What to do when plugin updates crash WordPress
In this second installment of our WordPress expert series, Pulley Support Manager Ryan Lim shares his strategy for resolving issues stemming from WordPress plugin updates.
Ryan has been a web developer for over 12 years, working on WordPress, Shopify, WooCommerce, and other enterprise-level content management systems. He prefers working with WordPress because, “It is the perfect cross between what a developer needs and what a user with no development experience needs to build a website.”
That happy marriage is a result of WordPress being open source and highly extensible. Users can add whichever plugins they need to customize their websites to their purposes. The downside, according to Ryan, is that, “Updating WordPress can be like rolling the dice— you don’t always know what is going to happen.”
Here’s how he tackled an issue with a jQuery plugin that was affecting not only several Pulley clients, but over 35,000 websites worldwide. If you were one of the 35,00— or could be in the future— you may want to take notes.
Q: What was the issue you were working to resolve?
Sometimes plugins can disrupt WordPress after they’ve been updated. In this particular case, jQuery Migrate Helper was misbehaving on a lot of our clients’ websites. It was preventing them from accessing their WordPress dashboards.
Q: How do you know the plugin is causing the issue?
There are two things that will happen if a plugin update is causing WordPress to crash. The first clue is an email sent from WordPress indicating your website is down. The second clue is if you can’t access your WordPress dashboard.
Q: What was the solution?
If you can’t access your WordPress dashboard, sometimes the only way to resolve the issue is to use an FTP tool (File Transfer Protocol) like FileZilla on the website and delete the plugin from the backend.
Every WordPress website has a wp-content folder. You will see the plugin in the folder. You need to delete the plugin to get access to your dashboard again. Then, if it hasn’t been reported already, you report the issue to the plugin developer on their website.
It can sometimes be a bit of a waiting game for the developer to fix the issue after it’s reported, so you have two options for what to do in the meantime. If you are highly skilled you can fix the plugin yourself, but I wouldn’t recommend that. The best workaround is to install a different plugin temporarily that does the same thing as the original, then reinstall the original plugin once it is updated.
Q: What did you learn from the experience?
While I’ve dealt with similar issues before, this instance reminded me that sometimes you have to alter WordPress core files. The WordPress dashboard is not bullet proof. Sometimes you have to go in through the back door using FTP.
Q: What advice would you offer others dealing with this issue in the future?
Before updating anything, always backup the website. That’s Step 0. Step 1 is updating WordPress. Step 2 is doing another backup. Step 3 is updating ecommerce and other plugins. Step 4 is backing up the site again. That’s how you know your website is stable.