Ensuring your plugins are current is crucial for maintaining the stability and security of your WordPress website. Moreover, it allows you to benefit from any fresh features introduced by the plugin creators. Keep it up-to-date and enjoy a safe, smooth-running site! Updating your WordPress plugins is a vital part of any regular WordPress maintenance. Yet, many WordPress website owners put it off or do it incorrectly and end up with outdated or broken websites.
In this blog post, we will explore the right way to handle WordPress plugin updates from the when to the how so that you can do it confidently, knowing that it will not break your website - or, if it does, how to put it right quickly!
WordPress plugins are apps web developers create to add functionality to your website. Over time, they need to be updated to ensure they remain functional with changes in the WordPress core, or they release updates to add new features to the plugin to add even more functionality to your website. This is the same process as any app on your tablet or phone that you update via the app store; as firmware on your phone evolves, the app needs to update to keep up with it.
Keeping on top of WordPress plugin updates should be done regularly for your website's functionality and security. Outdated plugins not only pose a security threat to your website but could also end up losing you customers if the website features fail or impact the user experience in any way.
Whilst it might be tempting to log in to your WordPress admin area and hit the update plugin button, there are some steps you should take before this to ensure that you are prepared should the update fail or break your website. Below you will find our recommended method for updating WordPress plugins that allows you to ensure that any issues that arise from the update can be put right quickly.
Before you do anything to your site, you must ensure a full website backup. Some website hosts offer a server-side backup service which can be utilised; however, if you do not have this feature, we have a simple way to do this.
On-site backups can be created quickly and without technical knowledge using the All In One Migration WordPress plugin. The free version allows you to restore the website up to a set size, so it is advisable to purchase the premium version for around £69. Use One Drive or Google Drive? You can even use one of the premium versions of the plugin to automatically take backups at set periods and restore them directly from the drive without the need to download and then upload.
Whatever your choice of backup method, ensure that before you update plugins or themes, you take a snapshot of your site and store it securely.
Thankfully WordPress makes updating plugins pretty easy, and if you navigate to the admin area of your WordPress website, you will see a section called updates near the top.
Top Tip: Whilst you can select all the plugins and themes that need to be updated at once and in bulk, it is advisable to do them individually. That way, if the update causes an issue, you know which plugin is to blame and can fix the problem quicker.
It is also a good idea to read the "release notes" or 'View version details' from the developer before updating any WordPress plugins. This will give you an idea of what the update entails and anything you need to know, as the developer will detail what is in the update and any critical information they need to pass on to you.
Though automatic updates might seem like a time saver, they can cause more problems than they solve. Our advice would be to use this feature sparingly. Even the most dependable plugins can have bugs in them or clash with another plugin or theme update, and if you leave automatic updates turned on, you won't be aware of any issues until it's too late.
There are many ways to fix your website if a plugin update breaks your site; some include using rollback plugins which roll back the changes the update implemented; however, these only work if your site is accessible. This is why we always advise taking a backup of your site before updates, as this is a sure way that you can spin your site back to life and roll back all the changes in one.
If an update has broken your site and is still accessible, you can run the import backup tool on All In One Migration and put your site back to how it was.
If the site is inaccessible or having a critical issue, you may need to either run WordPress in recovery mode from the email the system will send you or reinstall WordPress altogether and then import the backup.
For most business owners, hiring a professional is the best way to handle all WordPress plugin updates. WordPress maintenance packages include plugin updates as part of the core service and remove the worry and hassle of running a website. We have covered this in more depth in another one of our blog posts: The Importance Of WordPress Maintenance.
We are a team dedicated to web development, web design and SEO. Based in Stockport, Greater Manchester, we have been helping business owners all over the UK and beyond with their website needs, including WordPress maintenance. We offer stand-alone maintenance and combined hosting and maintenance packages to suit all shapes and sizes of websites. If you need help keeping your WordPress website in tip-top condition, contact the team today!
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