Why Experts recommend the “Deactivate All Plugins” method

So the other day, Mika Epstein (AKA not Mike AKA smarter than you) tweeted a fantastic one-word tweet:


Allow me to save you a click. Here’s the image she linked to:

Soooo much this. Click to enlarge.

Here’s a longer explanation, because I stood and applauded (full disclosure, I may have been already standing because I’m an incorrigible hipster with a standing desk) her brilliance.

If you read my stuff for more than about 30 minutes you know I strongly encourage folks to avoid doing substantive code changes on the live site. It’s a serious rookie mistake. (and with services like WP Stagecoach, it’s an inexcusable one)

(Yes that’s an affiliate link. Do you presume this level of snark pays for itself?)

The image above that Mika tweeted helps us begin to understand the power of a staging site. Using that method, it’s a 4 minute process to completely troubleshoot what is causing an error on your site.

“But I have lots of plugins doing lots of stuff! Deactivating them all will totally bum out my users/client/boss/people on the site!”

Not on a staging site, it won’t.

See, you can probably isolate what the problem is by really drilling down into the “FATAL ERROR” that is displaying under that widget on your site. It’s definitely doable. If you insist on doing it on the live site and not disabling all plugins, it could take 3 or 4 hours (for a skilled developer who really needs to be charging minimum $100 an hour, but also not charging hourly).

For a person just starting out I’ve found that you can safely multiply that estimated time by 5 to compensate for learning all of the different ways Stack Exchange (via Google) can explain the error to a novice.

Or, you can use Mika’s flowchart, and diagnose the problem in 4 minutes. All by yourself.

Why you keep hearing 'Disable All Plugins' when support staff are troubleshooting your issue. Share on XHere’s the thing: a skilled developer is already using Mika’s flowchart. It’s part of the reason it only took them 7-9 minutes to diagnose your problem. (3-5 minutes to clone your site to a development environment, and the remaining 4 to do the thing in the image.)

The reason you get that response from experts on the forum is that it is (by a long shot) the easiest way to troubleshoot a problem.

If you are in charge of managing a website, or any other software, having a testing environment where you can break things is critical. Thanks, Mika, for the helpful reminder!

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