Websites are like living, ever-evolving organisms, and they need regular care. This is even true for websites that only contain static content and aren’t updated with new posts or content. A website that is not maintained can break and become error-prone. This is due to the environments around websites that are continually changing. Brower updates, WordPress updates, PHP updates, theme updates, plugin updates… Updates everywhere.

All these updates may seem like overkill but it’s completely necessary. Stagnant, unchanging software is a playground for hackers since vulnerabilities are never patched or fixed. Plus, updates are a requirement for improvement and innovation. There are many features that we consider “standard” today that were never a part of original products.

With all this change that occurs on the web, it’s necessary to ensure that your website is receiving regular maintenance.

If your website is built on WordPress, a simple monthly update process like the one below can drastically reduce the chance of critical errors occurring on your site.

1. Perform a full backup

We recommend that you backup your site weekly at a minimum. But you’ll also want to start your update process off with a fresh, recent update.

Ideally, your backups would occur on the server level so that you don’t have to install plugins to take care of this. Most managed WordPress hosting plans will include this. The hosting plans we provide our clients are all built-in with nightly, server-level backups. However, if your web host doesn’t provide this, you can install a plugin like UpdraftPlus that will automate your backups and even allow you to export them to Google Drive or Dropbox.

2. Update WordPress itself

WordPress is continually in development and being improved. From security fixes to new features, updates are continuously rolling out. To ensure your website is secure and taking advantage of the latest WordPress features, update your WordPress installation when new WordPress updates are released. But make sure you backup your site first!

3. Update your Theme(s)

As WordPress is updated, so your theme will need to be updated. This is especially true when WordPress releases a major release. We’ve fixed many websites where clients couldn’t even log in anymore simply because their themes were out of date. 

4. Update your Plugins

Just like themes, plugins have to be kept up to date and compatible with the current WordPress versions. If a plugin was built on WordPress 3.0 but your website is now running WordPress 5.2.4, there’s a good chance that you’ll run into issues. 

Plugin developers will also release other supplemental updates even when WordPress isn’t updated. Keeping your plugins up to date will help your site run smoothly.

Errors During Updates

If you encounter any issues during the updates, you would want to rollback your website by restoring the backup that you performed prior to the updates. From there, you’ll need to identify the responsible plugin or theme through a process of elimination. I’d recommend performing this sort of testing on a staging/testing/development site.

There’s no way to guarantee that a new bug hasn’t been introduced in the plugin’s latest update. And considering the fact that plugins are built by develops with a range of skill levels, plugins can conflict with each and cause issues. However, if you follow these steps and tips, you’ll greatly reduce the chance of dreaded downtime and you’ll also ensure that your website isn’t a victim of a security breach due to out of date software.

These steps are time-consuming but very important, which is why we provide our Care & Maintenance Plan clients with regular backups, updates, security monitoring and more. If you’d like to simply hand off the care and maintenance of your site to someone you know who will do it well, let us know! We’d love to hear from you.