WordPress isn’t a static piece of software that never changes. By now you’re probably aware that even desktop software needs to be updated routinely to continue upgrading the performance of your machine. But why does WordPress need to be constantly maintained?
We can break it down into 3 categories:
- Security – WordPress developers need to stay ahead of the curve with hackers and bad actors. Oftentimes this means rolling out minor “security updates” to WordPress. Once the core WordPress software is updated, individual theme and plugin authors need to update their software, too. A complete timeline of WordPress release dates is available here.
- Performance – WordPress is constantly rolling out new features to make your site run better and keep up with the internet as it changes. While the WordPress community has been somewhat change-resistant when it comes to the basic WordPress software, there has been some huge changes via theme and plugin developers. Some of the better innovations we’ve seen in the last several years include a more visual way of editing sites via the use of page builders, automatic plugin and theme updates, embed technology, CDN support, and deeper integrations with ubiquitous tools like Google Drive and Microsoft Drive, Google Analytics, and more.
- WordPress is Open Source – Because WordPress is open source, it needs to be installed on your own server. While many SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions take care of their own upgrades and maintenance behind the scenes, open source software updates are your responsibility. This also means that updates are not forced on you, and you can pick and choose which updates you want to accept. We recommend you accept all WordPress updates for your website, as this is the way that you stay ahead of hackers and bad actors.
WordPress Horror Stories
Horror Story #1: Foul Language Flub
Back when one of our contractors, Matt, was just starting out with WordPress (and definitely before working with Sayenko Design), he was managing a small WordPress site for a local college club at University of Washington. The owner of the site called him up one day and was suddenly very concerned with the site. This perplexed Matt, as the site owner was usually a little hands-off about the whole project.
“Matt, have you looked at the site recently?” the site owner asked.
“No, but let me pull it up right now,” replied Matt.
“It looks okay to me.”
“Well, try looking again,” responded the site owner.
Matt tried another browser. In the upper left hand corner of the site were words that we cannot repeat, right where the logo should have been.
“___ for f—ing,” it read, and we hope you can interpret the meaning from there.
It was quite a bit of stress and heartache cleaning that one up, to say the least.
What was Matt’s mistake?
He had failed to update WordPress Core.
Horror Story #2: Sayenko Design Saves the Day
We recently took on a WordPress site with a theme that was 8 years old, with outdated plugins, PHP and no backups. When the client tried to update WordPress or plugins the site crashed causing a white screen of death to appear!
Fortunately, that is when they decided to reach out to us.
We went in and took a backup, made a staging copy of the site for testing and went to work.
- We cleaned up the plugins (removing un-necessary and un-used plugins)
- We deleted unused themes
- We upgraded to latest stable version of php 7.4 (the site was using 5.XX that was going to be phased out a month from when they reached out)
What was the client’s mistake? And how do you avoid it?
Waiting this long to run updates is like putting off washing your dishes when you just cooked a big, sticky meal. The longer you wait, the more of a headache you create for yourself. Instead, you should run WordPress updates about once per month to ensure compatibility between themes, plugins, and WordPress core.
Okay, let’s move on for more juicy tips.