If you are one of the hundreds of millions of site owners who use WordPress, congratulations on choosing a great platform for your website. WordPress is generally easy to use and incredibly customizable through the use of themes and plugins. That being said, maintaining your site requires some work - including updating plugins periodically.
WordPress plugins add functionality to your website. They should be updated frequently to ensure optimal performance and keep your site secure. The best way to update your WordPress plugins without crashing your site is to back up your site, install the latest version of WordPress, and then install each plugin update individually so you can troubleshoot any potential problems.
Inclind works with businesses, member organizations, nonprofits, and other entities to help them design, build, and run their websites. Our WordPress developers and designers are deeply experienced with WordPress and can help you create a great website and maintain it over time. Reach out today to learn more about our services.
What Are WordPress Plugins?
WordPress is the world's most popular content management system (CMS). Originally started as a blogging platform, WordPress is now used by 43.1% of all websites. This includes corporate websites, nonprofit sites, membership websites, and (of course) blogs.
One of the reasons that WordPress is so popular is that it is incredibly flexible. After installing the CMS, you choose, install, and configure a theme. At this point, you can add plugins to customize your site truly.
So what exactly is a plugin? In the simplest terms, it is a piece of software that you “plug into” your WordPress site. A plugin can expand the functionality of your site, or even create new functions so that you can make almost any type of website. You can think of them like an app on your phone: something that you can add to enhance the functionality of your site.
Most importantly, plugins allow you to customize your site without knowing anything about coding. For example, if you want to make your website multilingual, you can add a plugin that automatically translates it into two or more languages. If you want to improve your website search ratings to increase traffic, you can use a search engine optimization (SEO) plugin to add advanced SEO features.
Other popular plugins include:
- Security plugins to scan for malware and prevent attacks on your site
- A caching plugin to speed up your WordPress site
- A live chat plugin
- A plugin to automatically back up your website
While plugins aren’t strictly necessary, they are one of the best ways to ensure that your website functions the way that you want it to work. Most websites built using WordPress have at least a few plugins - and many have quite a few.
Why Do I Need to Update My WordPress Plugins?
Like almost anything related to technology, you will need to update your WordPress plugins occasionally. There are two reasons why you should always update your plugins:
- To make sure that the software continues to work and;
- To keep your site secure.
First, plugins have to be updated to match technological advancements with WordPress and the PHP language. When a new version of PHP or the WordPress Core is released, plugins may need to be updated to remain functional. Updating your plugins will keep your website running smoothly.
Plugins are also routinely updated for better performance and new features. Updating allows you to take advantage of the updates to the software.
Second, the popularity of WordPress makes the CMS a prime target for hackers and malicious code distributors. WordPress is an open-source CMS. This means that the source code for WordPress is made freely available and can be redistributed and modified.
While the underlying reasons are technical and legal, any “derivative works” of WordPress - such as plugins - may also be considered open source. As a result, it is possible for bad actors (like hackers) to view the code for the plugins and attempt to exploit them. If you don’t update your plugins to the latest version, you are putting your website at risk.
The bottom line: you should regularly update your plugins and your site as a whole. Doing this at least quarterly - or every 3 months - can help you avoid problems with your site. However, it is important to do so carefully to avoid site crashes.
How to Safely Update Your WordPress Plugins
Check For Updates
The first step in updating your WordPress plugins is simple: check for updates. You can find available updates either as a symbol next to the name of your site or under the Dashboard tab. If you see any updates, click on them to see exactly what needs to be updated. The updates may include WordPress itself as well as plugins.
Backup Your Site
Next, you should back up your site before you do any updates. Remember: updating your site and/or the plugins often involves major changes to the code. If there are any conflicts or incompatibilities between the various elements of your site, it may crash. Having a backup of your full site will make it easier to restore your site in case this happens. Most hosting services do an automatic daily backup of your site. You should still check to make sure that your site is fully backed up before starting any updates.
Many hosting providers will also provide you with a staging environment that is separate from your live site. If you have a staging environment available, the best route is to copy your site to the staging environment, where you can make changes without affecting your live site.
Update The WordPress Core (If Needed)
Once your site has been backed up, you should update to the latest version of WordPress. Many plugin updates are designed to work with the latest version of WordPress. If you update your plugins without first updating to the latest WordPress version, then your site may crash.
Update Your Plugins
Finally, you are ready to update your plugins. It is important that you do not update all of your plugins at once in case something goes wrong. Instead, go through each available plugin update and click on them individually. In this way, if something goes wrong with your site, you will be able to figure out which plugin update caused it. You can then restore your site from a backup and start over.
Many plugins have the option to update automatically. While auto updates sometimes work fine, they can cause problems - especially for plugins vital to your site's work (like page builders). Using auto update can also make it hard to figure out which plugin caused a problem if your site crashes.
If you did all of your updates one by one and your site is working properly, then your job is done. Otherwise, you will have to spend some time troubleshooting to determine which update caused any problems. If this process sounds daunting, a website support team can help you manage updates and any related issues.
The Best Way To Avoid A Site Crash? Work With An Experienced Team
WordPress is relatively simple to use - but it still requires some knowledge and time to ensure your site runs smoothly. Keeping plugins updated is critical to maintaining your site’s performance and integrity.
From our offices in Delaware, Inclind works with clients throughout the country to provide the highest level of web maintenance services. Our team of experienced developers can help you update plugins, change content, improve your site design, and more. We’ll ensure everything runs smoothly so you can spend your time doing other things without worrying about your site crashing.
If you're interested in knowing more about our web support and maintenance services, we are always here to chat with you. You can fill out our online contact form or hit the live chat button to speak to one of our experts about your WordPress website.