Why Should I Update WordPress?

I’m often asked why it’s so important to keep WordPress (and the themes and plugins you have installed) up to date.

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

1. 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Hackers target older or outdated versions of application software – and that’s not just WordPress.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.

So I’m very happy that they do!

To fail to update is asking for trouble for yourself, but it’s also part of being a good netizen. Running a website with malware on it puts other Internet users at risk.

I’ve visited websites infected with malware in the past. As a result, malware was dumped onto my computer that took me hours to get cleaned up.

I was extremely unhappy!

2. Improve site performance

The major WordPress updates often include changes that improve the performance of your site.

For example, in version 5.5.1 a number of changes were made specifically to improve the page load speed – and the result was immediately noticeable to the human eye, let alone the search engines.

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 update would start to affect your search traffic.

3. Improve the usability of your site

There are countless examples where major WordPress updates 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.

Updating causes problems

One excuse I’ve often seen for not updating is that it causes problems.

It is true that 10 or more years ago updates tended to cause problems – I always used to hold my breath when visiting a site after an update..!

These days updates are largely trouble-free but they do still happen.

I have written a comprehensive process for isolating the cause of WordPress problems and fixing them – it’s easy enough to follow, but let me know if you get stuck.

So don’t be irresponsible! Update your WordPress site (and keep it up to date)!

Cheers,

Martin Malden

Martin Malden
Owner – WealthyDragon

Website owner: Martin has been working online since 2006 and focuses on two areas: 1) affiliate marketing and 2) designing and building websites based on WordPress. He has his own WordPress agency, and serves clients in Hong Kong, Australia and the UK.

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.

      Cheers,

      Martin.

  • 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..! 🙂

      Cheers,

      Martin.

      • 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 🙂