The website is experiencing technical difficulties

June 12, 2019 — WordPress

In the so-called White Screen of Death, WordPress only gives the message “The website is experiencing technical difficulties” and a login is no longer possible? This is often solvable even for less technically experienced WordPress admins – if you know how. This article explains how to proceed with “The website is experiencing technical difficulties” and what is behind it.

Wordpress: The website is experiencing technical difficulties

WordPress: The website is experiencing technical difficulties

Where does the message come from

Since WordPress 5.2.1 (since May 2019; actually already planned for WordPress 5.1) there is a built-in function that detects when a plugin or theme causes a (fatal) error. So far, this has always led to the so-called White Screen of Death (WSOD), i.e. an empty, white page, since the PHP code cannot continue/complete due to the error.
Despite the (fatal) error, it may be that the WordPress site continues to function normally for normal visitors (especially in the case of plugin errors that are not related to the frontend).
Otherwise, WordPress may show the message “The website is experiencing technical difficulties”. Incidentally, this message can be sent via a file php-error.php to adjust.

The administrator then receives via the email address specified in the admin panel (admin_email) also an automated e-mail, provided that WordPress can send e-mails via the server.

No emails from WordPress?
By default, WordPress uses the mail-Function in PHP (cf. https://developer.wordpress.org/reference/functions/wp_mail/). However, some web hosts have either not configured this function correctly or deactivated it for security reasons. Then you should be able to use a plugin like WP Mail SMTP to securely transfer the mails SMTP send.

In the future, users with the authorization level activate_plugins have the opportunity to request such a recovery link.

cause

In practice, this sometimes happens with automatic (or manual) updates. Then outdated themes or plugins may no longer fit the updated WordPress version, since the functions or paths used are no longer supported.

Since (hopefully) no concrete error messages should appear on the website for the time being, the source of the error must first be identified.

If you have access to the sent email from WordPress, you can easily find the cause:

In this case, WordPress caught an error in one of your plugins, pluginname.

At the bottom of the email there is a more detailed “Error Details” section:

Fehler-Details ============== Ein Fehler vom Typ E_COMPILE_ERROR wurde in der Zeile 133 der Datei /wordpress/wp-content/plugins/xyz/classes/class-plugin.php verursacht. Fehlermeldung: require_once(): Failed opening required '/wordpress/wp-content/plugins/xyz/xyz.php' (include_path='.:/usr/local/php/lib/php:/usr/local/php/lib/php/PEAR')

Otherwise you have to try the debug mode (https://wordpress.org/support/article/debugging-in-wordpress/).

the solution of the problem

What matters is what the cause is.
Since you can usually update both the theme and plugins via the WordPress backend and edit them if necessary, this should be the easiest way for most users.

Login normally possible

If the normal login is possible, it is best to look for official updates of the theme/plugin in question.
If there is an update, there is a lot to suggest that this is already the solution. To be on the safe side, you can check the change history for the update.

Login only possible in recovery mode

However, this often results in errors and a normal login is not possible. You only get the succinct hint "Die Website weist technische Schwierigkeiten auf" (in the original “The site is experiencing technical difficulties.“).

WordPress has recently added a special “recovery mode” for this. This ingenious option still allows a login, as error-triggering areas are simply paused/deactivated.
The easiest way to do this is to use the special login address such as:
https://www.domain.de/wp-login.php?action=enter_recovery_mode&rm_token=12345678912345&rm_key=12345678912345

This link is also included in the warning email, but is only valid for one day. Since you will receive a corresponding e-mail every other day with an error, you may have to find the most recent e-mail with the current login link including recovery mode.

Login to recovery mode without email

It currently looks bad, see https://wordpress.org/support/topic/accessing-recovery-mode-without-the-email-link/.
The only options left are to work directly via console, FTP and/or database access.

But you can display all errors in wp-config.php:

define('WP_DEBUG',true);
define('WP_DEBUG_DISPLAY',true);
define('WP_DEBUG_LOG',false);

recovery mode

After login, recovery mode is initialized.
WordPress will then be in recovery mode. This means that there can be an error with a theme or plugin that is essentially inactive.
To exit recovery mode, simply log out or click the appropriate link above.

In the recovery mode you will find a helpful hint at the top like:

At least one plugin could not be loaded.
More details and modification options on the plugin overview page.

Error causing plugins have stopped status in recovery mode

Error causing plugins have stopped status in recovery mode

You then get straight to the problem. Plugins causing errors then have the status stopped.
Next it says:

This plugin failed to load properly and is paused in recovery mode.

If in doubt, check, update and then reactivate as mentioned above, should work.

I wish you success!