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Troubleshooting 101: Fixing Theme and Plugin Conflicts


I doubt that there is a functional website without at least one plugin. Want to launch an online store? Use a plugin. Want a membership site? Use a plugin. Want a faster website or an outstanding image gallery? Use a plugin.

Unfortunately, some plugins are not compatible with one another, and most experienced site administrators have faced plugins conflicts. Poor coding or overlapping functions are two major reasons for plugin incompatibilities. Plugins can also be incompatible with themes or WordPress core, although these instances are rare.

Fixing theme and plugin conflicts isn’t rocket science, but you’d better have a guide teaching you how to resolve them. Luckily, this post will teach you everything needed to know to fix these conflicts.

What Is a Plugin or Theme Conflict?

Plugin conflicts are when two plugins clash with each other, the WordPress core, or a theme. These conflicts can result in different types of malfunctions, including the White Screen of Death.

It’s not only poorly coded plugins or themes that generate conflicts. Complex plugins could overlap specific functionalities and drive site malfunctions. Also, two plugins that are currently compatible may not be in the future because the developers constantly release updates.

Countless themes are available on the WordPress repository, and an army of developers has created tens of thousands of premium and free themes. In this context, it’s impossible to create a theme compatible with all the plugins on the market or a plugin compatible with all available themes.

How to Avoid Plugin or Theme Conflicts

Sadly, there is no universal way to avoid plugin or theme conflicts. Fortunately, you can apply the following tips to greatly reduce the likelihood of plugin conflicts:

  • Buy themes and plugins from trusted vendors: Themes and plugins from suspicious sources could not only generate conflicts but also contain malware. Ask vendors about the compatibility of their product with your theme and other plugins.
  • Check the compatibility with the latest version of WordPress: A few plugins and themes were affected by the Gutenberg editor update a few months ago. Ask about any issues with Gutenberg before purchasing a theme or plugin. Do you want to install a plugin from the WordPress repository? Read the compatibility message in the plugin description to find out the compatibility with your WordPress version.
  • Read plugin and theme reviews: It does take time to read reviews, but by doing so, you will make sure that the themes and plugin installed don’t conflict with one another. Much more, you’ll find out more about the product features, the quality of the support, and plans for future versions.
  • Use a local testing environment: Never install a plugin or update directly onto your site. Test it first by using a staging site.
  • Update plugins one at a time: It’s not efficient, but it will reduce the possibility of conflicts.

IMPORTANT: You have heard many times that having a recent backup copy of your site is golden, and I couldn’t agree more. For example, if you experience a plugin conflict, you can restore your site by using a recent site copy. In short, don’t ignore the importance of backing up your site. Also, clear your cache often because your browser won’t reflect the latest updates. Your browser displays an older version of your site when, in fact, the site may be down due to a plugin conflict.

Types of Conflicts

There are four potential types of conflicts: plugin vs. WordPress core, plugin vs. plugin, plugin vs. theme, and theme vs. WordPress core. The last instance is simple to avoid—your site won’t work when you install the new theme, so it forces you to use an alternative. Also, it’s pretty rare to get such a conflict if you buy your theme from reputable vendors. Let’s check out the remaining three types of conflicts.

Plugins vs. WordPress Core

If your site doesn’t work after installing or updating plugins, then chances are that there is a conflict between a plugin and the WordPress core. Deactivate all the plugins and visit your site. You can be sure that the issue was caused by a conflict if your site is now up and running. Activate plugins one by one, returning to your site after each reactivation. Is your site OK? If so, the plugins reactivated are compatible. Keep following this reactivation process until you find the guilty plugin.

Plugin vs. Plugin

It’s simple to mistake a plugin vs. WordPress core conflict with a plugin vs. plugin issue. Let’s say that you have installed seven plugins, including plugins X and Z. You deactivated all the plugins and started reactivating them one by one. You reactivated five plugins and then reactivated X, and everything worked fine. Finally, you reactivated Z, and everything went down.

At first glance, you may suspect that Z doesn’t work with the latest WordPress version. But the plugin could be compatible with the WordPress core version but incompatible with X.

How can you tell the difference between these conflicts? The most efficient solution is to visit the plugins’ vendors sites and check their compatibility with WordPress. The WordPress plugin repository will notify you about the plugins’ compatibility, which considerably streamlines your work.

Plugin vs. Theme

You can suspect a plugin vs. theme conflict when you have deactivated and reactivated all the plugins, and the site still doesn’t work properly. Ideally, replace your current theme with a default one on a staging site. If the site works fine with a default theme, then there is a plugin vs. theme conflict. To identify the conflicting plugin, reinstall the old theme, deactivate the plugins, and reactivate them one by one. Check after each reactivation to see if the site is working. If it is, then the latest reactivated plugin is compatible with the theme. Repeat this process until you find the culprit.

It’s also a good idea to contact the theme and plugin creators to let them know about the incompatibility. Unfortunately, you will have to give up the guilty plugin or theme until the developers release an update.

Conclusions

No one wants a plugin or theme incompatibility, but it will happen sooner or later if you change your theme or add new plugins. Bookmark this article and come back anytime you face such an issue. Have you ever handled a plugin or theme incompatibility? Please leave a comment and explain to us how did you fix it!

Steven Watts Author

Steven shows aspiring bloggers and WordPress website owners simple, practical steps for improving their WordPress websites. Check out his free WordPress Support guides and tutorials at Newt Labs. The free tips, explanations, and tutorials found there are sure to take your WordPress website to the next level.