How To Update Your WordPress Website

How To Update Your WordPress Website: An Essential Guide

Managing WordPress updates doesn't have to be daunting! Our essential guide on how to update your WordPress website breaks it down into a step-by-step process for you to follow with confidence.

9 Steps To Updating Your WordPress Website

Managing your own WordPress updates may sound like a daunting task, but don’t worry! We’ve simplified it into a step-by-step process. Remember, if at any point this feels overwhelming, our WordPress care plans are designed to take all the pressure off.

What Will I Need To Do My WordPress Updates?

To manage your WordPress updates, you’ll need the following:

  1. Admin Access to Your WordPress Site: First and foremost, you’ll need to have administrative access to your WordPress site. This means you’ll have full control over all aspects of your site, including the ability to install, update, and delete plugins and themes.
  2. Access To Your Hosting Dashboard: This is crucial as your hosting dashboard is where you can manage your site’s files, including WordPress core files, plugins, and themes. It should also give you access to your website staging (Included in all our web hosting plans) and domain tools.
  3. Time: Depending on the number of updates required, you should allocate some time to complete this task. Small updates usually take a few minutes, but major ones might take slightly longer.

First Steps Before Updating Your WordPress Website

  1. Backup Your Website: It’s always wise to have a recent backup of your website. In the event of an update causing issues, this safety net will enable you to restore your site to its pre-update state. Our hosting plans offer daily backups that allow us to restore your website using our website support ticketing system. You can also create a backup manually while creating your staging website in a later step.
  2. Check the Compatibility of Themes and Plugins: Before updating, verify that your themes, plugins and the latest version of WordPress are all compatible with each other. This can help prevent potential conflicts or functionality issues. A quick google search can also help you identify any common issues with plugin compatibility.
  3. Maintenance Mode: If your website gets a lot of traffic, consider putting it into maintenance mode during updates. This will show visitors a friendly notice that your site is under construction, instead of them encountering errors or issues. If you have an Elementor website you can use the Elementor maintenance mode functionality. If not, you could try using the LightStart maintenance mode plugin which is quick to setup and easy to turn on and off.
  4. Read Update Reviews: Finally, it may be worth reading community reviews of the updates you wish to perform. Other users’ experiences could alert you to any major issues or bugs that haven’t been addressed yet. Most plugins and themes have Facebook groups and forums where you can stay in the loop with frequently encountered issues, along with tips to use them to their full potential!

Step 1: Check For New Updates

Regularly check if there are updates available for your website. This can be done through your WordPress dashboard or as a notification from a security plugin such as WordFence or Patchstack. These tools also let you know how important the update is through their triage systems, with low, medium, high and critical urgencies.

Step 2: Read The WordPress Core, Theme & Plugin Changelogs

Before updating, read the changelog for the plugins, theme, or WordPress core. Document anything that could cause issues with other plugins. When the changelog includes items such as ‘Major Version Updates’, ‘Deprecated Functions’, or ‘New Features’, these are usually things to look out for.

Step 3: Clone Your Website To A Staging Environment

Use a staging environment to complete updates without affecting your live website. This is a safe sandbox where you can make mistakes without impacting your users. Our hosting plans include access to Installatron, which is sa tool that can assist you with cloning your website to a staging domain in just a few clicks! Here is a guide on How To Create A WordPress Staging Website With Installatron if it is your first time and you’re on our hosting platform.

Step 4: Prepare Your WordPress Staging Website

Ensure you discourage search engines from indexing your staging site and put up a maintenance page. This prevents search engines from indexing duplicate content and informs visitors about ongoing updates. You should also ensure that your website’s email-sending functionality is turned off on the staging website with a plugin like ‘Disable Emails’ which will stop your customers from receiving emails from the staging domain.

Discourage Search Engines From Indexing Your Staging Website

Step 5: Update Your Plugins, Theme & WordPress Core

Update your plugins one by one, checking if anything breaks each time. Then, update your theme and WordPress core. If your website is using a caching plugin like ‘LiteSpeed’ it is important to purge the cache after each update and check your website is working like it is intended to in an incognito (private) browser.

Step 6: Test Your Website Functionality

Make sure everything works as intended on the staging site. If not, you’ll need to troubleshoot the issues before proceeding to the next step. You can always use our website support form to lodge a support ticket and one of our developers will reach out to assist you!

