Case study: Redesigning a website


web designI serve as webmaster for four sites (including this blog). In this post, I summarize several factors that motivated me to redesign the online store that I manage.

Step 1: I noticed that some of my sidebar content was missing

I have been using WordPress as my content management system since 2007. I set up my storefront 6 years ago using a WordPress template that I purchased from a third-party developer called Expand2Web.com. Over the years, I was able to modify the site content and page structure, replacing my original home page with a custom design that I created in LeadPages. Updating the home page to reflect current prices was a bit cumbersome, as I always had to access my LeadPages account in order to initiate the process. Nevertheless, the site ran normally until last fall when I noticed that some of the sidebar content (my banner ads) was missing.

Step 2: My initial investigation revealed Javascript errors

Using the Vivaldi browser, I ran the Javascript debug tool to determine if there was programing code that was causing a conflict with my widgets menu. The debug tool consistently revealed two error messages:

uncaught syntax error
Uncaught TypeError: k is not a function
Uncaught TypeError: Cannot read property ‘hasClass’ of undefined

A Google search uncovered a number of hits regarding the Uncaught TypeError: k is not a function error, such as one found on the Mozilla Developers’ site.

A search for the second error led to a WordPress.org bug report entitled, “jQuery problems since 4.9 update: Cannot read property ‘hasClass’ of undefined.”

Not wanting to spend time debugging Javascript code using trial and error, I decided to approach the problem from a different angle by analyzing the symptoms, rather than the error messages.

Step 3: I couldn’t open or move widgets in the WordPress admin screen

wordpress widgets menuLogging into WordPress using my admin account, I opened up the Widgets configuration screen that allows me to modify my site’s sidebar content. To my dismay, I found that I could not drag-and-drop widgets from the available list to the sidebar, nor could I open or make changes to any previously configured widgets, which were locked in place.

An Internet search revealed a number of hits that corresponded with this system behavior, such as:

Can’t open or move widgets after WordPress update
stack overflow

WordPress menu and widget editing stops working – and how we fixed that
PinkEyeGraphics

Custom HTML Widget won’t open
Media Cafe | WordPress.org

Several support articles suggested that a problematic plugin or theme could be the cause of the disabled widget menu. I disabled my installed plugins one-by-one and the widget problem persisted. I then used the troubleshooting feature of the Health Check plugin to determine that the widgets menu on my site opened fine using a plain vanilla WordPress template with all plugins disabled.

Step 4: Solve my problem by changing themes

Having eliminated one or more plugins as the culprit, I focused my attention on my installed theme. Logging on the Expand2Web site, I encountered header text that revealed that the developer had retired the SmallBiz template.

smallbiz theme has been retiredThat revelation spurred me to pursue a more contemporary, business-friendly template that is compatible with current WordPress standards. Because my ‘old’ site supported several sidebar layouts (e.g., right sidebar, left sidebar, and no sidebar), I auditioned several WordPress templates that offered this feature. I elected to install the free version of the Spacious template that is designed by ThemeGrill.com.

By switching themes and eliminating LeadPages as a page creator, I have increased my daily site traffic on my store by over 10%.

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Filed under Blogging tips, Third Party Software, Troubleshooting

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