Thursday, January 19th, 2023

Common problems with WordPress (and how to fix them)

Graphic showing the WordPress logo broken in half

Now that I’m backing away from client work on the technical side of WordPress, I thought I’d share a few of the problems I’m often asked about. This is by no means an exhaustive list of everything that could go wrong or how to fix it. Instead think of it as a good place to start, with pointers on where to go next.

WordPress is slow

Any number of things could be causing this, from the server your site is hosted on, to the design of your theme. A few ideas to start with:

Consider updating WordPress, themes and plugins. If this hasn’t been done in a while approach with caution as you could disrupt your site.

Remove any plugins and themes you’re not using. Don’t just deactivate them, delete them entirely.

Check the plugins and themes you are using for duplicate functionality. If two or more are doing the same thing, pick one and get rid of the other(s). SEO and forms seem to be popular duplicates.

Enable debugging on WordPress, visit a few posts, pages and archives on your site, then check the logs. Bugs in themes and plugins can slow sites down considerably. This will help surface them.

Run your site through PageSpeed Insights. This will direct you to issues with the underlying site design. Common ones are loading endless javascript files, 4 or 5 different Google Fonts and super large images. Fixing these will mean digging into the code. If you’re going to do that you might find it easier to rebuild the site theme and review which plugins you’re using and why.

I prefer to look at these before I start thinking about caching strategies and content delivery networks. Implementing these on a poorly set up site just puts a plaster on a gaping wound.

Images are a bit rubbish.

Did you know WordPress processes the images you upload? Your original will always be there, but WordPress will create lots of versions for different screen sizes and uses. If your image is too big, even the full sized version will be shrunk.

When this happens, the quality is also changed. So while you might save your image at the oft-recommended 70% quality, WordPress will reduce that quality further.

Options are to save your images with a higher quality (I use 90%), or to change the quality setting WordPress uses.

You could decide to use the “full size” version of your images in content, although I’d steer away from this. WordPress doesn’t present the smaller, mobile friendly versions of your images, which could make your site unusable for people on their phones, and harm your SEO.

Support is shite.

There isn’t a number you can call for WordPress Technical Support. Your instance of WordPress is supported by whomever installed it, or you pay to support it. Not paying someone? Then get used to hunting around on forums and StackOverflow.

There’s an extra layer of complexity. If you install an app on your iPhone or Android device, you’ll need to talk to the app developer if there’s a problem. The same principle applies with WordPress. When you install themes and plugins, it’s their developers you go to for help, not WordPress. Support can be a bit variable, from non-existent to post on a forum and hope for a reply, to pay-to-play.

If you decide to pull everything in-house (not unreasonable as WordPress isn’t that hard), keep all your documentation together. When the geek looking after it moves on, it makes it a lot easier to bring someone else up to speed. Trust me on this. I had to pick up a site that hadn’t been touched in more than two years, and the former developer was nowhere to be found.

I want a headless content management system.

WordPress supports headless, so if you want to share the same content through web, a couple of apps and so on, you’re good to go.

My ranking on search engines is pants, and it’s all WordPress’s fault.

Lots to unpack here as search engine optimisation is a big topic. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly hugely mind-bogglingly big it is.

Out of the box, WordPress is OK, but nothing to write home about. It has a simple site map and you can structure content with all the header tags and alt text you need for the basics. Given a lot of SEO starts and ends with how the words and pictures on a page are put together, I’d say it has you covered.

To get the meta tags and other bits of HTML search engines and social media sites like, either they have to be coded into the site theme, or you’ll need a plugin to add them. 

If you want WordPress to help you write your SEO friendly content, you’ll need a plugin. Personal opinion, but if you’re waiting until you copy/paste your latest missive into the WordPress editor to do SEO stuff, you’ve probably left it too late.

My site just looks rubbish.

When I hear this, the site’s usually not been touched for a few years, was never set up properly in the first place, or a new manager is in place who has different ideas to their predecessor.

Either way, a rewrite isn’t a bad idea to take advantage of developments in browser technology or design trends. If you are going to do it treat it like a project rather than a bit of garden shed tinkering. WordPress is so easy to use I sometimes think we underestimate our ability to really screw things up.

So you’re ditching WordPress?

No, not yet. Probably never. I’m stepping back from developing new themes and plugins because life happened. I still have a lot of invaluable knowledge that I will be keeping up to date. And yes, I will continue to code php, html and css for my sites.

It’s just that I’d rather focus on writing and creating content, and managing the operations behind getting marketing plans to happen.

My name is Ross Hori

I'm a freelance writer, designer and photographer. By day I create articles, features and reports. At night I take photos and write fiction. Find out more.