You’ve got a WordPress website and everything was going fine, until suddenly that link button in the editor suddenly seems to have stopped working or something else just isn’t working right.
How do you figure out what’s gone wrong and how to fix it?
Check your plugins
In most cases, if everything was working fine before, the issue will most likely be a plugin. Either a new one that you installed recently or one that you’ve recently updated.
(A plugin is a add-on for your website that changes how it works or gives it some new piece of functionality).
Before we start digging around and testing things though, make sure you make a backup of your website first, just in case.
Deactivate and test
Once that’s done, the next step is to try deactivating any plugins you’ve installed and then testing the broken feature while the plugin is deactivated to see if it resolves the problem.
(Bear in mind if you’ve got a plugin that adds say a directory to your website and you deactivate that plugin, the directory itself will likely no longer display for you to test. In which case you should contact the plugin author directly after eliminating any other plugins that might be the cause).
Whether you want to deactivate all the plugins and test (and then reactivate them one by one to see which one breaks things) or whether you want to deactivate them one at a time and test is up to you.
If you’ve recently installed a plugin or just updated a particular plugin though, you might want to try deactivating that first as this is probably a more likely candidate.
How to do this
To deactivate a plugin, first make sure you’ve logged in to your WordPress admin area. (Forgot your WordPress login password or don’t know how to login?).
In the left menu you should see a menu item called Plugins (if you can’t see this option you may have to ask an administrator of your website to do this for you or give you access).
Go into this section and you’ll see a list of all the plugins you’ve installed on your website, with the plugins that are currently activate highlighted in a different colour.
Making a note of which plugins are activated and which aren’t (so you can restore things later). Choose a plugin that you believe may be causing the issue or – start at the top and work down alphabetically – and choose the Deactivate link.
On the next screen you’ll be asked if you’re sure. Say, yes, and you’ll be told the plugin is deactivated.
Now go back and test the problematic feature (refresh the page if necessary) and see if the problem is solved.
If it is, you know that plugin is probably causing the issue. If not, you can reactivate it and try deactivating another plugin and testing that.
Why does this work?
In an ideal world you could install almost any combination of plugins and they would all play together nicely. However sometimes multiple plugins try to do the same thing or are not coded correctly and create a conflict.
Sometimes WordPress itself gets updated and the plugin no longer works well with the new version (it’s the plugin author’s responsibility to keep it updated). Either way there’s an issue.
What to do next?
So you’ve found your problematic plugin, but when you reactivate it your problem returns, what to do?
At this point your options will vary, but as a general guide:
If it’s a free plugin and you can live without the feature for now
Contact the plugin author to let them know about the problem you’re facing and, if the plugin is actively maintained (and the plugin’s author can reproduce the issue), they’ll likely issue an update soon which you can then update to and solve your problem.
If it’s a free plugin and you need a solution pronto
- Search the WordPress plugin repository for an alternative plugin that offers the same or similar functionality and try that instead
- Consider switching to a paid plugin with dedicated support (e.g. Gravity Forms as a replacement for a broken form plugin). If your website is bringing in money or leads every day, one small investment here could be a huge win vs leaving the website in a broken state for a few days while things get solved. After all, your customers don’t care why the problem happened they just want it solved.
- If you have a backup of the website at the point before the plugin was last updated, you could try rolling back to that version. Bear in mind if the update of the plugin was for security reasons you should not roll back (better to have your website slightly broken than full of viagra adverts and kicked off Google because it got hacked). I’d consider this a last resort unless you’re really sure of what you’re doing.
Even if you end up using another solution, I suggest you still report the issue you’re facing to the plugin author so that they are aware of the bug.
If it’s a paid plugin
Contact the support team of the paid plugin, listing all the steps you took and letting them know which version of the plugin and WordPress you’re using.
Most decent WordPress plugin companies take support very seriously and if they don’t, perhaps you’re better off not using their solution in the first place.
What if I do all this and the issue remains?
Firstly, to be doubly sure, if you didn’t already, try deactivating all of your website’s plugins at once and see if the issue persists.
If there’s still a problem it could be an issue with your WordPress website’s theme (you could try changing themes quickly if you’re comfortable doing this) or it could even be a bug with WordPress itself (unlikely but possible).
If you believe it may be a problem with your theme, contact the website you got it from or the developer that coded it, explaining everything you’ve tried up to this point.
Finally, bear in mind a lot of plugin and theme authors are contributing their work to WordPress for free, so do have respect for their time and priorities if you’re contacting them to get help with something you haven’t paid for.
What can I do to prevent this in future?
It’s hard to prevent problems entirely but here’s a few things that may help:
- Ensure you keep all plugins, themes and WordPress itself up to date – yes, updating a plugin may sometimes give you one of these issues, but keeping things updated will generally mean less problems rather than more (and your site will be more secure)
- Only install plugins with high ratings, that have been updated recently – it is possible for a plugin to function perfectly well even if it hasn’t been updated for several years, but in most cases the fact that a plugin has been updated recently is a good general indicator that it will be compatible with other plugins. Ratings too can be subjective but again can be useful.
- Move to a managed WordPress hosting company – if one of the errors you are seeing is that you are ‘out of memory’ it may be time to upgrade to more powerful hosting. I recommend WP Engine.
- Outsource the problem – if you’re too busy running your business and would rather someone else just handled all of this for you. Companies like WP Curve can take care of all of these headaches for a fixed fee every month.
With thousands of WordPress themes and plugins it’s impossible for me to know exactly what problem you may be facing and debug it for you, but hopefully this guide gives you some clear steps to getting on the right path to solving it.
And remember, always backup first.
This article originally appeared on iamnickdavis.com