Here at Lieberman Technologies, we love WordPress. We don’t make a big secret out of that fact, either, and if you’ve talked to or worked with us on a website project, chances are you’ve heard us sing the praises of WordPress. It’s easy to work with, endlessly adaptable to a variety of client needs, and constantly improving and evolving. Because of this, it does require some maintenance from time to time, and that’s what I want to talk about here.
What is WordPress, Exactly?
WordPress is an online, open source website creation tool that makes it easy for individuals and businesses to have a blogging platform and content management system (CMS) at no cost. As in free. You might think that because it’s open source (aka software whose source code is available for modification by anyone), that it’s weak or watered down. But it’s not – it’s actually pretty robust. In fact, you’ll find WordPress sites just about everywhere you turn online, and they’re sites you’ve definitely heard of – famous blogs, Fortune 500 companies, celebrities, news outlets, and music sites, just to name a few.
Believe it or not, there are WordPress sites out there that never get updated. The reasons for this fall under the general category of “it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” and the excuses include:
- My site will break
- I don’t have the time
- I don’t need those new features
- My plugins will no longer work
And so, sites continue on with older versions of WordPress, with their admins intentionally NOT triggering updates. There is a lot wrong with this line of thinking, but we won’t get into that here. Just understand that updating your WordPress site is, in fact, in your best interest.
Reasons to Update WordPress
Some people have the idea that WordPress updates are mostly about adding bells and whistles to an existing version. But updating a WordPress install provides much more than that:
- Security patches – One out of every four websites running a CMS is a WordPress site, and a CMS that popular will attract hackers intent on disruption. Major updates (those numbered X.X) generally include security patches designed to repair vulnerabilities.
- Bug fixes – The ever-changing nature of WordPress means that bugs surface from time to time. WordPress has a mechanism for reporting bugs, and many times a minor update (numbered X.X.X) will include bug fixes.
- Improved performance – The changes and fixes that come with a WordPress update often serve to improve the performance of your site. You want that, right?
- Compatibility – A major WordPress update will often trigger updates in plugins, so that the plugins will continue to work with the latest version of WordPress. Be sure to check compatibility issues with the plugins you use before you update. Old versions of WordPress are not supported by some plugins, so updating is the only way to keep using certain plugins.
- New features – Sometimes an update will include new features, which can enhance user experience on your site. Better user experience = better response to your site.
In a nutshell, keeping your WordPress site updated is the surest way to keep your site running smoothly and efficiently.
Before you Click Update
You should be doing daily or weekly backups of your website already, but if you aren’t, make sure you backup your site before you run the updates. Like we said above, sometimes plugins get updated along with the new WordPress version, but others don’t. If your plugin has become abandonware then you want to be prepared in case it won’t work with your updated site. If it won’t work, it’s better to find a replacement for the plugin rather than go without updating WordPress. Once you have that backup done, go ahead to the next paragraph.
What to Update
It’s not enough to just update your WordPress install. For maximum effectiveness, you’ll also want to update your plugins and your theme. Most reputable developers will also update their plugins or themes whenever an update comes out, but you will want to check those elements out before embarking on an update of your WordPress install.
For a powerful CMS and blogging platform, it’s hard to beat WordPress — which is why we’re such big fans here at Lieberman Technologies. Businesses that choose LT for their WordPress websites hosting receive automatic backups and updates as part of our service offerings, so they never have to wonder if their site is up-to-date and functioning properly. But regardless whether you entrust your WordPress site to an outside admin or handle the maintenance yourself, keeping it up to date is the best way to assure your site runs correctly and provides a great user experience.