You may have already guessed, but the most common cause of your Joomla related problems is YOU! This is closely followed by hacking which will be discussed in a future post. However, even if the problem does stem from being hacked, it's probably still your fault because you haven't kept your site and extensions safe and secure. Updating your software and practicing good security measures is crucial.
So ask yourself, "What did I do?" And give yourself an honest answer. Did you recently install or enable a new extension? Have you updated any extensions or the Joomla core itself? Did you change any SEF settings or alter your .htaccess file? Imagine that you've lost your car keys and you're asking, "Where did I see them last?"
Also ask yourself this question - Will it be a faster fix by restoring a backup or solving the problem with the current install? Backup restorations take time and you will lose any data since your last backup, but in a serious situation it may be the best or only way to go. However, fixing problems on a current install may not be as hard as you think, especially when you can successfully reverse your actions and think like a detective.
The good thing is that you don't have to rely on your memory alone. For instance, Joomla provides an error reporting tool which can help to point you in the right direction. We will be publishing more information on Joomla's error reporting in future posts. There are also Extensions and other external tools that can be very helpful for troubleshooting Joomla problems.
We have a story of one developer who, while working hard at getting his new site build up and running smoothly, ran into a problem. While working away, and checking the front end to see how his fantastic changes were coming along, he noticed that most of the home page was broken. What happened? First panic of course. But then some detective work started. Since no new extensions could be identified, the developer began the arduous process of disabling EVERY Extension possible and then re-enabling them one by one.
We also heard about a developer that had very similar issues as the previous story, but didn't even REALIZE it until a day later...and the site was already live. Why wasn't it caught right away? It turned out that the site was being served through CloudFlare, a service we've written about previously and actually like a lot, and this was preventing the issue from being displayed right away. And when it came to troubleshooting, the first step turned out to be putting CloudFlare into developer mode to bypass its caching.
The point is that there are many problems that can be experienced when working with Joomla, or ANY web technology for that matter. Many issues look the same at the outset, but may have completely different causes and resolutions. Knowing how and where to start looking can save your sanity.
As we develop this series, we want to hear what problems plague you most and how you've solved them. Tell us your horror stories about Joomla problems below and what you've learned from the experience that would have saved you time had you known what to do from the beginning.