If you have access to a WordPress admin panel, chances are good that you’ve seen the “Update WordPress” button pop up more than a few times.
As an open-sourced platform, WordPress is constantly rolling out updates. In 2015, they introduced 25. As a site admin, that meant that you were confronted with an option to update about twice a month. For those who don’t specialize in web development, this can get a little overwhelming. At the same time, though, updating WordPress is one of the most effective ways to prevent hacks.
So, should you update WordPress every time there’s an option to? And is there anything you need to know before you hit the button?
Here are 3 things you need to know about WordPress updates.
WordPress updates are good.
Let’s start with what an update actually is.
First, you need to remember: the internet, by nature, isn’t static. It’s always growing and changing. From new coding languages to new stylistic choices, things look a lot different on the web today than they did ten years ago. The good thing about this change is that sites no longer look like they did in the 90’s. The bad thing is that hackers are always finding new ways to take advantage of sites.
WordPress updates are meant to deal with change on both fronts. As you can see from this WordPress press release, most changes in an update have to do with eliminating any security flaws and correcting bugs. Clicking the update button allows WordPress to automatically replace any files on your site that have it deems outdated.
WordPress updates don’t fix everything.
So, updates are good –but they don’t fix everything.
Based on the sheer number of updates that WordPress churns out, it’s obvious that not every issue is fixed at once. Bugs are constantly being discovered and resolved, and the same is true for security issues.
Owning a website is like owning a home – there will always be things that need to be fixed or updated. One month you may need to repair a leaky gutter, the next month you may need to re-carpet the basement. Similarly, each WordPress update targets certain issues, but the work is never done.
Additionally, updating WordPress will rarely “fix” things that are broken on your site. For instance, if your homepage slider isn’t displaying images correctly, or the links to your social sharing icons don’t work, it’s unlikely that a WordPress update is the answer.
Sometimes, WordPress updates break things.
This is unfortunate, but true: sometimes, WordPress updates can break things.
This is usually for one of two reasons: outdated plugins, or custom functionality that becomes compromised.
Remember, WordPress is open-sourced, which means that many plugins (pre-packaged sections of code that add functionality to your site) are developed by third parties. Some of those third party vendors may not update their plugins as often as WordPress updates its base software, so when you update, things may not work.
Additionally, many WordPress sites have some custom functionality built on top of the WordPress platform. Updates can cause trouble for this, as well.
An Update Checklist
- Perform a brief site audit to make sure your site is working as you expect.
- Check installed plugins to ensure that they are compatible with the version of WordPress you’re updating to.
2. Hit the button!
- Perform a second audit to make sure that site functionality is maintained. Pay special attention to things like photo galleries, sliders, or any custom pieces of functionality.
- Fix anything that’s broken.
Start with this checklist, and update your WordPress version as often as you can.
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