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WordPress is used by 65.2% of websites – even in a sample of the top million websites. It’s popular and it works.
In order to keep up with a changing world, the code powering WordPress is updated on a regular basis. As a result, the plugins, themes and integrations which work with WordPress also update on a regular basis (at least, the good ones do!).
You will need to update your WordPress website for three good reasons: so it works, so it’s secure and so you stay ahead of your competitors.
Four elements will need updating:
- WordPress Core
- Parent theme
- Child theme
Steps for updating your WordPress site
Take a backup. You might have options for this in your hosting. Otherwise you can use a service such as UpDraft Plus.
Test updates in a staging environment using sandbox mode. This is especially important for WooCommerce sites.
Update WordPress Core
You can do this automatically or manually. If you have auto-updates turned on and working, you may still need to manually update for major version releases.
Depending on your setup and settings, you may be able to simple press “update” in the Update Core page here: /wp-admin/update-core.php
If the file permissions are not setup to allow this, you may be prompted to enter your FTP information.
You can also update WordPress by uploading all the new files via FTP, which is the long way around.
If you purchased your plugins from an established developer or company, your plugins will likely have update notices prompting you from within the dashboard.
Backup before you click, and try to keep a quick record as you update so you know which plugins to check if something seems out of place afterwards.
If you have a custom plugin, you may need to hire the original developer, or a new one, to bring it up to date with the latest versions of WordPress, themes and other plugins. Contact Silicon Dales, or post a task to Codeable. Read more about plugin customization here.
Themes from the WordPress repository update in broadly the same way as plugins and the WordPress core. Go here: /wp-admin/update-core.php
If you have issues updating a theme, it will often be based on file permissions.
Commercial WordPress themes each have a different regime but should be fairly self explanatory, assuming you got the right license and an API key.
Committing your changes
If you’re using a staging environment, have followed the above steps and tested to ensure everything’s working as intended, setup a Coming Soon Page and choose a quiet web-traffic time, based on your analytics.
If you get the “white screen of death“, error messages or any other undesirable result, it is almost always a plugin or theme incompatibility of some kind.
You can tell this (ideally in staging) by deactivating all plugins, using a standard WordPress theme, updating the WordPress and… it didn’t break.
Then turn on your theme.
If it works, you have a plugin conflict.
If it doesn’t there’s something in your theme.
Check the logs.
Then, turn on each plugin in turn until something stops working. When things break, the plugin you just activated is your culprit.
You need to fix the plugin conflict by either, checking the logs, hiring an expert, choosing a different plugin or generally doing something which will mean this conflict is no longer an issue for you. Repeat with the rest of the plugins (sometimes you will have more than one issue to correct).