Off The Tracks

Off The Tracks


Size: 5,000+ pages

My professional status: independent web designer/developer

Website client: Simon Sweetman

Dates: April 2015 onwards

Categories: Client liaison, Webmaster, CSS-based layout, CSS3, HTML5, WordPress, Large sites

Brief: Simon Sweetman is a freelance music writer. He is the music critic for the Dominion Post and for eight years was writer of Blog on the Tracks, daily music musings for His work has also appeared in the New Zealand Listener, North & South, Rip It Up, Sunday Star-Times, Herald on Sunday, Salient and The Package. He has provided comment for Radio New Zealand National, RadioLIVE, Newstalk ZB, Radio Active and TVNZ's Good Morning. He's also written a book.

He's also an incredibly prolific blogger, publishing multiple music-related posts per day on his own WordPress blog, Off The Tracks. We met because he needed help with the blog, which was forever crashing or going offline and being 404'd.

I was initially responsible for figuring out what the problem was, and solving it. I now manage webhosting for Off The Tracks and help Simon with any technical updates he might need. The blog runs on WordPress.

Hey Ali, thanks again so much for all your help last week. I was lost without you. Site is working really well, faster and all... cheers again for all your work there.

Simon Sweetman, Blog Owner, Off The Tracks


  • When Simon first asked for my help his blog was crashing multiple times a week, often for hours at a time. Some days he could barely post anything, as when the blog was offline for his visitors, the WordPress dashboard was also inaccessible. Even on a good day, when the blog was up and running, page load was often annoyingly slow. Now that I've fixed the problem and we've moved webhosts the blog is lightning fast and (almost) never goes offline. Yay! Sorted.

My responsibilities included:

  • Initially, working through WordPress fatal error memory fixes, including phprc, php.ini, and wp-config - which temporarily solved the problem
  • Contacting the webhost - Dreamhost - to try and figure our what the underlying issue was with the website - on numerous occasions - without much success
  • More research into server errors and the possible causes, changing the htaccess file, obtaining error logs from Dreamhost, reviewing and researching error messages and possible plugin issues
  • Checking index.php, comparing this with other WordPress builds - adding missing closing tags to file
  • Restoring website after Dreamhost actually took it offline, removing unused plugins, more online research including of services such as Incapsula
  • Deactivating and reactivating plugins to determine which one could be causing the access issues
  • Researching other, better WordPress webhosts, including a comprehensive review of the range of services various hosts provided and what we should be looking for - finally settled on WPEngine and recommended to Simon that we switch hosts
  • Managing the website migration from Dreamhost to WPEngine, including testing the website's plugins for WPEngine compatibility, sorting out minor issues that occurred during migration and updating the A record after migration
  • Ongoing support and provision of technical website updates as requested by Simon.

This one was quite a puzzle. Simon and his website visitors had been putting up with the frustration of an inaccessible website for far too long, and initially it seemed as though nothing was working in terms of fixing the problem - and Dreamhost were pretty useless in helping me figure out what was wrong.

I eventually came to the conclusion that it would be best to move the website (which is very large and appears to be a bit of a bot magnet) to a better webhost where we would pay for a fully managed and supported WP hosting experience within a secure, speedy, WordPress-friendly environment.

It's been a bit of a revelation, and I now have almost all my WordPress websites hosted at WPEngine. Simon's happy, and so am I - I love being able to solve problems for my clients.