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What to do when a WordPress Plugin does not Work?

When clients have a WordPress site and want more functionality, the place to turn first is the WordPress development community. There are millions of plugins out there that cover just about every use you can think of. More times than not you’ll find at least one plugin that does everything you need it to. But what if there is a bug in the plugin? What if an option is missing or just doesn’t work?!

Check for an Update

The simplest solution is to see if your plugin has an advertised update. You’ll see it in your WordPress dashboard or Installed Plugins page. A simple update may fix a known issue and get things rolling again.

Check your WordPress and PHP Versions

All plugins have requirements that need to be met in order for it to work properly. Most of the time a plugin will work for your version of WordPress even if it is shown to have not been tested with it. But there are occasions where a major update is uploaded to take advantage of new WordPress features. And on the flip side, there are some old plugins out there that haven’t been updated in years and may not work with up-to-date versions of WordPress at all. Make sure you double-check your WordPress version against the requirements.

PHP versions are also a requirement. If you are receiving fatal errors or witnessing other problems, it’s possible that you are not running a compatible version of PHP that the plugin requires. In that case, you can contact your web host to check to see if they can update you to the proper version of PHP. Do not ask them to roll back PHP just so you can use a very old plugin. It could cause things to break and open security holes. Plus, that’s just weird.

Read the Docs and Tutorials

Many plugins are supported by some sort of documentation. Search for an official documentation from the authors themselves to see if you are doing the process correctly. Maybe there is a setting that needs to be enabled before your desired feature is activated. Sometimes it may be a PRO feature and you are testing the FREE version. All possibilities.

Search Internet Forums

Most of the time it’s quicker to just type in the name of the plugin, the name of the feature you are having problems with, and follow that by describing the problem (i.e., …misaligned, …duplicates, or …not working). Chances are you’ll find a forum where a user has encountered the same problem. Read the post request thoroughly and see if it is relevant to your issue and then read all replies. The solution that the poster used may not exactly work for you, so it is wise to read every reply because there may be a solution in there that will work for you perfectly! DO NOT chime in with a response if it is not a solution. What that means is don’t add your two cents by saying, “I have the same problem”; Of course you do. That’s why you’re there.

Disable Plugins, Isolate the Problem

You may have a conflict with other plugins or even themes. You can try disabling all plugins and enable the plugin you are having problems with. If it works after disabling all the other plugins, you may have a conflict. In that case, enable your installed plugins one-by-one and keep checking to see if it causes a problem with the plugin you were having problems with. If so, you may have to decide on which of those plugins is more important to you and find a replacement for the other.

If disabling all plugins still doesn’t cause the troubled plugin to work properly, then the problem could be the plugin itself. You may have to find a replacement. If you really, truly, gotta use this plugin because the advertised features are exactly what you need, or you have paid money for this plugin…

Contact the Plugin Author

Many plugins have authors or people dedicated to responding to support questions to get you back on track. And if you’ve paid money for this plugin, you may have access to a technical support portal where you, as a paying customer, can create a ticket and get one-on-one help. But even if you aren’t a paying customer, if an advertised function is just not working, that’s bad for the author, period. It may be that an update cause a slight problem and hinders that feature. An honest mistake. Some people may not have run into that issue, but there could be many more who remain silent and never report the problem. So contacting the author and politely explaining the issue is helping the author and every other customer out there. You could be surprised how fast you get a response to your issue, especially if it’s a big one. But do so in a courteous manner, I mean, c’mon.

Try Another Plugin

If you’re not married to the problem plugin, maybe it’s better if you look for another. You may think that there are too few that do what you need, but maybe you can get creative with your search keywords. Instead of searching for bulletin board plugins, try forum plugins. Instead of block content plugin, try membership plugin.

Build Your Own Plugin

If worse comes to worse and you have the skill and determination, you can create your own custom plugin. WordPress provides an excellent codex with instructions on how to build a plugin, the different classes and what they do, plus tutorials. There are also lost of great specific tutorials on the web to help you in the process. Don’t copy + paste code, but try to understand what’s going on. Take what you learn and expand upon it.

You can even make money on your plugin! You could create a dedicated site or setup a landing page to sell your plugin. A well developed plugin can actually be sold on many plugin-specific commerce sites. Those sites have a large community of users who look for the latest and greatest plugins for their development needs.

There are a lot of things you can try. These are just some that have helped me in the past. You may find new solutions yourself, and in that case, be sure to share the wealth!

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