20 Oct Problem Solving is an Exercise in Patience
This past week has been one of the most trying and frustrating of my web design and web development career. It’s so hard to know within yourself that you’re doing everything “right” and fulfilling your obligations, and still have things not work out the way you planned or agreed upon — especially when you’re being paid to literally do everything “right”.
I made a promise to a client that I would have the changes they requested done and published on Monday night. No problem; I got to work and published almost all of the changes by Monday night. (To be fair, I’ll remain honest and say that some of the images had to be cropped and edited to fit appropriately on the page header, so a couple of them weren’t published properly by Monday night, but over 90% of the changes were made that evening.) On my end, I could see that everything looked great and was exactly what we’d discussed — I double and triple-checked it all. Fast-forward to Tuesday afternoon when I get an e-mail from my client saying he sees none of these changes on multiple devices. He’s rightfully upset and expecting an explanation. The real kicker is that both of us had screenshots of the website on our respective devices, so we were both totally “correct” in what we were saying we saw, it just wasn’t “right”. Cue Hillary’s anxiety/panic disorder.
Keep in mind, I have designed, published, and maintained 100’s of websites over the last 18 years and this has NEVER happened to me before, which is part of the reason I was so messed up about it. It’s also extremely hard for me to feel like I’ve let anyone down, and I also couldn’t make sense of the whole matter, so that didn’t really help either. I felt so bad that I couldn’t and didn’t know how to help, and that with every Google search, I felt further away from a solution.
Let me just say, in the world of technology, it’s very difficult to pursue a diagnosis for something you can’t experience for yourself. Anytime you call technical support there’s a long list of things they insist that you try in order to pinpoint a problem. So, I of course immediately began frantically updating files, deleting files, creating brand new files and pages, and furiously Googling why the heck this could be happening. After many, many stressful hours and fighting back tears, I finally found an article this morning that said it was likely a caching problem. I would generally agree, except that I had never installed a caching plugin on this particular WordPress site. So, after a long walk, a phone call with my mom, and a good night’s sleep, I decided to log-in to my actual server, rather than trying to solve the problem through the WordPress dashboard. Lightbulb moment! Sure enough, I found a folder on my server called “Endurance-Page-Cache”, and thought to myself, “I NEVER INSTALLED YOU! GET OUT OF MY WAY!” I promptly deleted the folder and all of its files, and almost immediately everything showed up live and in color just like it should have in the first place.
Never one to be satisfied with simply fixing a problem, I still wanted to know WHY this had happened in case there was something I could do to prevent it from happening to me or any clients in the future. Initially I’d thought the problems could be because of a plugin I installed on Monday that I immediately deleted. What I found instead through Googling the issue was a WordPress forum that explained it all, but did not necessarily assuage my concerns. One of my favorite comments on the thread is this one from another web designer that almost perfectly describes what I went through:
“I have a client on (web host name redacted) whose website wasn’t showing updates when logged out, but it DID show them when I was logged in. I waited two days and checked back, and the updates were STILL not displaying. I finally dug through the files and found the endurance-page-cache folder. Solved the problem right away. It’s incredibly annoying that they would subject users to this, particularly since I couldn’t find any sort of mechanism in the hosting control panel to turn it off.”
The reason that I am blogging about this incident is because my host never informed me that this was part of the deal. It put me in a very awkward position with a well-respected, kind, and communicative client, and from what I understand, now, many of the top web hosts automatically install this caching plugin to your server without your knowledge, but it DOES NOT show up in your dashboard plugins when you log-in to the backend of your WordPress website, which is infuriating and harmful! (In some cases it is also recognizable as a folder called “MU”.)
Here is one more forum that’s worth reading, in case for any reason you don’t believe that this is a serious issue.
I want my current and future clients to know that I care about their concerns, and I take them very seriously. The solution, in this case and perhaps in others, is to check all of your server files and folders for things you did not personally install or upload. I know I will, for myself and for every single one of my clients, from now on.