If you’re not familiar with PHP, pasting snippets of code into the functions.php file of your theme can be a bit confusing. Sometimes this is a necessary process to customize your WordPress blog for your specific needs. Without the right knowledge of PHP, you may break your website. If that’s why you are reading this blog post, you’re not alone.
The functions.php file of your theme can be found in your cPanel at: /wp-content/themes/themename/
It’s not the same as the functions.php file found in the /wp-includes/ folder.
Understanding the basics of PHP
Pasting snippets of code into WordPress starts with a basic understanding of PHP code. It starts with an opening tag, which looks like this:
Over 90% of the issues WordPress users face, when they don’t paste code properly, include this tag. Understanding the PHP semantics will help you make fewer mistakes.
The most common mistake involves pasting the PHP code into the wrong place in your functions.php file. It’s important to make sure you post the code after the previous tag has been closed.
Another very common mistake is pasting the PHP code outside the PHP tags. When you do this, WordPress doesn’t understand what the code is and will break. Make sure you paste the code into the functions.php file inside the PHP tags or WordPress won’t know what you’re trying to tell it to do.
The final one of the most common mistakes made with PHP code is pasting your code snippet into an existing function. Most functions come with a closing tag for the function and you don’t want to paste new code within the opening and closing tags of another function. This will just confuse WordPress and cause it to break.
How to Protect Yourself from Breaking WordPress with PHP
The best way to keep from breaking WordPress when pasting a PHP code snippet is simple. Start by copying the entire functions.php code and pasting it into notepad or another text editor. This will give you all the code you need in case you break something.
Now, you can start pasting your code snippet into your functions.php file. If you break something, you will know that, most likely, you have caused one of the above mistakes. You can simply copy the code you saved in your text editor and replace the functions.php file and start from the beginning.
More PHP and Code Pasting Tips
Sometimes, one of the most common errors found above isn’t the issue. Code snippet comes with certain types of plugins and you may simply need to activate the plugin. The code won’t always work until you activate the plugin.
Another common issues found that you should be aware of is an area within the code snippet itself. This happens with an author of the code snippet that forgets to add a closing tag, opening tag or another part of the code. If this happens, you may want to consider finding a new code snippet for WordPress, unless you have the PHP knowledge to fix the code.
As you work with PHP, it’s very important to take the time to get to know this type of code. You can set up a “test” or “play around” WordPress site and use it to test out any PHP code snippets you want to use before you add them into your main site. This is a great way to learn where to put the PHP code before you break your WordPress blog.
Sometimes, the author of the PHP code snippet will actually give you instructions and explain the code. This will make it very easy to put the code in the right place. However, you should be aware that sometimes they split up the code when they explain it. When this is the case, make sure you scroll down and look for a full snippet you can use for your WordPress blog, instead of trying to piece the code together.
Now you have a basic understanding of what to expect when working with PHP code. Make sure you take your time and be careful as you paste code snippets into your WordPress functions.php file.