The Myth About Easy WordPress Updates

Written by Cindy Moore

Cindy Moore is the Director of Development for MTS and has been in this role with the company for more than a decade. She is a LAMP Stack developer and certified marketing guru. She heads up the Moore Tech Solutions technical and design team and has overseen the design, development, and implementation of several hundred websites for a wide variety of organizations.

September 14, 2020

At Moore Tech Solutions, we try to encourage our clients to become familiar with their websites once they have been built and launched. Not dissimilar to owning a car, a website owner should take a bit of time to just poke around to see what basic parts they have. Typically a website is put together on a pre-built frame, called a Content Management System or  CMS (like WordPress, Joomla or Drupal). In order to bring in specific styling and capabilities, extensions are also uploaded into the website. These website extensions can be themes, plugins and special widgets. Some of these extensions are core extensions, which means that they come as a part of the CMS. For example, WordPress comes packaged with three or four core themes and the Askimet anti-spam plugin.

WordPress Third-Party Extensions and Themes

If a website were to use only core themes and plugins it would severely lack originality and capability. In order to extend the website’s basic function and design, third-party plugins and themes are uploaded to the website. A good example of third-party extensions is the Contact 7 form builder plugin, used for creating contact forms for site visitors to use to contact site owners. In addition, third-party or custom-made themes are almost always installed to achieve a desired look and feel. Some themes are created and installed that include advanced, drag-and-drop-editing capabilities so that editing pages is easier on the site owner.

Making WordPress Edits

With almost all of the websites that we build, we include a certain level of training so that tasks like basic content edits, adding images, adding gallery items, and blog posting can be handled in-house by non-technical staff members. Currently, about half of the websites we build are in WordPress.   We also build sites in Joomla, BigCommerce, Moodle and  a few other CMSs.  Over time we have found that there is a broad range of interest in the level of website edits that our clients are willing to make themselves. While some clients prefer the hands-off approach and call us for edits, many others will be quite comfortable returning to the website on a regular basis to perform their own content changes and blog posts. We have even found, although it is not typical, that some clients will upload plugins themselves to produce some type of functionality they were trying to achieve.

Why WordPress Updates are Released

During the course of a normal WordPress website’s life, updates to its core and to the extensions will be released on a regular basis. “Why is that?” you may ask. As technology changes, so does the need to keep up with it. There are many different rules that change frequently that must be addressed in existing software.  While some of these rules extend capability, most of them address security holes. If an open source (publicly available) CMS, like WordPress does not receive updates it is going to be a prime target for hackers. Whenever a new update has been released, the update available notification will show on the Plugins page, the Theme’s page, and the Updates page.

Before You Press That WordPress Update Button!

Within a typical WordPress website there are often pieces that are dependent upon other pieces. While it may seem like a pretty easy thing to do, pushing the update button can have some very dire consequences. In many cases, these consequences can introduce errors which are timely (costly) to remediate.

If a theme is dependent upon some plugins to have proper functionality, and the plugins rely on a specific version of WordPress, then the order in which you update your extensions needs to be carefully considered. The versions of all of the pieces in your website must also be carefully considered. Before any actual updates are done, a full backup of the site’s files and database is absolutely essential. Also, before the backup is done you must know for certain that there is adequate space on the server to host a full backup, or the backup will be useless. You see, it’s a slippery slope.

WordPress Experience Matters

At Moore Tech Solutions, we have been developing websites for a long time – well over a decade. We have many hundreds of sites under our belt and spend our work days building and maintaining websites. Even with all of that experience, we still have to take tremendous precautions when we update WordPress websites because things don’t always go the way we’d expect. Over time our experience has taught us to respect that sometimes things look simple because someone very smart took a lot of time and effort to make something that is quite complex seem very simple. With that “illusion of simplicity”, end users can find it easy to allow themselves to be lulled into the false security of the simple act of clicking a button.

If you have a WordPress website that needs to be updated, please consider having Moore Tech Solutions do the update for you. We offer regularly scheduled backups and updates so that your website will remain problem free for a long, long time.

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