Raygun not only makes it easier to identify bugs on a WordPress site, it also allows you see trends in the bugs over time. This helps to alert a developer or webmaster when a form isn’t submitting correctly, or when an image is missing, a plugin has sprung a leak, or a hacker is meddling with your scripts.

Any one who’s ever been faced with the infamous WordPress white-screen-of-death, the cause of which seems to vary wildly, will definitely appreciate Raygun. With a full stack trace, you can quickly identify the source of the issue.

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