WordPress Updates: They Gotta Get Done

One area of labor for any WordPress web designer/developer that has continuing responsibility for the website is the management of WordPress and WordPress plugin and theme updates.

WordPress software core updates not that common – at least in theory. However, in the past 6 months, we’ve seen the following updates:

  • March 6, 2017 WordPress 4.7.3 Security and Maintenance Release
  • January 26, 2017 WordPress 4.7.2 Security Release
  • January 11, 2017 WordPress 4.7.1 Security and Maintenance Release
  • December 6, 2016 WordPress 4.7 “Vaughan”
  • WordPress 4.6.1 Security and Maintenance Release

That doesn’t include Beta releases which won’t necessarily impact the average WordPress site.

Updates can be automated on many server environments, but that doesn’t get you out of reviewing the site to make sure it is operational – particularly you get the reverb from the WordPress update, which are the various updates for plugins and themes that have to work with the updated code.  That generally follows suit fairly quickly, but if you have 20-30 plugins on your site, that may mean a few or a lot will need updates – and they will need to be reviewed for potential conflicts.

It is important to keep up with the newest version of WordPress and the plugins you are using, in terms of security and functionality.  It doesn’t have to be immediately the same day unless there is a security assessment that it should, but fairly quickly.  You can’t let it set for long without some risk to your site.

If you are just managing one site, that isn’t such a large issue.  When you manage dozens or hundreds, with various combinations of different plugins in different sites, it requires some structure, so that updates occur in a regular way, and results can be tested quickly so to prevent plugin conflict from making part of a web site non-operational.

WordPress doesn’t put out their updates without notice, but you have to go on an expectation that the plugin updates will be drafting quickly in their wake.  So, planning becomes valuable.

So are backups.  and, depending on the hosting environment you use, there can be a staging setup for upgrades to review how they work before imposed on the public site.

But for most organization web site owners that utilize WordPress, update issues can seem mysterious or outside of their comfort zone.  Those folks have a couple of choices:

Hire somebody – in house or out of house – t

  • to maintain the site; or
  • Either blindly update everything, or fail to update anything.

Hint: the second choice will eventually get your site into a mess.  If you aren’t going to get completely comfortable with WordPress yourself, make sure you have somebody available to you that is.