Virtually every WordPress website relies heavily on plugins for functionality. WP plugins help us with everything from enhancing security to lowering loading speeds to handling spam comments. But they only do their job if they’re functioning well themselves. And for that, they need to be up to date. So, regularly updating plugins should become part of your routine. This process is not always as straightforward as it may seem – sometimes, plugin updates can even cause problems. So it’s essential to learn how to safely update your WordPress plugins if you want your website to continue running smoothly.
Why is it important to regularly and safely update your WordPress plugins?
When a new version of a plugin is released, it usually comes with some new and improved features. These include bug fixes, better compatibility with the latest WordPress, additional functions, improved speed, and more. Typically, the latest version of the plugin is better than the one you’re currently running. So it’s in your best interest to get it. This is especially true for security plugins: WordPress websites are often the target of attacks, so it’s vital to have the best and latest protection.
What are some potential issues you should be aware of?
Sometimes, updating a plugin can cause some issues. These include:
- incompatibility with other, usually older tools, plugins, and WP versions
- increased use of bandwidth due to new features
- decreased loading speeds due to new features
- incompatibility with certain themes
However, you’re also likely to face these issues if you run outdated plugins, so it’s usually best to do the update anyway.
Steps to update WordPress plugins safely:
1. Create a backup of your website
Whenever you plan on making massive changes, such as redesigning your website or bulk updating your plugins, you should always create a backup first using a WordPress backup plugin. That way, you can revert to the last functional version of your website if something goes wrong.
You can also consider using a test website instead. This should be an exact copy of your actual website, including the same theme and all the plugins. When you want to make some changes, you test them out on this version of the website first. If everything works out, you can make the same updates on your actual website.
2. Turn caching off before updating
Caching plugins are a great way to improve user experience by speeding up your website. But they affect how your website functions, so they can create troubles while installing updates. It’s best to turn them off before updating the rest of your plugins.
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3. Choose the correct type of update
There are two ways to update your plugins: automatically and manually. To auto-update plugins, navigate to Plugins>Installed plugins from your admin dashboard and then click on “Enable auto-updates” on the right-hand side for those plugins you want to update automatically. Now, whenever an update for them becomes available, it’ll be downloaded and installed automatically. This is a good choice for plugins that enhance performance and usability but aren’t integral to your website.
To update plugins manually, navigate to Plugins>Installed, locate plugins that have available updates, and click on “Update now” under those you wish to update. This is the option you should use for plugins that are essential to your website running at all, such as page builders. You shouldn’t update these automatically because even minor changes can cause issues and crash your site if you’re not ready for them.
Finally, if you’re unsure how to keep track of all your plugins, you can always find experts to keep your site in good condition and well maintained. That way, you won’t have to worry about updates at all.
4. Test out your plugins after the update
Once your plugins are updated, you need to check that they’re still working as they should be. Some changes to some plugins will cause severe damage and even crash your website. But in most cases, the difference won’t be that obvious. Thus, pay special attention to updated plugins in the first few weeks of use, especially if you suspect they might still have bugs.
5. Know how to roll back the updates
You can safely update your WordPress plugins and still face some issues with the changes they make. Luckily, if you regret an update, there’s a solution. You can undo the upgrade and go back to an earlier version of the plugin. First, deactivate the plugin on your WP Plugins page. Then, find the plugin on WordPress.org and open up the advanced view. Next, select a specific version of the plugin to install. And voila – you’re back to a version that worked well for you! Finally, if all else fails – restore the old version of your website that you backed up.
6. Know when to stop using a plugin
It’s effortless to go overboard with plugins because they all bring something to your website. But too many plugins can slow down your website, make it glitchy, and even lower its security. Every once in a while, you should get rid of unnecessary plugins. There’s no better time for this than when you’re doing updates. You’ll be going through all your plugins anyway – simply disable those that are old and don’t see much use.
7. Keep your theme and platform up to date
Plugins are not the only thing you can update on a WP website. WordPress as a platform also gets regular upgrades that you should install. Furthermore, if you choose a good WP theme that has an enthusiastic team behind it, you’ll be getting regular updates of that too. It’s best to run the latest version of everything – this improves compatibility with updated plugins.
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Although updates usually improve the performance of plugins, they can also cause glitches sometimes. This is especially true when the update is first rolled out. So don’t feel like you absolutely must update every plugin immediately. If your plugins are working, give it some time to see other users’ experience and test the update before installing it.