What to do when your WordPress just refuses to load?

Posted on: June 15, 2018, by :
Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/error-404-404-error-error-1252056/ Learning, Technology blog, Elementor, loading problem, plugins, wordpress

Just under four days ago, I found out to my horror that my website-blog running on WordPress just refused to load. This was after I did the routine updating of plugins and themes. So I Googled what one is suppose to do (and what could have gone wrong). I tried several “remedies” found on Google and am sharing my learning on this with my readers.

Don’t click the “Update” button!

Previously, as advised by many experts, I dutifully would go to the “Plugins” page to manually update each affected plugin. I was getting lazy and lately had been clicking the “Update” tab found at the top menu of my Dashboard. That was the key to all my woes (as shall be divulged below).

There were several plugins to be updated. I clicked the Update button, the updating proceeded, but it then STOP! The screen of my website (aka this one that you are reading) went totally blank!

My website went ‘dead’! Panic set in! “What the devil did I do?”, I asked myself.

Frantic search for the solution

Off I went to Google “wordpress site won’t load after update of plugins” and found several useful sites.

The best of these was one with a good advisory which gave more or less this message: “Don’t trust the Update button, do your plugin update one by one so that if you hit trouble, at least you can easily identify the culprit.”  So I learned that I had to do a lot more to overcome this outage. I followed the instructions given and here are the steps I took.

  1. I accessed the control panel (cpanel) of my website hosting.
  2. Using “File Manager” I traced my path to the public.html and found the folder with my WordPress installation.

  3. Diving deeper, inside my WordPress folder, I located the subfolder “wp-content” where it has a sub-subfolder called “plugins”.

  4. I renamed “plugins” to “brokenplugins”. Then created a new folder which I named “plugins”.
  5. I opened another tab on my web browser and tried my luck in accessing my website.  And it was back on! But as the “plugins” folder was empty, none of the plugins worked.
  6. I then went back to the “File Manager” and copied the plugins from “brokenplugins” to “plugins”, doing so one at a time. For each plugin that I copied over, I would go back to my website and reload to see if the newly copied in plugin caused any problematic files (aka corrupted files) that would crash the website.  All the plugins seemed to have uncorrupted files. But in this way of copying, all the plugins are still inactivated.
  7. Next step was for me to activate each one of the plugins, one by one. And I found the culprit! It was Caldera Forms. WordPress was good that it detected the problem and did not allow me to activate Caldera Forms.
  8. I deleted Caldera Form from the “plugins” sub-subfolder and I thought my problem was solved.

Removal of a plugin, removed content associated with it too!

Of course when you remove a plugin, the associated features and content would be removed too! In my case it was the contact form and order form. The latter actually was put in as “shortcode” on multiple pages of my website.

Once bitten, twice shy. I realized that I should have just used the “default” contact form from WordPress instead. I could also create a simple order form that served my needs from this too.

However, I noticed another issue!

I couldn’t load Elementor, the page builder plugin!

During earlier updating of Elementor and the third-party supporting plugins, I presume somehow the main Elementor editor was prevented from loading. Elementor is a very useful page builder plugin that takes that pain out of having to learn html coding for WordPress users like me. It allows users to do lots of web page design work using its standard elements which are supplemented by many third-party’s plugins too.

With Elementor not loading, although all the content I created using it was still showing, I was prevented from editing any content created with it. Hence I could not replace the forms previously made using Caldera Forms (and the ‘shortcodes” for these forms which remained after Caldera Forms was removed as a plugin were very glaring on the affected pages!).

Lot’s of advise on Google but …..

I found a lot of advisory via Google to tackle the Elementor plugin not loading issue. Well, at least I was not alone. One of these was from Elementor itself which gave instructions to change some settings. This did not work for me!

I then found another page from Elementor which advised that increasing the memory allocated to WordPress may solved the issue. But I would have to edit the associated php file, wp-config.php which was found in the main WordPress installation folder. I was a bit apprehensive about messing around with a php file but the instructions given by a different web page seemed to be showing that this was just a one-liner addition. So I increased my WordPress allocated memory to 128 Mb. But this did not bring back Elementor’s editor either.

I went back to Elementor’s support page and followed its advisory and proceeded to deactivate and reactivate each plugin in turn to see if any one of these was stopping Elementor editor from loading. I found out that the culprit was indeed a supporting plugin for Elementor, “Premium Addons for Elementor”. I could not even deactivate this plugin (after it was activated earlier). As such it would not be possible for me to just delete it via Dashboard of WordPress. I ended up having to remove the culprit using “File Manager”. However a warning message kept showing up at the Dashboard which warned about the missing “Premium Addons for Elementor”. Emptying the cache several times did not remove this message. [But after a reload of the website, on the next day, this message was gone!]

Again, I had to rewrite all the content that was created by the elements provided by “Premium Addons”.

Lessons Learned

  1. Never update plugins on WordPress en mass! Do it one at a time so that if something fouls up, at least you can pinpoint the culprit!
  2. If you create forms using a third-party plugin, such as Caldera Forms, it is best to have at least a screenshot of the form so that you can recreate the content if things go wrong and you have to remove the offending plugin.
  3. Always keep a copy of the content that you create with Page Builder and its supporting addons plugins. You will lose the content if you have to delete the addon plugins or the  main Page Builder plugin.
  4. You should keep life simple. Non-design heavy content, such as a blog page like this should be presented using the “native” WordPress editor. This will save you from a lot of headache and work which using a Page Builder will cause should the same page building plugin has to be deactivated or removed.

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