Identifying Plugin Issues

Let’s go over the steps to troubleshoot 2 common causes of issues with WordPress plugins – these are plugin conflicts and caching issues.

They most commonly come up when installing or updating plugins or when updating WordPress itself.

First, let’s try understand why these issues come up. If you look at something like your cell phone, where installing a new app, seldom causes issues with another app. Apps run in what’s called a sandbox. So each app runs completely independently.

WordPress is quite different. Each plugin runs in the same global space. This gives plugins a lot of power, allowing them to interact by accessing each other’s internal functions. The only downside is that plugins have the ability to, mostly unintentionally, step on each other’s toes. Breaking each other, without really meaning to. This breaking, is what we refer to as a plugin conflict.

The second type of issue is a caching issue. Your web browser, server and even your internet service provider all work together to try make your browsing experience as quick as possible. One common technique to do this is called caching, where certain bits of code are stored in different locations like your local computer, so it doesn’t need to be redownloaded each time you access a page.

This can cause a problem when old code, that’s been cached somewhere, is running at the same time as newer code. This old and new code running together can cause problems because they don’t fit together.

We’ll cover caching issues first. These are usually the easiest to solve and cache clearing is a vital step in resolving plugin conflicts too.

Let’s look at the different places your code can be cached. The first and most common, is your web browser. Clearing cache here is fairly easy. If you’re using Chrome, click on the more button, which is just 3 dots, then click More Tools, and then, Clear Browsing Data.

In this next window, you’ll see you have the option to remove cached images and files. Uncheck every option except this one, make sure that The Beginning of Time is selected up here, then click Clear Browsing Data.

If you’re using a different browser, then just search for clearing browser cache, along with the name of your browser in Google. The first result should tell you what you need to know.

Once you’ve done that, refresh the page you were having an issue with and see if the issue has resolved itself. If it hasn’t, then go on to clear any server caches. Server side caching can come from a few places, most likely a caching plugin like W3 Total Cache. If you have a caching plugin installed, try just deactivating it and retest the issue. If that does fix the issue, then reenable the caching plugin and figure out how to clear its cache. You should be able to read about this in the plugin’s documentation.

One other place to check is if your web host offers any caching. For example, we at SiteOrigin host our sites with WP Engine. So, in our dashboard we have an option to Purge All Caches. You might need to check with your hosts to see if they’re implementing any server side caching.

The last place files can be cached is very rare, and usually only comes up for mobile devices. If you exhaust all the other tests, then you could look into a way of clearing cache for your device from your ISP. This is so rare, that you can usually ignore this step and save it as a last resort.

If you’re still getting the issue, then it’s time to look into any possible plugin conflicts.

What you want to do here is get your installation down to as basic of an installation as possible, by temporarily disabling all plugins that aren’t essential to the test.

So in our case, we’re having an issue with SiteOrigin Page Builder. We can start by disabling all non-SiteOrigin plugins. It might also help to switch to a default WordPress theme. These are usually fairly stripped down, and you can be reasonably sure that most plugin developers will test their plugins with all default themes.

Another important step before you recheck the issue is to clear as much cache as possible. At very least, clear your browser cache. I spoke about this earlier in the video.

As you can see, the issue has now resolved itself. The plugin that was conflicting with Page Builder has been deactivated and is no longer causing problems.

Now that we know that another plugin is causing a problem, it’s time to find out which one. We’ll start reenabling the plugins one by one, until we find the one that was causing the issue. After we reenable each plugin, we can check if the issue has returned, by reloading the relevant page. This tells us which plugin is causing the issue.

So now we know which plugin was breaking things. Although, it was probably fairly obvious from the title.

You can report the issue to the 2 plugin developers whose plugins are conflicting. Your other option is to just find an alternative plugin to the one that was causing the conflict.

Of course, if you’re still having the issue, then it’s possible that you’ve found a bug, which you can report to the plugin author. If it’s a legitimate bug, they should get it fixed up, fairly quickly.

So that is the guide to troubleshooting WordPress issues. I hope that you find this useful, even if the issue you’re having isn’t with a SiteOrigin plugin. The same technique can be used to diagnose issues with just about any WordPress theme or plugin. So it’s a useful technique to have in your arsenal.