Many of us will need to update some or all elements of a WordPress website. Our experience shows that many people do so without understanding the process, and what could potentially go awry and finish with a broken website. This is all to familiar too us and we receive many calls for help and assistance.
The golden rule, if in doubt, get your developer to undertake the work for you. If it’s a straightforward update of plugins and/or core files it won’t cost the earth. If it’s an online store, then breaking your install can be costly to repair, and whilst it may cost a little more to do a store update, it’s money well spent.
Whether you are updating plugins, WordPress core files, or an online store, there’s a few simple rules that need to be followed.
In this article, we’ll walk you through the process for each.
Backup your install before carrying out an upgrade.
It may sound a little patronising to suggest a website backup, however, this is the single most important step to take. If all else fails, you can restore your website from a backup file.
There are many plugins that allow you to create a backup like BackWPup, UpDraftPlus and Duplicator, and many hosting providers provide scheduled backup’s with their hosting. We, on the other hand, prefer to backup using ftp for site files and
phpmyadmin for database backups, as this method allows us to test updates and upgrades locally or in a staging environment.
Updating a wordpress core theme.
If you’ve not created a child theme, then updating your theme is going to cause many issues, especially if you made changes to the main theme.
- If you didn’t create a child theme, you’ll need to make sure that any changes you made to the main theme are applied to the new theme’s core files.
- If you’ve used a child theme, then you’ll almost certainly be able to update the parent theme without issue. However, if you’ve created modified template files, make sure that these are also updated or recreated.
In our experience, theme updates tend to affect a few HTML ID’s and CSS classes, nothing more, but it’s worth double checking.
Ordinarily, plugins can be updated, but before doing so make sure that the plugin is supported by the current WordPress version.
The process for updating woocommerce and woocommerce plugins requires a different approach. Simply updating to the latest version of woocommerce is not recommended action for a live website. The whole website needs to be mirrored on a staging or local server, so that testing can be carried out in advance of deployment.
It’s often the case that woocommerce emails, other woocommerce templates (overrides), payment gateways and plugins may require updating as part of the process, hence the reason to backup the website and test, in advance of making changes.
Broken wordpress website, post upgrade.
Errors caused by upgrading, can be resolved by reinstating a backup website copy. This is the key reason to carry out upgrades in a staging environement.
There are a whole sequence of steps which need to be taken to resolve issues, certainly far more than can simply be documented here. If in doubt seek expert advice. In the long term this will be the best approach to take, it will save you time and money.