Should you update WordPress?
The easy answer is “Yes”
Just as hackers are constantly creating new ways to breach security, developers are always finding and fixing vulnerabilities in their software. It’s a constant battle that will never end. Updates to your WordPress version are very important to get.
The more complicated answer is “Yes… but not right away”
There are 2 more very important aspects to a WordPress website that rely heavily on updates and the WordPress version you run. Your template and your plugins.
There are thousands of templates and plugins created by lots of different developers not associated with WordPress, it’s a large part of what makes WordPress so great.
However, plugins and templates work intricately with your WordPress installation. So if a new version of WordPress comes out that changes something that is used by one of your plugins or templates to work properly, they break. And depending on how important they are to your website (IE: A template) they also break your website.
If your website relies heavily on plugins, and uses a template not created and updated by WordPress, you should always check to make sure that they will still work with the new WordPress version, and update them first.
This is especially important because broken or deactivated plugins and themes are a great target for security breaches. All plugins and themes that are installed on your server should have a purpose, and be updated and working. Anything else should be removed.
That can be a time consuming checklist, especially if you use a lot of plugins.
A few things you can do to help lower your risk of running into an incompatible plugin or template:
Use premium plugins and templates
Things that cost money allow you certain expectations. Namely, that they will continue to work. Developers that are paid for their work are much more inclined to be on the ball about making sure the product of their livelihood doesn’t break websites.
Check how often they are updated
When you go to the official WordPress community page for your plugin, you can see how often the developer has updated their plugin. If it hasn’t been updated for 6 months or more, there is a good chance it’s been abandoned and you should probably look elsewhere.
The official WordPress community plugin page allows users to review plugins. A lot of developer websites also do this. Take the time to read a couple reviews and see what people have to say about the plugin/template and how they are using it.
Don’t use Multiple Plugins that do the Same Thing
This isn’t something that happens often, but it can happen. You might use 2 different plugins to accomplish 2 different tasks that are similar, but not quite the same. Plugin A gets an update that starts to include what plugin B does. Suddenly, you have 2 conflicting Plugins. Always make sure to read the release notes of your Plugins before installing the update.
Remove Old Plugins and Themes
Its something we all do. We see that new fancy theme and/or plugin with all the fantastic new features. We just have to have it! We deactivate the old theme/plugin and install the new one. The forgotten plugins and themes are left sitting there, not getting updates, creating security risks with each missed update. It’s very important that you know what all your plugins do, and completely remove the ones you don’t need. The same goes for themes. Pick the theme you plan and staying with, and remove the others.
The common theme is keep yourself updated about what is going on with and inside your website. With just a little extra time and effort you can save yourself some pretty major headaches down the road.