WordPress help is never hard to find. There are many sites dedicated to helping WordPress users, including this Codex and the always-helpful forums. With so much content available, however, how are you to know where to begin looking for help?
The WordPress FAQ is a good place to start, providing comprehensive answers to common questions. You could also read our document on using the WordPress forums to help you get better results from your support requests.
However, the best place to start looking for WordPress help is your favorite search engine. This is usually the quickest way to get the information you need, and helps to take the pressure off our hard-working volunteers in the support forums.
You can increase your search capabilities by adding the Codex Searcher Plugin, enabling you to search the Codex from your WordPress Administration Panels. Click on a search result and the page will open in a new window or tab, allowing you to have articles open while working on WordPress.
Finding the words to accurately describe your problem can be a challenge when searching for help. In addition, you may need to limit your search to WordPress resources or sites in order to get the information you need. The following section will show you how to choose the right search terms, and how to use those terms effectively.
Sometimes you can use error messages to generate the keywords needed in your help search. For example:
Warning: main(/home/atlantis/public_html/wp-includes/ functions.php): failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /home/stargateatlantis/ public_html/wp-settings.php on line 67 Fatal error: main(): Failed opening required '/home/atlantis/public_html/wp-includes/ functions.php' (include_path='.:/usr/lib/php: /usr/local/lib/php') in /home/stargateatlantis/ public_html/wp-settings.php on line 67
The key words you need to help you solve the problem are hidden within this information. In particular, the error specifically references the files that are causing the issue: functions.php and wp-settings.php. The names of these files will make up part of your search.
You could try opening the files directly to examine them. However, this may be of limited use, as the given line numbers may not correspond to the actual source of the error due to the way WordPress processes .php files.
The specific errors are failed to open stream and failed opening required, with both happening inside the wp-settings.php file. This indicates that the problem is likely with wp-settings.php rather than functions.php. The fact that both errors contain the words "failed" and "open" is another clue.
Armed with this information, create a search in your favorite search engine that includes the words:
wordpress failed open wp-settings.php
This should get you started on narrowing down the problem.
Not all keywords can be found so easily. If the problem is a CSS or HTML issue, you can include the specific tag or selector that the problem seems to lie with. However, you should still look to include words in your search, as it can be difficult to know which tag is the real source of the issue.
You may need to analyze the problem for a minute or two to in order to find the right terms. For example, if your web page layout differs between Microsoft Internet Explorer and another browser, then search for information on Internet Explorer layout bugs. If you have a layout error that remains consistent between browsers, on the other hand, identify the part of the layout that is affected. Is it the sidebar, header, post content, or comments? Likewise, if the header image is not showing up or not displaying correctly, begin by searching for wordpress header image and then add specifics such as wordpress header image missing to narrow things down.
Brainstorming is a useful technique to use if you are struggling for suitable keywords. To brainstorm your keywords, first write down the problem you are experiencing. Be as descriptive as possible:
I'm having trouble with the nested list in the sidebar of my layout. It isn't lining up the items under the titles right. It is keeping things on the left margin when I want them to be indented.
Your description should be a good source of potential keywords. In the above example, you can find:
All of these terms could be used as search keywords.
Alternatively, explain your problem to a non-WordPress expert. Stating the issue in simple terms is an excellent way to get to the heart of a problem and find the right keywords to summarize an issue.
Once you have selected your keywords, it's time to put them to work. Remember, your starting keywords are just that, a start point. As you dig into the information, you may replace those words with more specific ones in order to narrow the field down. For example, whilst searching for "wordpress sidebar layout nested links", you may discover that the problem lies within the specific theme you are using. Add the name of the theme to your keywords in order to narrow down your search.
Another way to improve the quality of your search results is to search a specific site, rather than the entire Internet. Most search engines allow you to run a search across one specific web address, helping you to avoid irrelevant results.
Google Yahoo and Bing all support use of the "site:" function within search terms. To search a specific domain via one of these sites, type your keywords and specify the site you want to search using the format "site:[domain]". For example:
keyword1 keyword2 keyword3 site:wordpress.org
This instructs the search engine to search all wordpress.org sites, such as www.wordpress.org, wiki.wordpress.org, and codex.wordpress.org.
To narrow your search down to a specific site, such as www.wordpress.org, enter:
keyword1 keyword2 keyword3 site:www.wordpress.org
This instructs the search engine to search only the www.wordpress.org site, including the Support Forums, but not the WordPress Codex or Wiki.
Other search engines provide varying ways to narrow searches down. Check their Advanced Search Options if available, or examine Search Engine Watch's Search Command list for details on searching by domain or url.
You narrow your search by grouping different keywords together. For example, instead of looking for:
sidebar layout nested list left margin indented
you could group key phrases together with quote marks:
sidebar layout "nested list" "left margin" indented
This would limit your search to anything with the words sidebar, layout, and indented, and the phrases "nested list" and "left margin."
Most search engines also allow you to use Boolean references such as AND, OR and NOT to group keywords together. For example, searching for:
"left margin" OR "nested list"
would return a list of pages containing either the phrase "left margin" or "nested list", as well as pages containing both of those terms.
For further information on improving your search technique, visit Search Engine Watch's Web Searching Tips.
Your best chance of finding WordPress information is to get it directly from WordPress. The main places to go for WordPress help and support are: