Recently I was asked this question by a client: How many times in a month do you update WordPress plugins?
There’s not really a pat answer other than it varies by volume of plugins and of plugin updates.
WordPress itself updates at least a couple of times a year, and that alone generates updates by plugin authors. Security issues, plugin enhancements, bug fixes… these all add to plugin updates. Some plugins won’t update at all in 2021, either because they are REALLY stable, or because their author isn’t really focused on it. Other plugins might have updates as often as a monthly basis, either due to development plan; reaction to changes in the WordPress environment from other plugins and themes; or cleanup of previously buggy code.
All this code has to work together and also separately, so when the environment changes in WordPress substantively, plugin code needs to evolve as well. We manage sites that have few plugins and may have as few as 25 or so total plugin updates over the course of the year. Of course, fewer plugins often means less functionality for the site, so it’s common that fewer plugins mean a more static content site.
“On the other hand, some sites might have 25 plugin updates in a month, or more.”
On the other hand, some sites might have 25 plugin updates in a month, or more. Having a high number of plugins can cause this, and unfortunately some plugin authors might generate 2 or 3 versions of an updated plugin while working out some bugs in the changes. There are a few out there well known for this practice.
Updating a plugin isn’t just hitting the update button. We review the plugin’s identified changes, and usually test it before updating. It really depends on the criticality and reach of the plugin. Plugins that are known to have multiple versions per update are usually held back until we’re sure that the plugin’s update is considered final for that time… there’s really no need to make 3 updates for a plugin upgrade if it can be avoided. Of course, security-related plugin changes, and to a lesser extent bug fix related changes, get a higher priority.
And of course, this is really about standalone single sites, not a multisite installation, which can be more complicated.
So, the answer is, it depends on a lot of factors relating to the WordPress site. But the need to update plugins is a given. Not updating plugins can eventually lead to security issues for websites and potential functionality capabilities as well. And it can be a concern as well if a plugin author is not actively updating their plugin, so that needs to be watched as well.
Bottom line is, the time needs to be put in to keep plugins current, whether your WordPress site has a relative few or dozens. So make sure whoever is taking care of your site is doing that.