It All Started So Well

My client’s new website was beautiful. Then suddenly, it wasn’t. It happened just as fate would have it: I completed a sleek, clean, minimalist website for a highly regarded fine-art photographer, John Huggins. It’s a visual site showcasing his gorgeous, stunning, mind-bending photographs. Needless to say, the clarity and quality of the images on the site are paramount.

John and I had worked together diligently to ensure that all the images were pristine, that crops and edges were 100% consistent, that the lightbox effect (popping an image up to a large size for close inspection, while the web page behind fades discreetly into the background) worked perfectly. It was a great site; not a whit of copy or content out of place, every image loading perfectly, just as it should be for a visual artist’s website.  

Then I established an email campaign service for the website (Mailchimp), and John and I worked together to very carefully craft an announcement email. I uploaded his large mailing list for him, and with his blessing, sent the missive off.

The final step was getting on the phone with John to act as his “support animal” while he posted his website announcement on his Facebook page – his first post in years.   He composed the announcement, inserted the link, and clicked “Post.” It was a beautiful “Ta Da” moment. Here’s a screenshot of the home page of John Huggins Photography. Click on the image if you’d like to view the galleries of his work:

Then the Web Developer’s Nightmare Happened

On Saturday, John texted me: “Website not acting the way it was. Could we schedule a call on Monday?”

I checked the site, and I found that the URL had moved to johnhugginsphotography.hell. The images on the pages weren’t loading. At all. But if you clicked again on the page (And why should you, and who would?), then the images did finally appear, slowly and one by one. And all the images appeared to be covered in a mist of gray. Like I said, hell.

First Moral of the Story: Find Good Clients

I could end the story right here with a moral of the story: Find Good Clients. I mean, what client is that calm after the new website he just announced (and paid for) goes off the rails? “Could we schedule a call on Monday?”  Gold star, client – wow! I suppose one could point out that John might have been able to keep glued together because it’s not as though his galleries and all of the collectors who’ve acquired his work over the years were going to call him up suddenly and say, “Ech! Your website sucks! Here’s your original artwork back!”   But, still… embarrassing!  And believe me, some clients in my past have freaked out over way less important things.

But on to the value of this story, which is in the fix I’m going to share with you in case your website has suddenly gone haywire too.

Turns Out It Was a Global Website Pandemic

I refer to the malfunction as a pandemic because, apparently, hundreds of thousands of websites around the world went inexplicably haywire about two weeks ago. Or to be specific, on August 11, 2020.

But not yet knowing that factual tidbit, I did some very complicated checking, scanning, adjusting, and finally chatting online with tech support at the hosting company for the website. During the whole goose chase, words and phrases like jquery, migration, javascript, unexpected behaviors, and deprecated code were bandied about. After trying everything, I was at my wit’s end, and considered restoring the site to one of its earlier daily backups, maybe from 2 weeks prior to the website’s announcement, and then rebuilding all the finishing touches I’d added to the site between that date and the announcement day.

Advice: If your website has just recently gone wonky, don’t do all that work. Because here’s what happened next that made all that work unnecessary:  

Then Fate – or an Angel – or Cookies – Gave Me a Fix For the Website

It happened this way: I was lying in bed late that night, wide awake (duh), and I was tapping around in my phone, Googling some odd esoteric and pointless piece of information. (Why did all the Hollywood stars in the 40s talk with that weird, insipid, pretending-to-be-classy fake accent?). Then suddenly and for no reason, a story popped up talking about the sudden weird-website problems that were plaguing thousands of websites around the world, and why it was happening. Whaaa? It was like an angel, the patron saint of web developers, floated down and dropped that story right onto my screen.

Second Moral of the Story: Cookies Can Be Good For You

Another moral of this story is, cookies can be very good for you, and not the bane of everyone’s existence as so many people constantly proclaim. It’s because of the cookies planted on my phone and my laptop that Google knew I was a tech nerd and a web developer, and at that fortuitous moment decided to throw that global website malfunction story at me. Thank you, cookie angels!

Why Hundreds of Thousands of Websites Malfunctioned on August 11

Turns out that the evil perpetrator who caused many forms of weirdness to spring up in hundreds of thousands of websites around the globe was WordPress, which had just updated to WordPress 5.5, which caused themes and plugins to malfunction all over the place, or as WordPress put it, to exhibit “unexpected behaviors.”

This gave rise to a plugin to fix the issue.  In the last 14 days, it has been downloaded 90,000 times.  

Make that 90,001, because I immediately downloaded it and tested it on my client’s website. And hallelujah, it worked.

The Fix – Enable jQuery Migrate Helper

The plugin is called “Enable jQuery Migrate Helper” and you can find it by going to Plugins in your website admin dashboard, clicking on Add New, and typing in the plugin’s name. Or you can download it directly from WordPress.org. {Sadly (for me), it’s free, so I can’t plant an affiliate code here and earn a few pennies when you download it. Sigh.)

I hope, if your website has gone off-kilter, that this bit of tech world intel provides an instant magic fix, as it did for my client’s site. If not, give me a shout. Maybe I can help.


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