WordPress Plugin Conflicts – How To Trace and Solve It
WordPress plugin conflict can take down your entire site, or cause certain features to misbehave. But how do you know when it occurs? Are there plugin conflict detectors for WordPress? How do you fix the issue when it comes up? You’ll learn all these and more in this post.
To start with, what is a WordPress plugin?
WordPress plugins are small pieces of software used to add new features to a WP site. They are an important component in the WordPress ecosystem. With plugins, you can make your WordPress sites function as you really want them to without writing any code.
In fact, the look and functionality of your WordPress site are largely dependent on the themes and plugins you install.
The drawback, however, with using plugins is that they might end up conflicting with each other. Technically, this is referred to as plugin conflict.
3 major forms of WordPress plugin conflicts
Conflicts are of 3 major forms. It could be that a plugin conflicts with another installed plugin on your WordPress site. Other times, it happens when an installed theme conflicts with a plugin. It could also be as a result of a plugin conflicting with core WordPress files.
Whatever the reason, plugin conflict is always an unpleasant experience. Depending on the severity of the conflict, you will experience certain symptoms or errors in your site.
Common symptoms include your website having an unusual behavior due to a plugin not functioning as it ought to. It can also take the form of certain elements like navigation menu, contact form, etc. disappearing.
Or worse, you could experience the dreaded White Screen of Death. That is to say, everything goes blank, and the only thing you see is a white screen. You might also find it difficult – if not impossible – to access your site.
In this article, we will be doing due justice to plugin conflicts in WordPress. First, we will dive a little deeper to understand what it is all about. We will show you how to troubleshoot and fix conflict errors, and finally discuss steps to take so as to avoid them.
Understanding WordPress Plugin Conflict
Plugins are snippets of codes added to WordPress core so as to enhance its functionality. As such, if a plugin is written in such a way that is out of tune with your WordPress version, conflict is inevitable.
This conflict can also arise as a result of the plugin developer not following proper coding standards for WordPress.
In some cases, the problem may not be coming from the plugin. It could be that a function in the installed theme is canceling out a similar function in a plugin.
Outdated or recently-updated plugins are also notorious for causing conflicts, and so you have to be on the lookout for them.
And lastly, the version of WordPress you use can also be a culprit. Many webmasters have reported seeing error messages after updating their WordPress version.
So, how do you know if a plugin is causing conflicts on your WordPress website? Well, let’s look through some of the diagnostic symptoms.
Symptoms of WordPress Plugin Conflicts (Detectors)
Here are common symptoms that can help you recognize conflicts with your plugins (note however that other issues beyond plugin conflict can cause some of these).
Symptom 1: You just installed a plugin and all of a sudden your website stops functioning as it was. Maybe the signup form doesn’t pop up anymore. This is a WordPress plugin or theme conflict detector.
Symptom 2: After updating a plugin, certain elements of your website breaks. Say, your navigation menu goes wonky or even disappears altogether. It’s also a conflicting plugins detector in WordPress.
Symptom 3: Your website starts to slow after doing a plugin batch update. That is to say, after updating all your plugins automatically, things go haywire.
Symptom 4: Now, this is the most dreaded. You experience the White Screen of Death. That is, everything goes blank, and all you see is a white screen. Worse, you don’t have access to your WordPress admin dashboard.
These are detectors letting you know that you have WordPress plugin conflict in your hands. How then do you fix it?
How to Fix Plugin Conflicts
After ascertaining that your WordPress site is experiencing plugin conflict, the next step is to take corrective measures to fix the problem.
Here are steps you can take to troubleshoot.
Step 1: Clear Your Browser Cache
As simple as it might appear, clearing your browser’s cache can help sort out this problem. The reason is, after updating a plugin, codes from the outdated plugin need to be cleared from the browser cache.
To clear your browser cache, hold down the Shift + Ctrl + Delete (PC) button, all at once. For Mac, press Option + Command + E. Then click clear data or empty, respectively.
If the problem persists after clearing your cache, proceed to step 2.
