Custom WP Design & White Screens

Hi All: The reason for this post is to hopefully pick the brains of designers that create custom themes with Wordpress. Our team has been doing this for years and until recently our custom themes launch without a hitch.

On our most recent launch the site displays as created. However when you login to the UI strange things are happening. It's the white screen of death I continue to read more about . In this case the white screen appears after plugin activation. Then I hit the back button and the plugin is activated (after a refresh). Once I log out, I cannot log back in again (white screen).

If I delete the theme via FTP I can log back in and activate the 2010 theme... it works perfectly. So our problem is the theme --not plugins.

I was wondering if you could share any of the wisdom you have for custom theme designers with today's WP versions.

- What's different about new WP versions designers should know about?
- What are the most common problems you encounter?
- Steps to resolve white screens of death?
- Anything else your kind heart's want to share as it applies to creating professional custom WP themes

Thanks in advance for any advice that help us kill this nasty white screen.



  • Timothy Bowers

    Hey Rob.

    - Steps to resolve white screens of death?

    If you could checkout your servers error_log file please, that should have some errors in there pointing to the issue.

    If you are not sure where that is then please consult with your host as they will know the set up best.:slight_smile:

    - What are the most common problems you encounter?

    I would envisage the most common problems met are conflicts with CSS from plugins, I would also imagine that conflicts of code as well being another one perhaps.

    Not sure if you ever follow any of our other resources, but you might find this one useful:

    - What's different about new WP versions designers should know about?

    Frequently checkout the new theme releases which come with WordPress and also keep an on the codex. If you want to follow real close then check out their trac:

    And SVN:

    I'm sure the other designers here would love to chip in their experience here! :slight_smile:

    Take care.

  • ThePath

    Hi Rob,

    Ive been making themes for a good few years now. The best piece of advice I can give you is get yourself off to the right start. By that I mean use a good base theme to start your project off. My favourite at the moment is Toolbox made by Automattic (the folks who made WP):

    Its semantic, HTML5 base point on which to build your new project. There are of course other boilerplates out there. Also take a look at Twenty Eleven and the default Buddypress theme for some useful CSS for responsive design.

    What's different about new WP versions designers should know about?

    Well it depends on how far you are look back WP 3 saw the introduction of the new drag and drop menu system so that something to take into account when designing new themes. I think the other stuff designers should look at is theme options. You can do some really cool stuff with theme options but I feel the design of the options page should fit nicely into the WP backend or atleast compliment it.

    What are the most common problems you encounter?

    Its definitely plugin conflicts, normally Facebook JS or as Timothy says CSS conflicts.

    Steps to resolve white screens of death?

    I think I had this once a long time ago but cant remember what caused it. Again as Tim says check your server records and that should help nail down the problem. But starting out using a theme like Toolbox should also help you avoid the afore mentioned white screen of death.

    Anything else your kind heart's want to share as it applies to creating professional custom WP themes

    I think Ive pretty much covered this by saying get off to a good start with a base theme. But using modern standards is important so CSS3 and HTML5. I always find that simplicity is beautiful and usability is key. The BIG thing just now is responsive design, making sure your website looks cool and displays the content you want prominently in many different screen sizes. Experiment with fonts but dont go mad, using the new @font-face is great and you can make your fonts web compatible by using Font Squirrel: a nice looking site in its own right me thinks. Mmmm what else, collaboration is also an excellent way of brain storming for ideas and also getting jobs done that you might not be able to do yourself. For instance you might want to outsource a custom theme widget or complex PHP/JS coding etc.

    And above all take joy in WP. Bathe in its many good points and functionality and enjoy finding workarounds and cool solutions to the few bad points.

    Kepp themeing :wink:

  • Rob

    Great responses guys. I have filled my boots with your wisdom.

    I actually do not so any of this design work, it's all in the hands of my design team. My role is sales and requirements gathering. Then I hand it over to designers who I am very happy with. I just feel the programming of Wordpress's core evolves so fast it would not be difficult for good designers to not be in touch with modern day Wordpress.

    Thanks A Bunch for the feedback!!!


  • ThePath

    Hi Rob, no probs, we are here to help.

    I thik the WP core is pretty solid and remains pretty similar from version to version and because of the way WP is built you ahrdly ever have to hack it so your designers shouldnt need to worry about these files. Templating files and plugins will give you all the flexibility you could ever want from a website. And it just keeps getting better!

    All the best

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