Unformatted Page Due to Corrupted Stylesheet

Yesterday, I ran into a problem that was really confusing, to say the least. I still don’t know exactly how it happened, but the problem was that one of my WordPress blogs lost all its style. That is to say that the pages appeared in black and white and in one long column down the page. No color. No sidebar. No header. Freak me out!

The content of the blog was untouched and it was apparently functioning as intended.

The stylesheet was resident in the theme folder and verified to contain css when I checked it using html-kit or another FTP program. I could download the stylesheet and see that everything appeared to be in there, including the commented-header required for a WordPress theme. If fact, WordPress did not report the theme as being broken – I guess it saw the file named style.css and figured the theme was kosher.

However, when viewed with any browser the unstyled output was seen. Also, validators sent to the blog could not find a stylesheet. What the ??

The really weird part of this story is that I downloaded the stylesheet and could use it on my local machine using the same version of WordPress and the stylesheet produced the desired design. Beyond that, I downloaded the entire theme, zipped it up and sent it to another WordPress fan to check out. He could see the design in all its glory on his development machine.

So, we figured it must be some server configuration that was interfering somehow. Totally vague, I know. At least the problem seemed to be isolated to the online server. I had already tried to upload a number of older versions of the stylesheet, but the style did not come back.

What I did notice, which lead me to a solution, was that in one of those validation reports another error was produced in that the favicon.ico file was reported missing. I verified that file was also resident in the theme and ok. That made two files that the validator could not find even though I could see they were indeed there.

Since the theme apparently worked fine on other systems I took the version that I had downloaded and renamed it. Then I uploaded said “new” theme to the themes directory and deleted the old theme. Exclaims of joy were now coming out of my office – it worked!

I don’t know how the stylesheet came to be corrupted, or if it even was, seeing the same problem with the favicon. The solution was to use a backup. It’s crazy that the backup in this case was the same theme that contained the corrupted file but the moral of the story is that performing backups are definitely worth the time it takes. If the files were corrupted I had backups ready to upload.

Backing up is so easy these days, especially with automated services like Mozy, it’s kinda dumb not to assure yourself that you can recover from gremlins that visit every now and then. Mozy gives you a free 2GB so get started on protecting your files today!

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