Should I update WordPress?
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The short and very simple answer is an unequivocal YES.
WordPress is just like any other piece of software. Just like your phone OS or Mac OS, or even Windows (if you’re that way inclined) need to be updated so does WordPress. It is effectively the operating system for your website.
Why is updating so important?
There are 3 main reasons to update WordPress core, plugins and themes:
1. Increase security
Whenever a new WordPress core or plugin update is released an accompanying bug fix report is published. Hackers can use this to discover vulnerabilities in older version of WordPress. They can then discover if a site has been updated or not simply by looking at the source HTML… all very simple.
So to reduce the risk of being hacked it is essential to keep your WordPress site up-to-date. An indicative statistic published by WPBeginner is that 83% of all WordPress sites that get hacked were not up-to-date. Whether you put any weight in stats or not it certainly gives you something to think about.
WordPress could not be clearer that they think everyone should update – here’s the warning with the current 3.6.1 update:
WordPress 3.6.1 is also a security release for all previous WordPress versions and we strongly encourage you to update your sites immediately.
2. Fix bugs
As if security wasn’t a good enough reason, updating WordPress and plugins will help fix known bugs if previous releases – fixing something that might not be working properly, a reason unto itself to update.
3. New features and functionality
Granted, change in this department is not always a good thing. I mean just look at iTunes 11…
However in my experience with WordPress these types of updates always seem to make things better, not worse.
What about plugins and themes?
Keeping plugins up-to-date is just as important as having the latest version of the WordPress core running. For all the same reasons you need to keep the core updated you need to keep your plugins updated, but there is another reason to update plugins.
When WordPress updates it may change the way certain things work, for instance, uploading and management of media. When the way this was handled changed any plugins that allowed uploading images wouldn’t have worked until an update was available. Or, not even related to the WordPress core, when Twitter changed their API all Twitter based plugins need immediate updates or they just stopped working.
With themes it depends on whether you’re using the good old vanilla ones that came with an install, or if they are bespoke. It really comes down to looking at your theme on a case by case basis. Some themes rely on deprecated WordPress features to work and some may have been abandoned altogether by their author. In this case although it’s vital you update the WordPress core, you may need to rethink the theme you’re using if it no longer works exactly as you’re expecting it to.
Hopefully this has help shed some light the importance of staying up-to-date. In summary, always, always, always update your plugins, themes and WordPress core otherwise really, really, really bad things will happen!
Unless you know exactly what you’re doing we wouldn’t recommend updating your site yourself so if you’d like us to take a look at it for you then please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.