WordPress is a very robust CMS (Content Management System) that is great for any kind of website. While WordPress is a relatively easy to use platform, it does require maintenance to keep things running smoothly. More specifically, updating the WordPress core, themes, and plugins. You’ll notice that there is typically a number in a red circle next to the ‘Updates’ tab in your website backend – this number indicates the total number of updates available.
It’s very important to perform these updates constantly as the developers push out updates for the following reasons:
• A new feature was added
• There is a security vulnerability that has been fixed
• There is a bug in the code that has been resolved
• In general, an improvement was made
Updates are there to improve the WordPress core, themes, and plugins – keeping your website up date will keep your website healthy and performing at its peak.
What exactly do you need to update?
We’ve mentioned the WordPress core, themes, and plugins. These three components make up a WordPress website. Here are each of those explained:
Core: These are the ‘core’ files that make up the foundation of WordPress, hence the name Core.
Themes: A theme is the backbone of your website and consists of the files that make your website, well, your website. Each WordPress website can only have one active theme, however, there can still be more than one theme installed on the website. We like to have three total themes on our website: Our main theme, it’s child theme, and the latest default WordPress theme (in case we need to deactivate our main theme to troubleshoot any issues).
Plugins: Plugins add functionality to your website, ranging from contact forms, ecommerce, membership, website speed, and everything in between. The vast array of available WordPress plugins allows you to add virtually any functionality you would like to your website.
Updating these three main components of your WordPress website will keep your website in tip-top shape, secure, and functioning properly.
How to update your WordPress website
Backup your website
The very first thing you will need to do is backup your website. You may not need to use your backup, but things do go wrong every now and then so having a fresh website backup ensures you have a copy of your website if something breaks.
You may be asking yourself how often something goes wrong. Our answer would be not often, but often enough to backup your website before every update.
To backup your website, we recommend using the All-in-One WP Migration plugin. This plugin not only backs up your website files, but also your database as well. The plugin itself is free – you will only need to pay for add-ons if you require more than the out of the box solution offers. The only add-on we have purchased is the Unlimited Extension which removes the backup upload limit so you can import a backup of any size.
Add any license keys to your themes + plugins
Some themes and plugins, namely those that are paid, require you to connect your theme/plugin to your purchase before you can receive updates. Make sure that you check to see if anything needs a license key so that you are able to make any updates. You can typically see if you need to add a license key by going to your plugin or theme settings; sometimes there’s even a license page for this purpose.
Start your updates
We recommend updating everything in the following order: WordPress core, plugins, then your theme(s). To make your updates, go to the ‘Updates’ page in the backend of your website. You’ll find this by hovering over ‘Dashboard’ > then by clicking ‘Updates.’
Tip: Check your frontend and backend of your website after every update to ensure everything is working as expected.
Updating your WordPress core: To update your WordPress core, head to the top of the updates page where you will see a message saying “An updated version of WordPress is available” (if there is an update available). Click “Update to version x.x.x” to begin your update. You’ll see a progress report of the update as it’s taking place as well as a message saying that the website is going into maintenance mode. When in maintenance mode your website will also display a message on the frontend of your website letting visitors know that the site is in maintenance mode. This is usually very brief and takes under 30 seconds, but can take longer depending on the size of the update and your hosting package.
Updating your themes and plugins: To update your themes plugins you’ll scroll to the bottom of the updates page and look for the “Themes” section; plugin updates will be in the middle of the page. You’ll see anything needing an updated listed here. Updating your themes and plugins is simple, start by checking the box next to the item you would like to update and then click either the “Update Themes” or “Update Plugins” button, depending on what you’re updating. From here, your updates will be performed.
We recommend updating a few items at a time. For example, say you have nine plugin updates available. Start by updating the first three items, then the next three, and so on. This makes it easier to check on your website after the updates to ensure that nothing is broken.
Tip: To be especially careful, open up the plugin pages in the backend of your website, along with 3-4 pages on the frontend of your site, before updating. Once your updates are complete, check these pages and then refresh them to see if anything is changed or broken.
After the updates are complete you’ll want to check your website to ensure everything is working as expected.
How often should you update your website
We recommend checking for updates at least once a week. Just take a quick peek at your updates page to check and see if there are any available updates. Or if you would rather focus on your company and let someone else manage your website there are services, like our WordPress Care Plans, that take care of the updates for you.
Updating your WordPress core, themes, and plugins should be at the top of your list of website priorities. Remember, if you don’t stay on top of these updates your website could become vulnerable to hacking attempts, lackluster performance, or antiquated features. A healthy website is a happy website!