Everyone loves shiny new toys and runs out to buy the latest & greatest gadgets, but few of these impulsive individuals take the time to forecast the consequences of their action. Apple users are notorious for buying the latest gadget as soon as it comes out – often camping out in long lines overnight. It might sound like a great idea at the time, to run out & buy the new iPhone, but what are you going to do in 2 weeks when your rent or mortgage is due? Did you overspend because of your compulsiveness & put yourself in a bind?
Much like these impulsive gadget buyers, WordPress users can often act in the same compulsive and irrational way when it comes to updating their website.
WordPress Core Updates
A WordPress update often marks a significant change to the software itself, the core code, the functionality, the security, and worse, how 3rd party plugins may interact with it. If you logged in and updated WordPress the same day the release comes out, chances are that you’d be doing something that will affect you in the short-term and potentially even the long-term.
At this point, you’re probably wondering how installing an update that is supposed to “improve” your WordPress site can be a bad thing. It’s hard to say if you will ever experience problems resulting from updating your site, but the probability is high considering the frequency & scope of the updates – and with the handful of 3rd party plugins you have installed.
Rather than let you kill your site yourself by updating it, I thought I might share a few potential issues that may arise from your compulsive behavior.
Did you remember to backup your site before updating?
This is one of the easiest things to do in WordPress, but most users probably don’t remember to do this before hitting the “Update Now” link in their dashboard. If the update fails or your server hiccups for a split-second, your entire website/blog could end up broken and in shambles.
If you use the default WordPress theme, updating the WordPress core will overwrite any customizations you may have made to the layout or design. There are workarounds, like creating a child theme based on the default theme, but this is too difficult and/or complex for most users.
WordPress Plugin Updates (& Compatibility)
Have you ever installed a new plugin, only to find that “white screened” your entire site? What about updating the WordPress core and finding out immediately that your most beneficial plugin is not compatible (yet) with the new version?
Some of the best WordPress plugin developers monitor the WordPress changes very closely and update their plugins almost immediately to avoid compatibility issues, but many plugins are dated and/or have developers with better things to do. As a result, these plugins often sit in the repository, void of any updates that ensure compatibility with your post-update website or blog.
Even some of the most respected plugin developers in the world run into plugin issues now & then… checkout the following comment from Joost de Valk, better known as “Yoast”, in regards to his WordPress SEO plugin recently:
The current version of my WordPress SEO plugin has a new feature: it supports post type archives in several places. It also has a bug: if your version of WordPress (ie. everything before 3.1) doesn’t support post type archives, it’ll break. Now, this is annoying and something I will fix in the next release, but I’m absolutely astounded by the number of people that seem to upgrade to a new version of my plugin religiously (thank you!) but do not upgrade WordPress.
Did you also know that installing a new plugin and/or not knowing how to configure it properly can affect your site as well? Within the past year, I have fallen to this common problem, as has another colleague who is a little more wet behind the ears in this area than I.
So What Do You Do?
The answer isn’t surprising, but having the patience to follow it is most certainly a difficult task for many:
Wait it out… At least a week or more after the release.
Let the other impatient website owners install it and report all the bugs so that by the time you’re ready to implement it, it’s a more polished product and everything surrounding it (themes, plugins, etc.) are more likely to be compatible.