Running a WordPress website – whether it’s a blog, corporate site, ecommerce store or membership site- should always be kept up to date in our opinion. In our last Website Surgery event we held at the Guild in Bath, the topic of how often you should update WordPress was discussed and we thought we should go into more detail on the subject for you here.
First things first, backup the website and then backup the backup!
It should go without saying that backing up your website is the first step before you update your WordPress website. In fact, you should make it a regular occurrence each week if you treasure your website and it’s data. Just like many of us backup our computers important files, we should always have a recent backup of the website should anything go wrong – whether the server has a failure and loses data which can’t be recovered or someone hacks into your site and corrupts the website.
If you have no idea on how to backup your WordPress website then there are several ways of doing it. For those who have an agency or web developer running your site you can usually sign up to a package which will maintain and backup your website frequently. If you’re running the website yourself using a hosting provider then most hosts can even backup the database and website files automatically for you. If there isn’t this option then fear not. You can do one of two things in this case; install a WordPress plugin which backs up your website (Jetpack has a great service which can do this for you at a cost and store it in the cloud); or you can familiarise yourself with FTP and PHPMyAdmin to download all of the files and database yourself. Yes, the latter is trickier but you can then be one step ahead should anything go wrong in the future when you need to recover files.
It’s very easy to update WordPress
Yes, it’s remarkably easy to update WordPress core files and plugins, so there’s no excuse for not doing so. Simply login to the WordPress backend and even from the dashboard you’re presented with messages stating WordPress, themes or plugins require an update. There is even a separate sidebar link and updates icon in the admin bar at the top of the page stating plugins require an update. You basically can’t miss it.
Once you’re inside the WordPress updates page it couldn’t be simpler to start the update process. You’ll notice a button to update WordPress code files and then below a list of the plugins or themes which need updating. First of all if there’s a WordPress core update then click the ‘Update Now’ button to do that first. Your site will automatically be put into maintenance mode (so no one can access it whilst updating) and then usually within a few seconds wait the site will return to normal and you’ll be displayed with a message stating the site has successfully updated. Then go back to the updates page again and follow the same process of clicking the update buttons to update all theme and plugin files (buttons are called Update Themes and Update Plugins respectively).
When things go wrong with WordPress updates
Almost always the WordPress update process goes smoothly without a hitch. However there can be times when updates are not as easy as we expect. Sometimes the update process can fail and an error message will appear instead of a ‘success’ message. When this happens, Google is your friend and there’s plenty of information on the WordPress community website to help guide you through your problem.
More often than not permissions on website files due to limitations with your hosting can cause update errors, because WordPress doesn’t have the ability to overwrite files. If you understand FTP and know how to change file and folder permissions then you should be able to resolve the issue yourself – but be careful you don’t open up file permissions to hackers! If this all sounds too complex then a quick email to your website hosts with details of the matter should resolve everything.
There’s no excuse
Well we hope this article has persuaded you to update WordPress more often. It’s a relatively easy process so you shouldn’t have an excuse not to do it. Don’t forget we’re experts in WordPress so if you’re struggling to update or just need a redesign for your WordPress website we’d be happy to talk.