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Thinking of skipping WordPress updates? You won’t be the first. Whether it’s an iOS device or a WordPress website, updating software is a time-consuming process.
Building a WordPress site is a challenge in itself without the burden of having to worry about updates. For a WordPress website, it’s not just the core that gets updated. Themes and plugin developers also regularly release new updates. Given the number of components that needs to be updated on a regular basis, one may often end up neglecting updates. This is a huge mistake.
WordPress developers release updates for several reasons. These reasons can be classified into the following:
- Security fixes
- Bug fixes
- New functionalities or features
- Fixing compatibility issues
- Performance improvement
In this article, we are going to discuss each one of these reasons in depth. This will give you a greater understanding of how you put your website at stake when you skip an update, be it a core or plugin or theme update.
1. Security Fixes
With time, the WordPress core, plugins and themes develop vulnerabilities regardless of whether they were built by an expert or an amateur. But these vulnerabilities are not always easy to discover.
Thankfully WordPress has an army of the best developers in the world who work to keep the core safe. When a vulnerability is discovered, they immediately release a patch to fix the issue.
WordPress even has a Bounty Program encouraging users to volunteer to find security issues and report them in a responsible manner.
Just like the core, plugins and themes also develop vulnerabilities. Once discovered, their developers work on promptly fixing them. Take, for instance, the recent vulnerability found in Ultimate Addons. The team at MalCare found that admin control for sites with this plugin installed was possible if one knew the user email ID. They informed the Ultimate Addons team who released an update in a few hours.
That said, it’s also worth mentioning that we’ve seen a trend where attacks on websites increase after a security fix is released. Once hackers become aware of a vulnerability in a plugin or theme, they start hunting for outdated websites. This makes implementing updates, not just important but extremely urgent.
2. Bug Fixes
Bugs are errors in software that could go almost unnoticed by a majority of the users. Hundreds of thousands of bugs have been discovered on WordPress ever since the platform was launched in 2003. While WordPress developers are constantly working to make the core secure, they also encourage users to volunteer to search for bugs. There is a handbook that guides users to find bugs that can be fixed and a forum where bugs can be reported. WordPress developers regularly scan these forums. The important bugs are fixed and they are included in an update.
Similar to the core, plugins and themes also push out updates with bug fixes. WordPress website owners are known to often skip their updates. Neglecting such updates often leaves the website vulnerable to hackers and bots. This is why the majority of hacks are caused by vulnerable themes and plugins.
3. New Functionalities
WordPress was launched over a decade ago and since then, the software is constantly being improved. Over the past few years, WordPress developers have rolled out quite a few big updates. Many of these updates have added new functionality to the websites on which WordPress is installed. If you compare the earliest version of the WordPress dashboard with the current one, you’ll notice that it does not just look different but functions differently.
Developers of plugins and themes also work on improving their software based on user feedback. They then improve or adds new functionality to the software to meet the needs of website owners like you. These features are made available through an update. Hence, when you ignore updates, you are unable to utilize the new feature on your website.
4. Fixing Compatibility Issues
Plugins and themes work in tandem with the WordPress core. Compatibility issues often arise when there is a major update pushed to the WordPress core. Plugins and themes built around the previous version of the core may start malfunctioning. And when they do, developers send out an update that fixes the compatibility issue.
Sometimes, compatibility issues occur when two plugins are in conflict with each other. A plugin can also be in conflict with a theme and vice versa. For example, WooCommerce, a very popular WordPress plugin, is notorious for breaking websites due to compatibility issues. This is why in the last couple of years, many themes have been built specifically for WooCommerce websites.
These specific themes know how WooCommerce works and they function accordingly. But unfortunately, not all plugins are so popular that compatible themes are being built around them. In most cases, when compatibility issue arises, developers of the plugin/theme fix the issue via an update.
Ignoring such updates could cause your websites to malfunction. Anyone who visits your site would see a broken page. This doesn’t just create a bad impression but can also cost you potential clients.
5. Performance Improvement
There is an ever-increasing need to improve the speed of a website. And for good reason. Fast websites have numerous advantages. They rank higher on Google and even retain visitors for a longer period of time. For e-commerce websites, speed is essential to converting visitors into customers.
The speed of a WordPress website is dependent on a number of things. The type of hosting that the website is using always plays a big role in the speed of the site. The WordPress core, plugins and themes installed on the site work together to further determine the speed of a website.
We previously touched upon how WordPress developers constantly work towards improving the core. This also involves improving the speed at which the core is processing a task. Over time as new features are added to plugins or themes, it ends up impacting their speed.
Whether it is to keep your website safe from hackers or to improve its performance, updating WordPress is one of the most important parts of running a WordPress website. A WordPress update ensures your site is free from vulnerabilities and bugs, operates at optimum speed, and ensures the best user experience for your visitors. Simply put, it’s the first step to keep your website functional, secure, and user-friendly.
If you’re worried that an update might break your site, you can use a staging plugin to create a WordPress staging site. This will enable can then test our updates and any other changes you’d like to make, with zero effect on your live site.
We hope this article has convinced you of the importance of WordPress updates and that you make them an important part of your website management journey.