Since WordPress 3.3 was released last week I've seen an unusually high number of people asking why they should upgrade.
The answer is simple, and threefold:
- To maintain or improve the security of your site
- To improve the performance of your site
- To improve the usability of your site
Improve site security
Hackers target older or outdated versions of application software - and that's not just WordPress.
You only have to think of the number of updates Microsoft pushes out, a huge proportion of which are security updates, to recognise that.
I've often heard people complaining that WordPress issues too many updates but, again, the interim updates almost always address security vulnerabilities that have been discovered.
To fail to update is asking for trouble for yourself, but if you fail to update your clients' sites (if you build WordPress sites for clients) you're being flat out irresponsible.
After all, if one of your clients' sites was hacked and they discovered that it was because you'd not applied a security update, they would be understandably irritated.
In my case I'd be liable for a refund of the monthly support fee.
Improve site performance
The major WordPress upgrades often include changes that improve the performance of your site.
And remember that Google now includes page-load time in the mix of signals it uses to rank your pages in the search results. Doubtless Bing and Yahoo do as well.
So to not upgrade would eventually start to negatively affect your search traffic.
Improve the usability of your site
There are countless examples where major WordPress upgrades have brought big usability improvements.
One of the biggest was when they merged WordPress Multi-User and Single Site into a single platform.
Others included the one-click core upgrade functionality, one-click installation of plugins and themes, one-click upgrade of plugins and themes, and the list goes on.
Upgrading causes problems
One excuse I've often seen for not upgrading is that it causes problems.
It is true that you can experience problems after upgrading the WordPress core, but 99% of these are caused by a plugin, with the other 1% being caused by a theme.
A while ago I set out the process I use for upgrading WordPress.
It minimises the likelihood of you experiencing problems and enables you to find and fix any that arise. You can find the process here.
So don't be irresponsible! Upgrade your WordPress site (and keep it up to date).