Step 7: Repeat The Updates On The Live Domain

Repeat the same updates you did on the staging domain on the live domain. Remember to put the website into maintenance mode while repeating the updates to avoid losing any new user and website data (e-commerce orders, new sign-ups, etc.) received while updating the staging site.

Step 8: Check Your Live Website Is Working

After updating, check your live website again to ensure its functioning correctly. If everything looks good, you’re all set!

TIP: Check your website on multiple devices and browsers!

Step 9: Remove Your Staging Website

Once everything is in order on the live domain and you’re confident it is all working smoothly, remove your staging website to prevent it from getting indexed by search engines.

Other Important WordPress Update Tips

  • Don’t leave your website in maintenance mode for too long, try to be as efficient as you can with your update process.
  • Use a plugin to deactivate all emails (order confirmations etc.) sent from your website when testing and updating your staging site. MemberPress is a great example of a plugin that requires sending emails to subscribers, and they recommend the Stop Emails plugin by Sal Ferrarello.
  • Most developers recommend waiting about a week after an update is released before updating it. This gives plugin and theme developers enough time to address any bugs or errors based on valuable community feedback. Typically, a week is sufficient unless it’s a critical security issue.
  • Regular updates make the process easier. For small updates, you may not need to clone to a staging domain if you run a backup of your website first.
  • If anything goes wrong on the live domain, your website hosting provider can roll back your website to the most recent daily backup.
  • Try not to make any ‘visual’ or ‘content updates’ on your staging site during this process, because they won’t carry across to the live website and you will need to repeat them there again anyway.

What About Enabling Automatic WordPress Updates?

Enabling automatic updates for your WordPress site might seem like a convenient way to stay up-to-date, but it’s not always the best approach. Automatic updates can occasionally break your site if they conflict with certain plugins or themes. It is likely you could end up with a dysfunctional website without even realising it which would be detrimental to your online business or blog!

However, there are circumstances when automatic updates could be useful.

If you have a simple WordPress website with few plugins or themes, automatic updates might work well for you. Also, if you regularly monitor your site and can quickly address any issues caused by an update, automatic updates can save you time. Remember, though, that it’s still crucial to have a recent backup of your site before any updates are performed, automatic or otherwise.

How Long Does It Take To Do DIY WordPress Updates?

The time it takes to update your WordPress website can vary depending on the number and complexity of plugins you have. If your site is small and uses few plugins, the update process could be completed within an hour or so. However, for larger sites with many plugins and features, the update process could take several hours or even days. Thorough testing on a staging website before implementing updates to your live domain is crucial for these sites. Remember, taking extra time to ensure updates are performed correctly is less costly than repairing a broken website.

When Do Plugins, Themes & WordPress Core Require Updating?

WordPress plugins, themes, and core updates are released regularly to improve performance, add new features, and fix security issues. The frequency of these updates varies. Some plugins and themes may have updates every few weeks, while others are updated less frequently. The WordPress core is updated approximately every 50-60 days. It’s recommended to enable automatic notifications for updates, so you’re always aware of new releases. However, as updates can occasionally cause compatibility issues, it’s essential to test them on a staging site before applying to your live site.

Who can help me update my WordPress website?

The best person to help you update your WordPress website is the developer who originally built it for you. They possess an intimate knowledge of your site’s structure, features, and functionalities. With their in-depth understanding of the specific plugins and themes used, they can efficiently manage updates and troubleshoot potential issues.

If you don’t have access to the original developer, our support team can help you create a comprehensive website owner’s manual and provide assistance with updates for your WordPress website. Whether you require a WordPress care plan or just a little help learning the ropes, we’ve got you covered.

Start Taking Care Of Your WordPress Website Today!

Sign up to a WordPress care plan and let our in-house developers take care of your website while you sit back and relax, knowing your online business is in safe hands. 

Picture of Jacob Negri

Jacob Negri

Meet Jacob Negri, an Australian WordPress hosting specialist. Jacob is the Director of Service Pod, with 7+ years of WordPress design and development experience.
Picture of Jacob Negri

Jacob Negri

Meet Jacob Negri, an Australian WordPress hosting specialist. Jacob is the Director of Service Pod, with 7+ years of WordPress design and development experience.

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