WordPress, your Theme, and the plugins used on your site are constantly being updated by the people who develop them and every update improves on the previous version. Good plugin or Theme developers are paying attention to the feedback/bug reports from his or her fans and make modifications accordingly. Once these issues become public on support forums, you are potentially exposing your site to an attack in website security by not updating. The short answer is “yes.”
What do updates do?
- They could fix a plugin error or flaw.
- They might reinvent the plugins to perform faster with less server load.
- They may have a friendlier user interface and be easier to work with.
- Sometimes servers update their software. For example, one of my webhosts recently informed me that they were going from PHP4 to PHP5. The newer versions of WordPress were already running on PHP5 so the site in question simply needed a WordPress update.
How do I know if anything needs updating?
Notifications of new updates are visible in your WordPress dashboard and show up as a red circle by the menu items ‘Updates’ and ‘Plugins.’
If you have the latest version of WordPress (as of this post that is 3.8.1), security updates will be applied automatically.
Should I update every time I see a red circle?
Many developers would say yes – but it really depends. A new version of your Theme might not play well with some of your plugins. Or your Theme/plugins might not be compatible with the newest version of WordPress. Good Theme/plugin developers will update their code to stay compatible when WordPress itself is updated.
If you have a complex site with lots of traffic, you should keep it updated monthly. Otherwise, work with your web developer and review WordPress, Theme and plugin updates quarterly.
Will my site break if I update it?
If you have a fairly simple site, you will probably be fine with updating.
If your site is built with a complex Theme and customized plugins, confirm with your web developer before updating anything beyond the simplest of plugins.
I’ve decided to update. How can I do this safely?
- The first thing to do is make a full backup of your site.
That way if anything goes wrong, you will be able to restore your site.
- Update WordPress.
Updating affects all files and folders that are included in the main/core WordPress installation. If you have made any modifications to those files, your changes will be lost.
- Update your plugins one by one.
Before you just click ‘Update’ on your plugin, click ‘View version’ and see if there are any warnings about compatibility or requirements.
If you’re not sure it’s stable, wait a few weeks and check again. If you update and your site goes down, go into your plugin directory via FTP and delete the entire plugin. That should bring your dashboard back up again. Then go back to the developer’s plugin page and upload an earlier version. Always check your site after each plugin update to make sure everything is looking and acting correctly.
- Update your Theme.
View the documentation on your Theme’s website to make sure you follow their exact instructions for upgrading. Save a copy of all your custom files before you begin.
Remember: if the update isn’t important, they wouldn’t be doing it.