There are good reasons why you should always use the latest version of WordPress (WP). That said, many site owners who exploit the platform are reluctant to update the software. There are a couple of reasons for this hesitance. One, they’re worried that the new update may break a template or plugin on the working site. And two, they’re happy with the current version.
Maybe you belong to the hesitant group? This article aims to convince you that NOT updating WordPress software is a bad idea. It also hopes to quash any fears you may have about updates.
WordPress.org is an incredible gift to website builders. It’s the work of a community of talented developers and 100% open source. WordPress’ only restriction is the imagination of those who use it. But WP.com can never be perfect due to the relentless changes to technology. That’s why updates exist; to fix bugs, improve functions, and enhance performance.
6 Reasons to Update WordPress Software
Hackers love to target easy-to-access websites, and there is no shortage of those. Green webmasters think of security in terms of strong usernames and passwords. These are valid concerns. But outdated, vulnerable software also offers a plethora of loopholes for bad actors.
There are several reasons why webmasters should never ignore a WP update:
- Updates are 100% free and can be done automatically
- Updates strengthen WordPress security
- Fixes to major and minor bugs
- Improves speed and overall performance
- Introduces new features & functions
- Potential negative consequences of not running updates
- Update the easy way
Point 5 is worth special attention. Sites that fail to update can run into many problems. We’ll look at the reasons why shortly. First, let’s go over the 6 points above in order of priority.
#1 Updates strengthen WordPress security
WordPress users who don’t update—or put it off—kick themselves if someone hacks their precious site. Hackers love old, outdated software because they’ve had time to explore its vulnerabilities. You may as well hand over your login details and tell them to have fun. It can be that serious. WordPress security updates strive to keep the software as secure as possible.
Security updates also work to protect the platform from malicious malware. But what do hackers want with your site? Well, it’s rarely personal. They might steal all your data or close the site down. They may choose to make it malfunction just for a giggle, or infect it with latent malicious code. The purpose of the latter is to launch an attack at a specified date.
#2 Fixes to major and minor bugs
WP testers work tirelessly to identify bugs before they release a major update. But WordPress is so big, and every site is so different, they can’t possibly catch everything. As developers fix old bugs, new ones can materialize. It’s the nature of software updates, unfortunately. Upgrades that cause serious issues are soon followed by a patch to resolve the problem.
If a bug is trivial, it’s added to the list of new fixes for the next rollout. Either that or WordPress releases a minor update between the major ones to correct the problem. Minor updates will often plug vulnerable loopholes and include WordPress security patches.
Making sense of numbers
WordPress makes it easy to check update versions by the numbers it uses. Version numbers have two or more digits separated by a decimal point. The first number shows the current version of WordPress, e.g., 5. The other digits are the minor updates or subversions to the major release.
At the time of writing, we have WordPress V. 5.4.2. The second number is the fourth update to version 5. And the 2 indicates there have been 2 patches to the 4 updates of version 5.
#3 Improved speed and overall performance
WordPress is quite fast, but there’s always room for further improvements. Speed is good for site visitors and search engine optimization (SEO). Thus, WordPress developers constantly look for new ways to accelerate the platform. It’s not only about speed, but efficiency too. That includes the way interactive elements work on a page like menu dropdowns, buttons, and polls, etc.
#4 New features & functions
The problem with features and functions is that they age fast. Today’s web visitors are happy to see something new if it’s helpful, entertains, or both. Sites and blogs that don’t update are behind with the times and risk becoming dated and dull. Feature updates can also benefit the user at the back end, offering exciting upgrades to the WordPress Dashboard.
WordPress’ Content Management System or CMS has always been easy to navigate and use. But the new block editor Gutenberg has made things even better. This upgrade makes life much easier for site administrators at the beginner level.
#5 Potential consequences of not updating
Point 1–4 show what you’re missing out on if you fail to keep WordPress updated. Some are serious, others less so, but they all matter in their own way. And the longer it is between updates, the more potential problems you risk. Compatibility is one such issue. Who knows what might happen if you update a plugin or theme on an older version of WordPress.
Below is a breakdown of the potential consequences of not updating:
- Exposed security loopholes
- Noticeable drop in overall site performance
- Incompatibility issues with themes and plugins
- Loose valuable SEO points
- Blacklisted or downgraded by Google for broken site elements
- Brand reputation damaged because of the above
- Potential data loss caused by software conflicts
- Suspension if broken site disrupts the hosting server
- Sitewide disruption at both at the front and back end
Website maintenance is an ongoing job and one that webmasters should take pride in. Neglect can only head one way in the long term, and that’s down.
WordPress Updates Made Easy
Updating software and website content used to be a slow hassle back in the day, but not now. You can update most things with one or two clicks or even put it on autopilot. Always remember to update current themes and active plugins when necessary as well. There’s no excuse for overlooking a WordPress core update because of its built-in update notification feature.
The image below shows how WordPress notifies administrators of all pending updates.
If your Dashboard looks different, it’s because you’re using another theme. You may also have more going on depending on your installed themes and plugins. The WordPress updates screen should still display any software updates in the same way. The example above has a lot going on with 25 updates in total. A well-maintained site will have much lower numbers.
You’ll notice there’s an option to update the WordPress core automatically. It’s also possible to update all pending plugins with two clicks, but it’s wise to check compatibility first.
Automated WordPress Backups
Another critical maintenance procedure is to back up your WordPress database. It holds all your essential web content, including posts, comments, and links, etc. It’s another painless procedure that you can run on autopilot. WordPress databases can—and sometimes do—get corrupted. That’s reason enough to keep recent copies of dB backups.
There are several plugins you can choose to automate database backups. UpdraftPlus is an excellent choice, but there are others. The free version of UpdraftPlus lets you:
- Backup your database and files
- Restore backups
- Backup to the Cloud if you want
- Automate backups so you set it up and forget it
- Incremental backups
- Duplicate or migrate your website
- Database encryption
- Advanced Reporting
- Backs up non-WordPress files & databases
Tips for Successful Software Updates
Watch the screen whenever you update WordPress or other software manually. It might seem like nothing’s happening, but be patient. DO NOT attempt to refresh the page, wait for the successful update message. You may also get various on-screen prompts, so be sure to follow those too. How long it takes depends on dB size and the date of the last backup.
There are many reasons to update WordPress and related software to the latest versions. And there no justifiable reasons not to. It should be part of regular site maintenance without exception. Updated software protects you and your precious project. It also ensures your site visitors have the optimal experience. You know it makes sense 😉