WordPress releases are something to look forward to. Skip them and you’re missing out on cool new features, security upgrades, and up-to-date technology.
But installing a new WordPress version means more than just clicking the “update” button.
You’ll need to test it out first — that is, if you don’t want to get your WordPress site into trouble.
What are the risks of updating your WP site?
While WordPress is the most commonly used CMS out there, it’s not perfect. Every new update can either go well or wreak havoc to your websites. How?
- It may not be compatible with your plugins and themes.
- It may mean a huge change in user experience (the Gutenberg editor, anyone?)
- You may encounter WordPress errors (bonus: we’ve compiled easy fixes here).
When you’ve got web clients, any downtime is bad news for them — and even worse for you.
Don’t mess it up. This article will teach you precautionary measures before installing a WordPress update.
How to Safely Update WordPress Websites
Backup your site
Update PHP version
Update your plugins
Download the WP Classic Editor plugin
Set up a staging site
- You can take and tweak your site without a working internet connection.
- You’ll be making changes in a safe secluded environment.
- Load times are much quicker, making the work faster and more efficient.
If you’re not already keeping a backup of your site, you must like living life on the edge. Backing up your site is always good practice. And it will come in handy when you upgrade to the latest WordPress version.
While reliable web hosts keep regular backups of your website, it’s best to stay on top of sticky situations when they arise.
Since WordPress — and all its themes and plugins — use PHP as its scripting language, make sure to keep an updated version. Otherwise, you could end up with a buggy website.
While WordPress will run on PHP 5.6, it’s better to stick to the latest PHP version.
The latest version, as of this writing, is PHP 7.3. It promises to speed up WordPress with the latest cybersecurity updates.
To check your PHP version, you can head to your Hosting Management Panel and click on PHP Version Manager.
You can also use a plugin like Display PHP Version.
It’s always good practice to update your plugins, but it’s especially important before upgrading to the new WordPress release.
With WordPress 5.3 “Kirk” released in November, plugin authors are scrambling to launch new versions that will be compatible with the latest update.
Update your plugins to the latest version to ensure a smooth-sailing WordPress upgrade.
The Gutenberg update gathered mixed reviews since its launch last December — and it’s still dividing user opinions up to this day.
Whether or not you prefer the new block editor, the safest thing to do is to download the official WordPress Classic Editor plugin. This way, you can revert back to the old editor if you face bugs with the new one.
Staging means creating a separate copy of your site that you can tweak and test to your heart’s content. The changes you make won’t affect your live website.
But first, you’ll need to decide how to stage your site.
Using a plugin
There are free plugins that’ll help you create a staged site, such as WP Staging.
The plugin creates a folder on your host containing the duplicate site. Only you will be able to view that folder. When you’ve decided to upgrade, you’ll just have to press a button to transfer the entire site from staging to live.
It’s a good option for those testing out certain plugins and themes with your current setup.
In a local environment
Testing a new WP release in a local environment has several perks that many developers love:
Through your web host
A few Managed WordPress web hosts, like Vodien, allow built-in staging to help you test updates without the hassle. Once you’re done, simply click a button to sync the changes to your live site.
After setting up a staging environment, you now get to test the new WordPress release. But where to start?
Here are some of the things you shouldn’t miss out:
- Test out your entire site’s functionality.
- See if your theme is still intact.
- Ensure all plugins, meta boxes, and shortcodes are all working.
To double-check, you can use the Site Health tool to detect critical items from your website that needs attention.
If your staged site performs well, it’s time to apply the new release to your live site. Make sure to also test your live site as you might get different results.
If you did local testing, you may move your local site to your live server.
Or if you did the staging through your web host, click a button to push your site from staging to production.
For digital agencies and IT managers, testing a WordPress release before going live is not just a smart tip — it’s a must. Again, here’s how you can prepare your clients’ websites for a WordPress update:
- Backup your site
- Update your PHP version
- Update your plugins
- Download the WP Classic Editor plugin
- Set up a staging site
- Test everything
- Go live
Want pros to manage your websites? Check out Vodien’s Managed WordPress Hosting.