The importance of updating WordPress

If you have a WordPress website with multiple plugins, it can quite easy to pretend those pesky update notifications don’t exist. Surely updating WordPress, it’s themes and plugins is not a big deal… or is it?

You will periodically get updates released for both WordPress itself and the third party themes and plugins you install. There are a few reasons these updates will be released:

  • To provide new features and functionality
  • To fix known problems such as errors and bugs
  • To provide patches for vulnerabilities discovered

New features & functionality

Technology is always changing, always improving – updates are rolled out to provide new features and functionality.

For example, in November WordPress released a major update with the release of version 4.9. This provided a tonne of new features including:

  • New widgets for galleries, rich text, images and videos
  • Improved code editing
  • The ability to schedule theme changes in customizer
  • Multiple code enhancements for speed and optimisation

By updating your version of WordPress, themes or plugins – you can take advantage of these new features and functions.

Fix known problems

The reality is, sometimes things go wrong. Quite often, WordPress will release a new version and there are compatibility issues with themes or plugins.

In order to fix this, theme and plugin authors will often roll out updates. If you don’t apply these updates, your website might appear broken or not function correctly.

Increased Security

This is the most important reason of them all! No one wants their website to be hacked.

As WordPress is open source, anyone one is free to download and use it. Whilst this is great in many ways, it means hackers have access to it too and have the means to find ways to hack into websites.

It’s widely known that hackers and other malicious parties will watch the release notes of software, themes and plugins. As soon as they learn of a vulnerability, they start exploiting it.

According to WPBeginner, over 80% of hacked websites are those that haven’t been maintained and kept up to date.

So in short, you need to update as soon as possible to reduce the time that your site is vulnerable to hackers.

Things to consider before updating

Before updating anything on your WordPress site, there are a few things you should consider:

  • Have you made any direct changes to your theme code? – If you have and a child theme hasn’t been used, you may loose these changes when you update your theme
  • Have you made a backup of your website? – you should never make any updates without having a backup of your website first. That way, if something goes wrong – you can roll back to an older version.

Updating WordPress

WordPress has made it super easy for you – it displays notifications within the dashboard, allowing you to easily see what needs updating.

If you don’t login to your site regularly, you may miss notifications as WordPress won’t email you to let you know. There are plugins available, that will notify you though – these include Wordfence and WP Updates Notifier.

Once you have completed a backup of your website, you are free to install your updates by clicking ‘update’ within WordPress. Be sure to check through your website thoroughly to make sure there are no compatibility issues.