May 8, 2018

The Unexpected Challenges of Staying Up to Date on WordPress

If you own a WordPress website, then WordPress Maintenance is a must for your web design.

“Everything’s working as I want it to, so I’m just going to skip this update for WordPress!”

Unfortunately, we can’t add the “said no one ever” tagline because a lot of WP users do indeed skimp on maintaining their website and updating. Just because you have a website doesn’t mean that you can simply build it and let it go. Though WordPress is one of the most secure content management systems (CMS) around, it still has major vulnerabilities that can be introduced when the software, as well as plugins, themes, and various features, go without updates.

Updating saves you from security breaches, introduces new features and functions, increases the speed of your website for other users, and enhances overall compatibility with other devices.

But there can be some unexpected challenges with staying on top of the updates, especially when your busy. WordPress needs constant updates, after all.

Here are some unexpected challenges and questions that come with staying up-to-date on WordPress:

The Update Broke My Site!
Problems with broken sites unfortunately happen often when there are issues previously occurring on the site that stem from late updates, compatibility, and security. You should always read the documentation on the update beforehand to make sure you are going up to the correct version. Sometimes HTML changes, causing old CSS to be ignored and thus become dysfunctional. The same thing happens when certain styles are overwritten.

However, your site might also look broken simply because the cache hasn’t been cleared. Conflicting cached files can cause all sorts of abnormal website behavior.

I Don’t Know What’s Safe to Auto Update!
If you are like a typical WordPress user with a number of plugins on your Dashboard, you might have a hard time selecting which ones to have auto-updated. Here are the plugins that are typically safe to auto update:

  • Analytics
  • SEO
  • Admin Tools
  • Broken Link Checkers
  • Forms
  • Jetpack
  • RSS Feeds
  • Database Optimization
  • Backups
  • 301 Redirects
  • Security
  • Image Compression
  • Updates to certain themes (will say whether or not auto-updating is safe in the details most of the time)

Don’t worry, you won’t have to memorize the list.

But what if you have e-commerce, multi-language functions, registration panels, galleries, and media plugins that have a front-facing interface? For that, you will most likely have to update each one manually. This can definitely hamper your productivity when you are waiting for things to update, especially when compatibility or other elements have been hindered.

Is Backing Up Really That Important?
When your backup your site, you are basically assuring yourself that even if the update goes horrendously wrong, your content is stored safely somewhere else. That is why, yes, you should be routinely backing up your WordPress. The site is not infallible, after all. Though there are a number of plugins that will put the backup process on autopilot, you might find the backup process confusing or are not really sure about where to put your saved data.

Our WordPress maintenance service includes weekly or daily fire and database backup to a cloud server, so you know you will always have the latest version of your site saved.

Do I Update Themes or Not?
If you made a customization to a theme, then you might have them overwritten when you update. With this in mind, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Did I modify the core theme or work with a child theme? If you answered yes, you might have to double check that the parent theme doesn’t have any new code that will override or mess with your custom code in anyway. Most of the time, however, when working with a child theme, you can update the parent without any issues.
  • Will the HTML of the updated parent theme work with my current child theme? HTML is slightly different than the core. When new forms are introduced, it can break the theme when old elements remain.
  • Were new HTML IDs and Classes introduced to the stylesheet? Similar to above, if there are large changes to the overall stylesheet or swapped IDs, you could run into problems.
  • Is an old theme causing issues with new plugins? This is based on compatibility. If old and new cannot intermingle, your site could temporarily go down.

Unexpected challenges with updates always bring a number of questions with them. Sometimes, the answer isn’t easy to come by. That is why it may be best to leave the theme updates to a professional group who is trained and experience in maintaining WordPress sites. Most web companies can handle everything from simple plugin updates to customized themes, backups, and beyond. With less stress on keeping every feature of WP constantly up-to-date, you can get back to keeping your business moving towards your goal.


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