About 3 or 4 times a year, WordPress will come out with a major release. That’s when they’ve added some new features or they’ve done some new tweaks and changes and they consider it a large change. WordPress 5.7 is due to be released on March 9th and any time we get a larger scale upgrade to WordPress, I get a lot of questions about it:
Should I update it? How do I update it? What does this all mean? That’s what I’m going to cover in this blog post!
When WordPress comes out with an update, there are some steps that you want to do first before you click that update button to ensure that everything else on your website is ready to handle the update.
Step 1: Backup Your Website!
Before you ever update anything, please make sure that you have a full backup of your WordPress website so that if anything were to happen – because sometimes things do – you want to make sure you have a full backup to revert back to.
There are a couple of ways that you can do that.
Use a Plugin
A plugin that we like to use is Updraft. There’s both a free and a paid version. The free version will allow you to backup your website and store it off-site. The premium version has many additional features, such as the ability to clone, migrate, and have specific times to backup your site.
Use an Online Website Management Tool
At MavroCreative, we use an online platform called ManageWP. That’s where we manage all the websites for our clients. If you want an easy place to manage your WordPress from one location, ManageWP is worth checking out. There are a lot of features that are included for free, and you can add-on on-demand and automatic backups for only $2 a month.
Your Website Hosting Provider
Many hosting providers offer backups – some are included in your hosting plan and with some hosts, you’ll need to pay extra for it. SiteGround, which is the one that we use and recommend to so many of our clients and our students, has nightly backups of your website. And if you’re on their Grow Big Plan, you can go in and do a manual backup yourself.
Once you have a backup of your site, you’re going to update your plugins and your theme BEFORE you update your version of WordPress.
Why do we do it in that order?
Because when plugin developers and theme developers know that a major release of WordPress is coming out, they’ll have early access to the update and they’ve been able to test their plugin or their theme with the new version of WordPress and to see if there’s going to be any issues or any conflicts.
So when they’re testing, if they find something that doesn’t work with the updated version of WordPress, they’ll issue an update to their plugin or their theme to fix it and make sure it’s compatible with the new version of WordPress. That’s why I always want you to make sure that that plugin or the theme is updated first. And then, and only then, is when we go to step number four, which is actually updating WordPress itself.
Step 2: Update Your Plugins If Needed
You’ll know if a plugin needs to be updated by logging into your WordPress site and looking at the dashboard. If you see an orange circle with a number inside of it, you have an update!
When you update your plugins, update them one at a time. Don’t just go through the list and check them all off and update them all at once. I like to update a plugin, look at my site to make sure that that update didn’t do anything funky or crazy. And then I update the next plugin.
Step 3: Update Your Theme if Needed
Just like with your plugins, you’ll know if your theme needs to be updated by checking in the Dashboard of your WordPress site. You’ll see an orange circle with a number in it that indicates that the theme has an update.
You can also go to Appearance, Themes within your dashboard to check.
Step 4: Update WordPress
Once you’ve backed up your site, updated any plugins that needed updating, updated your theme if you needed to, then you’re ready to update to the latest version of WordPress.
Any time WordPress comes out with a major update like this, I always wait a minimum of three days before I update to the new version. Most of the time they’ll come out with a major release, and then the next day, they come out with a new release to fix any of the bugs that people report after the update. So always wait at least a couple of days before you update.
Note: Some hosting providers have it set to automatically update when there’s a new version of WordPress. Check with your hosting provider to see if they have auto-updates and ask if they can be changed to wait for at least 72 hours before an update is made.
Now you know how to safely update your WordPress website when there’s a major release!