One thing that I’ve learned as a web guy is that nothing ever goes smoothly. There’s always something wrong somewhere whether you know about it or not, and the trick is to keep on top of it and squish the bugs quickly as soon as you do find out about them – it’s like an incredibly complicated game of whack-a-mole.
My recent SEO efforts for That Website Guy definitely seem to be starting to pay off. In the last 2 days I’ve had 2 people sign up to use the platform’s free trial. Yes, two. Don’t laugh, but that is cause for celebration. Over the past several years running the platform I’ve had about that same number click the sign up button and create an account completely on their own – every other customer I’ve dealt with before-hand on social media and created their account & site for them, so to have 2 sign up on their own in the space of 2 days is definitely a good sign.
But my celebrations were short-lived. I checked the analytics and had a sneaking suspicion something was wrong. I decided to create an account myself to see. I hate being right.
So today’s bug…
During the signup flow, you enter your username & email address, site name & url. Then an email is sent to your inbox, you click the button in the email to activate your account, and from that page there’s a bug button to take you to your new site’s admin panel.
You click the button but get presented with a login screen. Fair enough, this isn’t ideal but if it works I can live with it. You enter your username & password that you literally just created, hit the ‘log in’ button, and bam…… Nothing. Please log in. Fuck.
Those two new signups in the last 2 days would have almost certainly ran into the exact same issue. Obviously not a great first impression. 😣
Now you might be thinking something like “Bloody amateur, why didn’t you test it before?” – I did! I tested it right after applying the patches for the new free trial plan and the new site privacy options and it all worked perfectly, and I’ve not developed anything that should affect the signup flow since then.
Looks like I have work to do.
After some initial digging it seems the main issue here isn’t actually with the signup flow, but the new site privacy options. The issue is persistent on any free trial site where the login screen doesn’t actually seem to do anything. Because it worked fine after being introduced I can only assume it was caused by the most recent WordPress security patch which did change the content of the wp-login.php file.
Hopefully I can figure this out and with any luck it may also fix the issue of having to re-login again after activating your account too.
A temporary work-around for anybody affected by this bug is to log in at thatwebsiteguy.net and then click through to your site admin from the “My Account” dashboard page.
Final Update 13/4/2018:
After totally stripping apart the files responsible for the site-wide privacy options and getting absolutely nowhere, I decided to take a broader look. I figured out the issue was still happening even with the privacy options completely removed, so that couldn’t be the cause..
I discovered with the Chrome Inspector tools that there was a mixed content issue on the login form which was causing the login loop. This is actually an issue I’ve ran into before and patched, but it turns out the most recent WordPress security update undid my fix (it was a core WordPress file that I tweaked as part of the patch).
Part of my work recently has been finding alternatives for my core edits, so after this most recent WP update wiped my changes to the wp-login.php file I decided to re-add them in the form of a plugin instead so that future updates wouldn’t wipe the changes. I overlooked this particular edit as there’s no way I can think of to apply it without directly editing the wp-login.php file. My bad 👀
But I can report that the crisis has now finally been averted.