Don’t be Irresponsible: 3 Reasons to Upgrade WordPress (or any application)

WordPress Logo. 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:

  1. To maintain or improve the security of your site
  2. To improve the performance of your site
  3. 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Hackers target older or outdated versions of application software – and that’s not just WordPress.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.

For example, in version 3.3 jQuery was added to the core code. This will enable any plugin that relies on JavaScript to be more efficiently coded, which will improve your page-load time.

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).


Martin Malden.

What do you think?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Cathy Miller Dec 23, 2011 @ 22:57

    Hi Martin: I love your guide for upgrading and pull it out each time I do. Several colleagues tell me they wait a few weeks for their themes and plugins to catch up to the upgrade to minimize the problems. Do you think that’s a good idea?

    • Martin Dec 24, 2011 @ 7:21

      Hi Cathy,

      Waiting a couple of days might be worth it, particularly if you’re using a plugin where the author is slow to update it.

      But I don’t wait. I update right away, and I’ve never had a problem. Again, though, if your plugin author is slow to update their work then something could go wrong.

      At least with the process I set out you will know which plugin is the cause, and you can leave it deactivated until it’s updated.



  • Cathy Miller Dec 27, 2011 @ 21:53

    Thanks, Martin. I generally don’t wait either, but it only takes once to have a problem. I appreciate your perspective.

  • Marlene Hielema Dec 31, 2011 @ 11:23

    Thanks Martin!

    I’m always a little nervous to update WP, as I hear of so many problems with plugins etc. I usually wait a week or two until people have updated their plugins.

    Luckily I have a very good web host that backs up my site every 24 hours, and I’ve had to use them in the past when I messed a few things up.

    Great site. Got here from 3T.

    • Martin Dec 31, 2011 @ 11:48

      Hi Marlene,

      You’re welcome! Yes – there are a lot of scare stories out there about upgrading WordPress, most of them caused by plugins. Good of your host to back up your site every 24 hours – which host do you use?

      Nice to see a fellow 3T’er here..! 🙂



      • Marlene Hielema Dec 31, 2011 @ 13:09

        I’m using Webcorelabs out of Calgary. Been using them for 11 years. Their support is awesome. I can phone or email them and they respond quickly. (When I messed up my site that time, they had it back up in 20 minutes).

        They installed WP for me for no charge when I switched a couple years ago, set up a database for me in the past too, and they do all those things I’m too scared to tinker with. They’re in my time zone which I really like too!

        The guy who started iStock started Webcore around the same time: Bruce Livingstone.

        • Martin Dec 31, 2011 @ 15:38

          That sounds like a fabulous service 🙂