Step 2: Consider Creating a Staging Site
The steps we are about to show you will require you to make drastic changes to your website. It’s not the best idea to implement them on a live site.
On a staging site, whatever change you make won’t reflect on your live site, until you commit the changes.
Of course, a staging site will only make sense if you can still access your site.
In this article, we explained how to create a staging environment. It’s easy to follow no matter how beginner or advanced your WordPress skills are.
After creating a staging environment, proceed with the next step.
Step 3: Switch to WordPress Default Theme
Like we had earlier mentioned, a theme can sometimes be the culprit. The only way you can know is by switching to another theme – one you can trust. And the most trustworthy themes are the default theme which comes with WordPress.
To do so, simply log into your WordPress dashboard, then navigate to Appearance >> Themes.
In the themes directory, locate the Twenty Twenty theme. If you can’t see it, check for Twenty Nineteen or Twenty Seventeen.
Activate the theme and check your website.
If the problem clears away, apparently the problem came from the theme.
At this point, you have a choice to make: replace the problematic theme or sort through your list of active plugins to find which is conflicting with the theme. If the latter is your preferred choice, proceed to step 4.
Another thing you can do is to escalate the problematic theme to its developer. To reach out to the theme developer, first, click on the theme thumbnail. You will see the URL to the theme developer. Click on it.
If at the end of the day it turns the problem was never from the theme, move on to the next step.
Step 4: Deactivate Your Plugins
Deactivating all your plugins will help you isolate the plugin causing the conflict.
Luckily, you don’t have to deactivate the plugins one after the other. WordPress has a method that lets you disable plugins all at the same time.
First off, navigate to Plugins >> Installed Plugins. Then click on the Plugin checkbox as seen below:
Doing this will cause all plugins to be selected. Now, to deactivate them, select Deactivate from the Bulk Action drop-down box.
Then click the Apply button just beside it. Upon click, all the activated plugins will be deactivated.
Note: If you would like to exempt a plugin from being deactivated, deselect it by clicking the checkbox next to it. This, however, isn’t recommended because the plugin you deselect could end up being the problematic one.
After deactivating plugins, the issue should go away. The next step is to find the exact plugin causing the conflict.
Step 5: Reactivate The Plugins
To find the erring plugin(s), we have to activate all the plugins one at a time.
After each activation, reload the site to see if the problem occurs. The plugin that was activated before it does is the culprit.
If it is a plugin to plugin conflict, there may be more than one plugin causing your issue. If the plugin you already found is too important to your WordPress site, you may want to find the plugin conflicting with it. To do that, leave this plugin enabled, and disable all others.
First, if it is a plugin to plugin conflict you should no longer see the error. Now start activating plugins. The activated just before seeing the error is conflicting with the one earlier identified. You can now decide which to work on.
There are three things you could do to solve WordPress plugin conflict
- Roll back the plugin. By roll back, we mean degrading the plugin to its older version. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a developer to get this done. The WP Roll ack plugin can help you get this done.
- Check plugin support forums. Chances are someone else has experienced a similar issue. And if that’s the case, there should be a solution to it. A good forum to start from is the official WordPress Support forum. You can always report the plugin conflict there. If you would like to visit the forum specific to the particular plugin, visit the WordPress Plugin repository. Then search for the plugin.Once you have found the plugin, scroll down a little and click View support forumUpon click, you will be taken to the forum specially created for issues related to that plugin.You can also look for a solution by doing a quick Google search. Just type the name of the plugin plus “conflict”. Here’s an example Contact form 7 plugin conflict
- Delete the plugins causing the conflict. You can always find their replacement in the WordPress plugin repository. This is a better alternative. You sure wouldn’t want to compromise the integrity of your website in the future.
Using Plugins to Diagnose Plugin Conflict in WordPress
You might be wondering by now if there’s a plugin that can get the job done without you stressing yourself? Well, you are in luck – there are a couple you could use.
Provided you are sure its a conflict (using the detectors we mentioned earlier), you can use any of these WordPress plugins.
Health Check and Troubleshooting: The way this plugin works, basically, is by deactivating all plugins. It then goes a step further by switching to the default WordPress theme.
