CSS (Cascading StyleSheets) is a language responsible for the layout and design of web pages, which applies to the WordPress Admin section. While the page will nonetheless show page content even if CSS is not loading in WordPress Admin, unless you fix it, it won’t be arranged properly. It will resemble a simple HTML page with PHP, listing paragraphs, heading, menu, sidebar, and other elements without order, as text with or without hyperlinks. While still useful, if we can call it that, the page has no User eXperience (UX) or User Interface (UI), hence we propose you activate Maintenance Mode in WordPress. Then, proceed with these solutions:
1. Update your browser or try a different one
If you can’t remember making drastic changes to your site, the link between the website server and your browser may be broken. Therefore, double-check that you updated your browser to the latest version and consider a WordPress upgrade, too. Otherwise, access the WordPress Admin section from another browser, and see if CSS shows properly.
2. Try Incognito Mode or clear browser cache
A previous problem that was cached by the browser or a troublesome cookie might have caused an improper application of CSS. Therefore, we suggest trying Incognito Mode or Private Mode that doesn’t save cookies, cache, or history. If that doesn’t work, you can clear the cache and try opening the page again. Here’s how that works on Google Chrome:
- In the three-dot menu in the top right corner, select Settings.
- Go to Privacy and security in the left tab.
- Select Clear browsing data.
- In the “Basic” tab, put the time frame, and make sure you select “Cookies and other site data” and “Cached images and files”.
- Select the Clear data button.
3. Check the validity of the SSL certificate
We sincerely hope you have acquired or purchased an SSL certificate, and, optionally, forced SSL in WordPress so that no page is vulnerable to MITM (man-in-the-middle) attacks. However, if the certificate has expired, or you have switched but forgot to make updates from HTTP to HTTPS, some pages or elements in the console may show a 404 error. Additionally, you may have changed the login URL or hid it from the public, which may prevent CSS from applying. With all that in mind, get an SSL certificate if you lack one, and if you already do, double-check that it hasn’t expired.
4. Double-check or reapply user role permissions
As you know, some WordPress user types have access to the WordPress Admin dashboard as permission. Therefore, inspecting the Users section of WordPress as a head administrator and checking that the user (you included) has the permissions is pivotal. Another person, a plugin, or a theme might have altered this. It doesn’t hurt to remove permissions, save changes, then apply for permission again before saving to reset that setting.
5. Examine your wp-config.php file
We frequently talk about the wp-config.php file when seeking a fix, and this applies to the problem with CSS not loading in WordPress Admin. A typo, syntax error, and recent or redundant elements may be causing issues. For instance, an extra
?> tag or even an empty line could spell trouble. Therefore, get to the root of your site via FTP and open the aforementioned file. Check for any recent changes or things that stand out as errors. You can also try adding the following line to the file:
define(‘CONCATENATE_SCRIPTS’, false );
CONCATENATE_SCRIPTS constant to true is the default behavior. It “concatenates” or shrinks all dependencies of pages in the WordPress Admin section into one URL, so it would look like this:
That saves resources since there are fewer HTTP requests between the browser and the server. By making it false, you force the WordPress admin to process these dependencies individually. That shouldn’t affect the functionality of the website, yet may be a quick fix when the CSS is not loading in WordPress Admin.
6. Expand the PHP memory limit in WordPress
When things don’t seem to load fully, we often suggest increasing the WordPress memory limit. That would let WordPress Admin have more memory at its disposal, and could load CSS. Be aware that the hosting may have limited or forbidden memory expansion. If that works, know that it isn’t a permanent solution—something is still draining the memory suddenly. It’s likely a plugin, theme, or complex PHP code, which we’ll tackle in methods 8 and 9.
7. Inspect the page for faulty elements
We know we delayed this far too long, but we focused on methods that require little effort while producing big changes. We’re now getting into those that require more troubleshooting. With that said, inspecting page elements in Google Chrome works like this:
- Use right-click on the Admin dashboard page where CSS didn’t load.
- Select Inspect or Inspect Element.
- A new tab will now open on the bottom or the right-hand side. Switch to the Console tab.
- Go to the Network tab and see if you can spot something familiar. Refresh the page with the tab open to see if that generates anything. Note that files with an HTTP 200 status are loading appropriately. In contrast, those with other error codes, usually 404, are not found or loaded, or inaccessible.
Keep the collection of names of problematic files, and try to match them to plugins or themes.
8. Deactivate the active theme
Have you recognized a file name in the method below and matched it to a theme? If so, all the more reason to disable your current WordPress theme. We already explained how this works in method 3 of our “fixing WordPress Admin Bar not showing” guide. Make sure that the default theme isn’t deactivated, or that you have a secondary theme to fall back on.
9. Disable recent or all plugins
This was the next step in the guide we mentioned a moment ago and is the logical thing to do. That is a surefire way to see if plugins are the cause, then zero in on the one (or multiple) that wreaked havoc. If that works, you need to reach out to the developer or find an alternative plugin that does the same job.
10. Check WordPress logs and database
Finally, if nothing you tried worked, it’s time to dive deep into the WordPress error logs and WordPress debugging. If you are unfamiliar with code or can’t access them, consider contacting your web hosting provider’s Customer Support for help.