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A question we get asked frequently is how often should I be updating my website. This question is a bit loaded in that it depends on quite a few variables to get an accurate answer. In an attempt to keep this clean and easy to understand we will focus on the question from a WordPress Perspective.
When updating my website and those of my clients I tend to work on an approach of more is always better. I have been working with small business owners all over Australia and New Zealand to help them better maintain their online presence. My business Conceptual Creative offers ongoing support plans for business owners called “Care Plans” but this article is about giving you some practical tips. These practical tips are all about giving you the power to keep your website on track yourself.
Performing an initial backup before updating my website.
The first step in updating my website and any WordPress website is to perform a backup. The reason we perform a backup is in case something goes wrong. Many business owners feel that updating their website is a simple task but often things do go wrong. By having a quality reliable backup you are working to mitigate the risk of failure.
When performing a backup on WordPress we suggest using one of the following tools:
- Updraft Plus – Allows you to take a full backup and store it on a third party server. Get It Here.
- Duplicator – Allows you to take a full backup and transferable copy of your website that you can restore or move to another server as required. Get It Here.
Tip – When making a backup always store a copy on a third party server such as Google Drive, Amazon S3 or Dropbox.
The first step when updating my website or clients website is usually to check and update the themes. I usually do this first because it allows me to make sure that the website still looks good. It is also usually the first thing to break when updating plugins or core features. Once you have updated the theme go through your site page by page and make sure the content and visuals are still as intended.
The next step once you have checked the visuals is to update your plug-ins. It is always a good idea to update your plug-ins prior to updating the WordPress core files. This is because many of the times when a plug-in breaks it’s due to incompatibilities with the current core version. Once again after you have updated the plug-ins make sure you check the website to make sure all website functions are as intended.
Update WordPress Core
The next step when updating my website or my clients site is to update the core WordPress files. These files are usually the riskiest to update as often major changes to code can effect the website in multiple ways. For example there is a major change coming to WordPress in the next major release where the main editor will change. Whilst this editor change is not a humongous undertaking it may cause a lot of issues across older websites.
So how often should I be updating my website?
As a rule of thumb I recommend performing updates to a schedule similar to the one below.
- Theme Updates – Minimum Monthly
- Plugin Updates – Minimum Weekly
- Core Updates – As Required But Definitely For Major Releases
- Backups – Minimum Weekly
Additionally to this I recommend performing regular security scans and much more.
A word of warning.
Whilst it can be easy to click a button to update your WordPress website things do regularly go wrong. Sometimes a plugin will fail during update, other times a theme will fail and sometimes the core itself will fail. When this happens if you don’t have a good backup or the skill to repair the issue things can get costly. I do recommend looking at getting a professional to manage your website and perform these tasks if for no other reason peace of mind.