Plugin incompatibility is the number one issue for most webmasters working with WordPress. The reason is that there are countless developers offering plugins and themes for WordPress and countless developers means unfortunately countless different coding styles and countless possibilities for errors and incompatibility issues.
The good news is that the vast number of choices out there means that you’ll be able to find something that really works for you. The bad news is that you have to make sure yourself that no plugin incompatibility occurs in your installation and that might be a pretty challenging task. Here I’ll guide you through the necessary steps to keep your WordPress site incompatibility-free.
The Plugins You Need
If using a premium WordPress theme chances are that you have some of the most necessary functions built-in and this is what you want as the rule, when it comes to plugins, is the fewer the better. Also, in many cases you’ll get some plugins recommended by the theme’s developer team and you should – for your own sake – listen to them.
If using a free theme though, you’ll most likely be on your own when trying to get all the functionality you need. Don’t go plugin-crazy! Even if no incompatibility occurs, overusing plugins causes slowdown of your pages which directly affects user experience and SEO score.
The basic plugins you in most cases must install are:
- SEO plugin: WordPress isn’t and can’t be SEO optimized beyond delivering clean and optimized code. Everything else such as text, media, etc. optimization is up to you. In order to be able to edit meta data and monitor your efforts, you need a SEO plugin. It’s recommended to go for an industry-wide recognized SEO plugin as a guarantee for clean code and timely updates.
- Social plugin: there’s literally no WordPress theme out there that offers adequate social sharing options and attractive buttons. As it’s one of the basics of running a successful blog and making your content easy to find and distribute, having the right social sharing buttons is a must. Choose a simple option that covers your needs but doesn’t overuse resources. Be also on the lookout for incompatibility issues. A quite good and free option for small-scale sites is OneAll’s solution. It combines professional social sharing and social login and is free for sites with traffic under 2500 unique users per year.
- Cookie plugin: Since the fall 2015 it’s illegal to run a site in the EU without notifying users about the cookies you use, their intended use, and asking visitors for permission to “plant” cookies on their computers. The regulations are applicable not only to EU-based companies or websites but to websites which can be viewed within the EU. Which plugin you choose to work with often depends on the country you operate in. Here’s though a bunch of options to choose among.
Detecting Plugin Incompatibility
Even if you only install the plugins mentioned above – but especially if you go a bit plugin-crazy – there’s a chance that at some point you’ll experience some technical issues caused by plugin incompatibility. Plugin incompatibility means that two or more of your plugins – or some of your plugins and your theme – can’t work together causing constant crashing of the site or the backend, internal server errors, slowing down page load times, causing widget malfunctions or screwing up page design and text styles.
Sometimes it might be difficult to get it right away that you’re dealing with plugin incompatibility as it can not only occur in connection to new installation but in connection to updates – some of them automatic – as well. Here’re the signs you have to keep an eye on:
- Pages suddenly start loading slower. Sometimes you can detect it easily as the difference in loading times can be quite big. Sometimes though it’s impossible for you to do it. It’s, however, important to do it as page speed is a SEO factor. Use Google’s own page speed tools to make sure your pages perform optimally and no incompatibility is affecting them.
- Certain pages look distorted. A quite usual sing of plugin incompatibility is the visible distortion of your preset design. It might be that text font, size, color, or position aren’t as they are supposed to be. It might also be about the way elements on a page are situated or the way media appears on the page. If such errors occur, you’re advised to check your plugins.
- Functionality problems. Malfunction of site elements is also a very common sign of plugin incompatibility. Before starting to wonder whether your theme isn’t simply acting up, check your plugins.
- Site or backend crashing. It might only happen once in a while in the beginning and then more and more often in a way that you almost get used to it. However, as long as your server isn’t causing the problems, you’re most likely dealing with plugin incompatibility. To make sure your server is stable, keep an eye on the Current Status Dashboard in Google Search Console.
- Internal Server Error. One of the most serious errors occurring in connection to plugin incompatibility. You’re locked out either only from the frontend or from the front and backend of your site. You get a notification that an internal server error has occurred. Here you can read more about what to do in case of internal server error.
How to Resolve Plugin Incompatibility
After you have detected issues due to plugin incompatibility you should react as quick as possible to avoid that they affect your rankings. You resolve plugin incompatibility the easiest way by following these steps:
- Clone your site to keep it live with a plugin as Duplicator or put it in maintenance mode with a plugin as Ultimate Coming Soon Page if you can allow for a short downtime. Backup your site before making any major changes!
- Disable all plugins from the Admin panel in WordPress. In case you’ve been locked out of the Admin panel, follow the steps described in this post Can’t access my blog: internal server error to disable your plugins directly from the server.
- Clear the browser’s cache and check whether the detected issues are gone. If yes, it means that one or more of your plugins are incompatible with your setup. If not, you need to look further. If using a theme which does not get regular updates or not updating your WordPress installation regularly, incompatibility issues might arise on theme-level. Code-issues of your theme can also result in incompatibility.
- If you confirmed that your plugins are causing incompatibility issues, you can identify the sinner/s by activating them one by one until you experience the same issues as before. Remember to clear the cache in order to see the latest version of your pages!
- Remove the plugin or the plugins causing troubles and, if necessary, replace them with new ones.
- Check whether the issues are gone. Check also all pages for leftovers of code from the removed plugins. Perform these checks on as many browsers as possible to prevent issues limited to certain browsers.
- Get your site online again.
- Keep an eye on performance whenever an update comes or something else changes in your configuration.