Have you encountered a parse error when developing a WordPress-powered website? Parse errors are somewhat common with the content management system (CMS). WordPress uses Hypertext Preprocessor (PHP) to generate dynamic pages. When a visitor follows a link to your WordPress website, the server-side programming language known as PHP will generate the linked page. If there’s a problem with the PHP, visitors may see a parse error rather than your website’s content.
What Is a Parse Error?
A parse error indicates a PHP parsing failure. The PHP code used in WordPress websites consists of characters and tags. Because WordPress is a dynamic CMS, your server must interpret the PHP code each time the respective page is requested by visitors. Parsing is the interpretation of these characters and tags so that your server can generate Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) pages for visitors.
If your server is unable to parse the PHP code, it will likely trigger a parse error. Your server won’t be able to generate HTML pages for visitors. Instead, it will serve visitors blank pages with a parse error message.
The Effects of a Parse Error
A parse error will prevent page content from loading. Visitors may still be able to follow links to a given page. Their web browsers, however, won’t load the page’s content if it suffers from a parse error. Visitors’ web browsers will only load the parse error message sent from your server.
Most instances of parse errors will affect your entire website. You may be able to access the WordPress dashboard, but you won’t be able to view any of your website’s pages. If one page on your website suffers from a parse error, all other pages will typically suffer from it as well.
Failure to fix a parse error in a timely manner may result in lower search engine results page (SERP) rankings. Search engines may push your website to a lower position. And the longer a parse error remains unfixed, the greater the risk of a rankings loss.
Evaluate the Parse Error Message
Start by evaluating the parse error message. It will provide insight into what caused the parse error so that you can fix it. All parse error messages begin with “parse error,” followed by the specific type of parse error and then the location of it.
There are three types of parse errors: syntax, undefined and unexpected. While they aren’t the same, all three types typically involve either missing characters, extra characters or incomplete sets of tags. Including an extra comma in a piece of PHP code, for instance, may trigger a parse error. Alternatively, overlooking the closing tag in a piece of PHP code may trigger a parse error.
Check the Referenced PHP Code
After where the problematic PHP code is located, you should check it on your website. The parse error message will reveal its location. It will reveal the specific PHP file that features the problematic PHP code as well as the line number containing the problematic PHP code.
Most parse errors involve a plugin or theme file. In the parse error message, you’ll see the name of the PHP file that’s responsible for this error. You’ll also see a line number. The line number represents the line in the PHP file that contains the problematic PHP code.
With a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) client, check the problematic PHP code on your website. You can navigate to the PHP file on your server, after which you can download it. Once downloaded, of course, you can open the PHP file. Most text editors, such as Notepad, can open PHP files.
With the PHP file open, scroll down to the line number referenced in the parse error message. If there’s a missing character on this line, add it. If there’s an extra character on this line, delete it. If the line has an opening tag but not a closing tag, add the closing tag to it. Saving and reuploading the PHP file to your website should fix the parse error.
Replace the PHP File
Another solution is to replace the PHP file. You can delete the current PHP file and replace it with a new PHP file of the same type. If it’s a plugin file, for example, just download the plugin again. You can then upload the plugin file referenced in the parse error message to your website. With a fresh copy of the plugin file, your website may no longer experience the parse error.
Keep in mind that you may lose some of your website’s settings when replacing the PHP file. Whether it’s a plugin file or a theme file, you may lose some of the settings associated with it. The old and customized PHP file will be replaced with a new and original PHP file. If you’re going to replace the PHP file, check the settings afterward to retain your website’s customization.
Disable All Plugins
You can try to disable all of your website’s plugins. Plugins can cause parse errors. They are more likely to cause parse errors, in fact, than themes. By disabling your website’s plugins, you may be able to identify the plugin that’s responsible for the parse error.
Once you’ve disabled all plugins, visit your website to see if the parse error persists. Assuming you see your website’s content and not the error message, it’s safe to assume a plugin caused the parse error. Next, reactivate each plugin one at a time while periodically visiting your website.
You can visit your website to check for the parse error message after reactivating each plugin. When the message appears, you’ll know which plugin was responsible for the error. Removing the plugin will fix the parse error. If it’s a premium plugin that you purchased, you may want to contact the developer for assistance.
Parse errors are frustrating. As PHP-related technical errors, they will prevent your website’s content from loading. Fortunately, you can troubleshoot a parse error with a WordPress website by evaluating the message, checking the referenced PHP code, replacing the PHP file and disabling all plugins.