What we will cover
Do I need to update my WordPress website?
WordPress powers 43% of all websites now. It is the most commonly used CMS (content management system), and because of this will always be a target for hackers.
There isn’t necessarily a child genius sitting at a computer, operating a screen that resembles the matrix in order to gain our personal data. However, it is likely that this same prodigy has created a script that targets vulnerable bits of code in the most recent version of WordPress.
Then he will send it out to the web, scouring websites and probing for weaknesses.
However, help is at hand, as soon as this gets discovered, those clever techs at WordPress begin to sure up the code, build some defences and release a new version that removes the weakness.
All of this hard work is going on in background, for free, but only if you take the step of updating your system regularly.
Automatic or manual WordPress updates: which is better?
Before we look at how to do WordPress maintenance manually, it is worth considering the pros and cons of automatic updates.
The main benefit of automatic updates is not having to do it.
Minor updates rarely cause any problems, so it is wise to let WordPress handle these automatically. However, when it comes to major updates, taking a completely hands-off approach can lead to problems with functionality because you may not notice compatibility issues and other gremlins when they update.
Alternatively, you can “go manual” and set a calendar reminder for once a month/week/coffee break (whatever works for you), and hit the update button on your WordPress Core, Theme & Plugins.
There’s a middle ground too. You can set certain plugins to automatically update and then hold onto others manually, if you want some advice on which plugins may cause conflicts then just get in touch.
Complex website builds and automatic updates
It is worth noting if you have a website with lots of plugins (over 20), then automatic updates even on minor shifts may cause an issue.
The reason for this is that every plugin needs to hook into the WordPress functionality and if WordPress updates itself without the plugins or vice versa then the way the two join back together can cause conflicts.
With lots of plugins comes more functionality, but although you may be just pressing a button, each time you are downloading lots of code to your site, potentially causing conflicts and errors or at the least slow performance.
Licence keys and other snags
Some automatic theme and plugin updates can even fail to work because they need an updated license key, while others require manual upload.
On balance, to minimise these kinds of problems, you might be best handling major updates yourself. Don’t worry though, the process is usually straightforward.
How to do WordPress maintenance: a step-by-step guide
Here is our handy summary of how to do WordPress maintenance:
1. Log in to your website dashboard (for WordPress websites, you normally add /wp-admin to your web address).
2. Look at the ‘Updates’ item on your side menu to see if any updates are pending, and how many.
3. Click the Updates item. Is there a prompt to update your version of WordPress? If there is, take a back up of your website (using a backup plug-in) and then follow the prompts to update to the latest version of WordPress.
4. Click the Updates item again and scroll down to the plug-ins section.
5. Tick any plug-ins that need updating and click the button to update them.
6. If there are any failed updates, follow the advice provided or speak to your web developer.
7. Repeat steps 4-6 for themes.
8. Check the functionality of your website (see below).
For a more detailed walk-through of the first 7 steps, see our in-depth article on how to update WordPress.
Create a checklist of functionality
Actually, when we talk about how to do WordPress maintenance the smart way the effort and expense is rarely in the updating, but in building a robust testing pattern and going through it after the updates are done.
Whenever you upgrade to a new version of WordPress, or update a major theme or plug-in, you should run a functionality check.
Just because you updated your contact form doesn’t mean it will impact the contact us page – it may have broken a widget on the homepage, so you need to test it all.
We recommend creating a checklist, customised for your business. Go through this methodically.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ checklist of functionality, but here is a sample that you can adjust as needed. Run through this checklist on different browsers and using different devices (desktop, mobile and tablet).
1. Does your browser bar display the secure padlock icon? Are there any security warnings where there were none before?
2. Check your contact forms are working. Does the button generate an email? Do you receive it? Is all the information correct? Does the visitor get a ‘thank you’ message?
3. Check all menu and submenu links.
4. Check all front page buttons, links and interactive elements (video/audio play buttons, hover animations, photo galleries, etc.)
5. Do your social media links, feeds and social share buttons work as expected?
6. Check shopping baskets, checkouts and payment gateways are working (for ecommerce sites).
7. Enter your web address at Google’s speed test site (pagespeed.web.dev) If there are any amber or red warnings, follow the on-screen advice or pass to your web developer to resolve.
8. If you experience any functionality problems, try deactivating all plug-ins and then reactivating them one by one. If problems persist, alert your web developer.
For more guidance on how to do WordPress maintenance, please get in touch.
Experience the freedom and functionality of WordPress in your business
If your looking for someone to take this pain away of your WordPress maintenance and keep you up to date then get in touch to discuss setting up a WordPress Maintenance package for your website.
We can build a package from as little as £40/month, where we can check and update your website live, through to creating more complex workflows of deployments of updates, and testing through various dev and staging platforms.
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