With all plugins deactivated and default theme switched to, isolating the conflicting plugin becomes easy.
Plugin Organizer: Usually, when you uninstall a plugin, it will be removed from your entire website.
But what if you wanted to just deactivate an outdated plugin from a page or a post, rather than the entire website? This is where the Plugin Organizer becomes handy.
What if You Don’t Have Access Your Site’s Admin?
So far, the solution we have discussed requires you to have access to your site’s backend. What if the plugin conflict causes you to lose access to your WordPress website’s dashboard?
This usually happens when you experience the White Screen of Death – everything dies, including the login page to your site.
As such, you won’t be able to disable plugins as you would ordinarily.
Thankfully, there’s a solution to this problem. With an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) program, you can access your site’s files.
Watch this video guide to become familiar with FTP, or read the steps below about using FTP.
Step 1: Install FTP on Your Machine
For this tutorial, we will be using the popular FileZilla FTP. So, if you haven’t already, head over to Filezilla’s site, download and install the app.
Step 2: Connect to Your Website Via FTP
To access your website via FTP, you will first need to retrieve your FTP login credentials. You will find them in your cPanel.
Right in your cPanel account, click FTP Accounts
Then scroll down and click Configure FTP Client
Then copy out the FTP credentials, namely username, server and port (21).
Note: If you cannot get these details via cPanel, contact your web hosting company.
Next, head over to Filezilla. Paste the items you copied in appropriate boxes.
Then click Quickconnect
Upon click, a connection will be established between your website and the FTP
Step 3: Locate the Plugins Folder
With a connection established, open the public_html folder (or any other folder containing your WP website), and then open the wp-content folder.
You will see the plugins folder.
To disable all the plugins at once, you will have to rename the plugins folder to something like inactive-plugins. You may also try the same with the themes folder after finishing with plugins.
The name you give the themes and plugins folder doesn’t matter, so long it’s not themes or plugins.
Here’s how to change the name.
Right-click on the folder and select Rename.
Enter the modified name.
What if you wanted to disable a particular plugin? Maybe you don’t want your major plugins to go down. Or maybe you worked last on that plugin before your site went blank.
Instead of renaming the plugins folder, open it by double clicking, and then select the plugin folder you wish to disable. Now rename it. That would cause the plugin to be disabled.
If plugins were the source of the conflict, you should now be able to access your dashboard. You can go in there and activate plugins one by one until you find the culprit.
With all the corrective measures we’ve shown you so far, your website should be up and running. If this isn’t the case, then the problem might be from your server. The best recourse is to contact your WordPress hosting provider. They should help you resolve the problem.
How to Avoid Plugin Conflicts in WordPress
Prevention, they say, is always better than cure. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could avoid WordPress plugin conflicts? Well you can, and here are a couple of preventive measures you can take.
Avoid Running Outdated Plugins
Outdated plugins are a big risk to your website. As much as possible, avoid having them lying around your website.
Also, when hunting for a new plugin to install, ensure it’s up to date and still supported. How would you know, you ask?
You should see a warning telling you the plugin is out of date. Here’s an example
Less is Always More
As a rule of thumb in WordPress, go minimal with the plugins you install on your website. That way, you minimize the chances of running into problems. Only use plugins that are really necessary.
Test Plugins on a Stages Site
It’s always a bad idea to test out a new plugin on a live site. It’s best you do that on a staged site.
Avoid Doing Plugin Batch Update
By this, we mean avoid updating your plugins all at the same time. Should something go wrong, you will find it difficult to fish out the problematic plugin.
If you are currently experiencing technical difficulties with your WordPress website, there’s a good chance your plugins are conflicting. To avoid making erroneous assumptions, it’s best you use the WordPress plugin conflict detectors we mentioned.
We’ve shown you some of the techniques you could use to diagnose conflicting plugin problems. What’s more, we also explained some of the things you can do to fix plugin conflicts.
You should now be able to solve plugin conflict on your own. However, if you’re still struggling, feel free to reach out to us.