WordPress Wednesdays–Plug-ins: Looking before you leap!

wax seal with "wordpress"Today we were working on some updates to the website, and realized that it would be nice if we could create some posts, but not have them shared in our feed, or on social media. I know we’d done something similar in the past, so I did a quick search and found the plug-in I thought I was thinking of:

Advanced Category Excluder –

We added it to the site, activated it, started adding our posts, and when
we went to preview them, the entire site looked crazy! Menus all over the
place, many of the pages not loading, etc. (Sorry, I didn’t think to grab a
screen shot for you!)

Luckily we’re working in a development environment so no one else could see it. Unfortunately, I know many of you likely don’t have this luxury and your visitors would be interrupted by this kind of issue.

There are a few things which happened to me which could easily happen to you, so I wanted to use this as a happy accident and share with you how you can prevent this.

1) If possible, make any major changes / new plug-ins during an off-peak period.

I’d recommend checking Google Analytics to see when your site is less busy, and plan making these kinds of changes then. Often first thing in the morning works great, with the added bonus that you can likely reach your web developer/host if you do run into a problem you can’t solve. Alternately, it may make sense to invest in a development environment for your site, either on your own computer or online.

2) Make regular back-ups of your site.

It’s most important to back up the database, but the files are important as well, especially if you are making any bigger changes. Most hosting providers have great back-up service, but there will likely be a charge to retrieve the problem files if you caused the issue.

3) Don’t panic!

Try to work backwards logically and undo what you’ve done. For us, we just had to deactivate the plug-in and all returned to normal *phew*. Most times, this is all you’ll need to do.

4) Read plug-in warnings.

If you look at the plug-in on the WordPress site, there is a warning that this plug-in hasn’t been updated in over 2 years. This doesn’t necessarily mean that it won’t work, but raises a flag that I should test a bit more carefully than usual, or look for a similar plug-in which was updated more recently.

5) Be aware that things change.

WordPress is constantly being updated with new versions (and new code), so there can be compatibility problems. Something which worked before might stop working. That plug-in you’re using on your other site might not work with the plug-ins on this site. I do believe I’ve used this plug-in before without problems, so something must have happened between then and now to cause a problem.

6) Do some research, or ask for some advice before you add/activate the plug-in.

AWEBthatWORKS is happy to make recommendations based on our experience, and a small consultation charge upfront may be easier to swallow than a ton of research, or worse – a giant headache later. You may also want to check the “Support” tab from the WordPress plug-in page. If you see lots of unresolved posts, you’re more likely to have issues. If the developer is replying to the inquiries and resolving them, you’ll have better luck. You can also try just searching Google, and see what experiences others are having using the plug-in.

And, if you’re wondering how we fixed it? Try Ultimate Category Excluder which seems to do what we’re looking for without blowing up the website.

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Posted on by Sue
Categories: WordPress
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