Why do I need to update WordPress?

When was the last time you updated WordPress? Years ago? Never?

Well just like phone apps, your blue-screening-PC and your wardrobe, WordPress needs updating from time to time.  Of course if your fashion sense is circa 1992, nothing too bad is going to happen to your business, but when it comes to WordPress, your website, your brand reputation and sometimes even your client’s data is relying on it.

One thing is certain – things change

Your website was designed at a point in time. At that time it is highly likely that:

  • The website designer would have used the most up to date version of WordPress.
  • They would have used a theme that was current and contemporary, designed for the current version of WordPress.
  • The designer may have installed extra code called plug-ins that worked well at the time.
  • WordPress itself would have offered a reasonable level of security against hacks and malware known at the time.
  • The website would have been tested on the current versions of web browsers such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Safari.
  • The website was probably tested to make sure it worked on multiple hardware devices a mobile phone, a tablet, a laptop and a desktop.

But we all know that technology changes rapidly. Even if your site went live last month, there could have been a change in any one of the above points.

So what?

So what exactly can go wrong if you don’t update WordPress? Not updating WordPress regularly could result any of the following:

  • Some functions not workingupdates
  • The website not displaying correctly
  • The admin area stops working
  • A plug-in stops working
  • The site going down
  • A nasty hack.

If there is a problem with something as critical as the menu, the site is rendered almost useless. A hacked, poorly displaying or broken website can damage your business greatly with website visitors loosing trust in your brand.  Think of how you react when you come across a broken or visibly hacked website – you leave straight away, you don’t buy and you may even tell your friends how bad the site was.

The WordPress low-down on updates

WordPress Inc. believes that you should be updating your website.  You will find heaps of info on updates on the WordPress site, such as this page: http://codex.wordpress.org/Updating_WordPress

Updating non-Wordpress websites

Even if you don’t have a WordPress website, your site will probably still need routine maintenance.  If you are running an online store based on Magento or OS Commerce etc, all of the same points (above) apply.  These systems are often even more critical to update as the site is storing your sales data and also your customer’s private details – definitely info you don’t want hacked.

Older style HTML websites are not immune either as they can stop displaying as originally designed due to newer technologies.  For example, you have probably heard of “Flash” which is an animation program that simply cannot be run on an iPhone or iPad – this is a prime example of how technology changes can make your website appear broken.

Shall I update WordPress myself?

In outdated versions of WordPress, you will most likely see an obvious message at the top of your dashboard screen (once you log into your website.)  It would appear you can update your WordPress version with the click of the button beside the message.  However, do keep in mind that when you update WordPress you will most likely need to update and test several other parts of the website – all of those points we talked about above like the theme, plug-ins, browsers etc. Don’t be surprised if you click that button and then the whole site doesn’t work.  That does happen from time to time and can cause quite a bit of stress.

Also keep in mind that if you have missed more than one version, there is what we call an upgrade path – this is the recommended steps to upgrade WordPress, version by version.  To make it simple, lets say we are up to WordPress version 7 and your website is still running WordPress version 2.  That means you have missed out on version 3, 4, 5 and 6!  The upgrade path might mean you have to upgrade to version 3 first because it was a major update, that you can skip 4 and 5 because they were minor, but you must upgrade to version 6 because it too was a major update and then 7 which is the latest version in our example.  WordPress themselves will have a recommended upgrade path for each situation which we must follow in order to ensure the site will still work.

If you are an advanced WordPress user or a web programmer, you may well have no problems doing your own updates, but if not, you may want to call your web designer or developer for a quote before deciding to go it alone.

The first step is free testing

If you are unsure of whether your site is running the latest version of WordPress, simply give us a call.  There is no charge for checking.  There is also no charge for basic testing to view your site in Internet Explorer 9 and on iPhone and iPad.

Even if you don’t know whether your site is powered by WordPress, we can let you know in most cases (even if we didn’t build your website.) If you need help auditing or testing your website for any of the above, or if you would like a quote to update your version of WordPress, please contact us