What should you do before a website update?
Have you ever rushed an update, only to find your website content’s corrupt or disappeared?
Perhaps you’ve gone ahead and updated it without any thought to plugin compatibility.
Here’s a checklist to ensure a 99% success rate for a flawless update.
I’ve learned from experience that rushing a WordPress update isn’t a good idea.
So, first of all:
1. Always use the most secure and stable version of your plugin, theme or content management system (CMS)
- tighten your website’s security
- improve its performance
- protect it from hacks
- fix known bugs in the software
It’s just a welcome bonus if it also provides new features.
2. How can you tell if your website has an update available?
A good CMS will notify you whenever an update’s available.
The quickest way to check for a WordPress update is to hover your mouse over the WordPress Dashboard, and select “Updates”.
The screen shows which items, if any, need to be updated.
3. Getting ready for the website update
Developers are usually given notice of impending CMS updates, so you should always update your theme/plugin(s) before updating the CMS, to ensure it’s compatible.
It’s best to use the one click automated update, as the manual method could be prone to errors (if you’re not sure what to do) and obviously takes longer to carry out.
4. What should you check before a website update?
Before a website update (WordPress or other CMS), decide whether to follow the belt-and-braces checklist or take the quick-and-brief approach.
Your choice depends on the type of update involved.
The belt-and-braces checklist
If your update has a high risk of malfunction, or you prefer to err on the side of caution, these are the steps to take when you notice an Update prompt for your website.
You never know for sure that a backup’s worked, until you actually need to use it (at which point it’s too late to find out).
I prefer to backup all that I can.
Here’s the ultimate belt-and-braces checklist before a WordPress update.
- take a look at your website’s posts and pages to see whether the formatting and layout is as expected. Make a note or correct any inconsistencies. That information can be used to pin-point any issues caused by the update
- read the product developer’s changelog so that you’re prepared for any material changes after the update
- read the reviews by people who’ve already updated the relevant theme, plugin or CMS, and note recent feedback and developer support
- assess your update’s potential risk of malfunction and its compatibility with your existing plugins, having read the changelog and reviews
- the best time to run the update is during low-traffic so that it doesn’t disrupt the user experience
- de-activate your caching plugin so that you don’t cache the maintenance pages during the update, and it doesn’t interfere with the updating process
- back up your posts, pages, comments, custom fields, terms, navigation menus and custom posts etc: go to Tools, Export, select “All Content”, Download Export File
- back up your theme settings: go to Appearance, Theme Options, Import/Export, Export Options, Download Data File
- back up your custom css – you may/may not use custom css. If you do, I assume this is included in your theme settings back-up, but just in case it’s not: go to Appearance, Theme Options, Custom CSS, copy the custom css to a Word doc or somewhere else that you can easily access it
- if you are using a child theme for your website, back up the child theme settings too: go to Tools, Child Themes, Files, Export Child Theme as zip archive, and select the export option.
If you’re new to running a website, I recommend using a plugin to create a child theme, rather than having to manually copy and create files from your parent theme. I use the Child Theme Configurator plugin by Lilaea Media
- back up your whole website: go to your backups plugin (you do have a backup plugin installed don’t you?!) and run the backup. I use UpDraft Plus Backup/Restore plugin by UpDraftPlus.com and David Anderson
It’s a good idea to save the back-up files to your pc as well as in cloud storage before a CMS update. They need to be accessible from anywhere, if needed.
The quick-and-brief approach
It’s your call if you consider it to be quite a minor, low risk update, but I suggest you at least check out the reviews and changelog of the proposed update (assuming you already use scheduled back-ups for your theme and CMS).
5. What’s next?
Once you’ve activated all the updates, check your website’s formatting and wording is still correct.
Re-activate the caching plugin, and clear the cache.
6. Did something go wrong?
9 times out of 10, everything will run smoothly and your website will respond to the update well.
If there are any issues that can’t be fixed by adapting your settings or plugin compatibility, then you’ll need to change plugins and/or import your backup.
Thankfully, my website’s not yet had major adverse reactions to an update. Every so often there’s been some hiccups, but they’ve been easily fixed:
- header – my website header was squashed together so that the logo, tag line and menu overlapped. Fix: re-set the header to the correct height in the theme settings. Remember to check your responsive website too, as it can look ok on the pc, but may need more space when viewed on the mobile
- custom css – as I’m quite new to setting up a website, the easiest way for me to adapt my website layout (if it’s not included in the theme) is to use custom css. One time after an update, I noticed my website formatting had changed as the custom css had been deleted. Fix: copy/pasted custom css from my backup Word doc
- images – none of my images showed. Fix: emptied the web browser’s cache and history and refreshed web page
- screen layout size – website layout looked really wide and the text was huge. The screen width had changed during the update. Fix: reset the website layout to 1200px in the theme settings
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Have you ever had any website issues when updating your theme, plugins or CMS? How did you fix them?
Note: This article is intended to be a general resource only and is not intended to be professional advice.
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