Identifying Plugin Issues

Let’s go over the steps to troubleshoot two common causes of WordPress plugins issues- plugin conflicts and caching issues.

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

First, let’s try to understand why these issues come up. If you look at something like your cell phone, installing a new app seldom causes problems with another app. Apps run in what’s called a sandbox. So each app runs entirely 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 can, 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 work together to make your browsing experience as quick as possible. One common technique is called caching, where certain bits of code are stored in different locations like your local computer, so it doesn’t need to be re-downloaded each time you access a page. Caching can cause a problem when old code that’s been stored somewhere is running simultaneously with 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.

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 pretty straightforward. If you’re using macOS Chrome, click on the Chrome link in the top bar 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 All time is selected in the Time range select field, then click Clear data.

If you’re using a different browser, 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 problem 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 deactivating it and retest the issue. If that fixes the problem, re-enable the caching plugin and figure out how to clear its cache. You should be able to read about this in the plugin’s documentation.

Another place to check is your web host. If server-side caching is offered by your hosting company, a setting to clear the cache will usually be provided. You might need to reach out to your host’s support department to find out if caching is being done and how to clear it.

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 the 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, it’s time to look into any possible plugin conflicts.

You want to get your installation down to as basic of an installation as possible by temporarily deactivating 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 deactivating all non-SiteOrigin plugins. It might also help to switch to a default WordPress theme. These are usually somewhat stripped down, and you can be reasonably sure that most plugin developers will test their plugins with all default themes.

Another essential step before you recheck the issue is to clear as much cache as possible. At the 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 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 re-enabling the plugins one by one until we find the one that was causing the issue. After re-enabling each plugin, we can check if the problem 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 two plugin developers whose plugins are conflicting. Your other option is to find an alternative plugin to the one causing the conflict.

Of course, if you’re still having the issue, you may have found a bug, which you can report to the plugin author. If it’s a legitimate bug, they should get it fixed up reasonably quickly.

So that is the guide to troubleshooting WordPress issues. I hope you find this helpful, even if your problem 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 valuable technique to have in your arsenal.

Thanks for reading.

Greg Priday