How to Safely Update WordPress and Plugins

Your website might look fine on the surface with great design and speed. But something is lurking behind the scenes… waiting… ready to become a nightmare.

Okay fine… WordPress and plugin updates aren’t quite that ominous, but they can be a royal pain in the backside if you ignore them for too long. While updating your site can be a nuisance, there is some benefit to not letting your updates pile up.

BUT PROCEED WITH CAUTION… not every update is going to require immediate action. For example, WordPress released version 5.0 at the end of 2018 and the update had big changes, like a completely new page posting and editing interface. The update was so drastic that it could quickly break a website due to incompatible themes and plugins. Many web developers including those who work with WordPress and its plugins suggest waiting on the update until it becomes more stable with additional patches.

If you work with a dedicated web marketing team, we suggest using their experts to navigate ongoing updates to WordPress and plugins. Digital agencies will have procedures in place to safely update your website and minimize the associated risks.

Why Updates Are Recommended

Updating your website’s platform and the plug-ins that support its functionality are a beneficial part of regular website maintenance.

Regular maintenance, however, doesn’t mean updating the second a new version becomes available. If you notice there are updates available for your site, theme, or plugins, discuss timing and importance with your web marketing partner and let them handle the process to mitigate issues.

Here are some of the benefits of staying on top of website and plugins updates:

Security – Occasionally, vulnerabilities like bugs and hacks are identified by developers. To remedy these issues, an update is released to improve the security of your site. Leaving your WordPress site on an older version or letting theme or plugin updates accumulate, can give small issues the opportunity they need to cause big problems.

Speed – Every update helps to optimize the platform, allowing your site to run faster and more smoothly. Increased performance means faster loading times and a better user experience. A faster website also benefits SEO.

New Features and Functions – Every update is going to either offer new features or update old ones to show improvements. These features can make your website easier to manage on the back-end or enhance the user experience.

The Right Process to Follow

Are you questioning why you should have your web team handle updates? While it seems straightforward, the updating process can be tricky if not done correctly.

Here are steps your web team (or you) will take to update your site.

Checking for updates

WordPress updates can be found simply by logging into the back end of the site and checking the dashboard.

Updates are listed on the top left:

The “Updates” tab on the left will not only show more information about your WordPress update but will also provide more information about plugin versions and if updates are available.

Clicking on the version details link that appears next to each update will give more background information about the update, its purpose, and all the bug fixes, improvements and changes that are applied when updating.

Before jumping in with both feet by clicking “update,” it is critical to take the most important step in the process and provide your website with a proverbial life jacket.

Backing Up Your Current Site

There is one cardinal rule that you must follow to keep your website from suffering a dire fate, and that is scheduling a backup.

Before proceeding with any updates, create a backup of your website. When updating WordPress themes and plugins, major changes could take place in the code of your site, creating functionality issues. If anything should break as a result of the update, you can revert to the saved version of your website.

Many plugins are available that allow you to back up your site, UpdraftPlus, BackupBuddy amongst others are popular options. Some paid versions will even do the backup for you before you update.

Updating WordPress

Now that you have a backup safely stored, it’s time to click that button and install the latest version of WordPress. It is important to remember that it will take time for plugin updates to catch up after a new version of WordPress has been released. Never rush to update plugins, and always check when an update is available that it has compatibility to the newest version, it will be listed within the plugin update details.

Updating Plugins
When updating plugins, you might think it is faster to simply update all of them at once. Don’t make this assumption; it could mean certain doom.

Instead, update each plugin individually. Reason being if any one plugin causes a website issue, it will be easier to diagnose without having to sort through a dozen or so plugins trying to find the culprit. Remember, you can use your saved site backup if a plugin causes your site to break.

If you have successfully navigated through the minefield of plugin updates without blowing your website sky high, congratulations are in order!

How Often Should You Update

Your website should be checked every couple of months to assure critical updates aren’t missed. If you are working with a diligent website marketing team, they will most likely notify you of these updates and handle them like a team of superheroes while you sit back and relax.

The best piece of advice we can offer is talking with your website management team if you notice updates are available. Simply clicking buttons is the surest way to disrupt your website and leaving it in critical condition.

Most businesses today consider their website to be one of the hardest working marketing assets. So the thought of it breaking and going down for any length of time can be truly terrifying. But with the right plan in place, you’ll have nothing to fear.

Have a question about updating your website? Or are you interested in exploring a website that uses WordPress? Give us a shout, and we can answer your questions.

 

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About the Author

Douglas Dilillo