Wordpress Update

If you have logged into your WordPress and found an alert to update, then this article is one you might want to read.

You see, WordPress gets updated a lot. Sometimes the updates are small security fixes. However, once a year or so, there is a major update.

Before we continue, I want you to think about something. When you see that WordPress released an update, what do you do?

  • Do you update right away?
  • Do you wait?
  • Do you ask your theme developer for compatibility?
  • Do you look at your plugins for updates related to compatibility?
  • Do you do something else?

The reason I ask is because with WordPress 3.5, there was a fairly major change in the core source code, that affected many WordPress theme and plugin developers. As the community guy for a company who develops WordPress photography themes, I can tell you first hand that the release of WordPress 3.5 drastically changed the daily activities of each employee for a few days.Wordpress Update

Without going into too much nerdy details, WordPress changed some of the code that many themes and plugins relied on. So in turn, development had to be made (by many companies) to add a workaround. In addition to the development time for the workaround, we had to do a lot of internal testing on various environments, and then release an update to all of our users.

That short story is pretty much what sparked the question I stated above. So I went on Quora and Google Plus to ask communities the same question I just asked you. Here are some of the answers I received.

  • Richard Saasta on Google Plus said he does a full backup using BackupBuddy. He then updates WordPress and verifies that everything is working correctly. If something goes awry, he then has a clean backup that can be reverted to.
  • Tony Davis on Google Plus said that he keeps a separate domain with the exact theme and plugins of his other install. He will do an update in that test environment before making an update to the live site.
  • Mickey Mellen on Quora said that he updates his plugins daily, and because most of his websites run the same plugins that he will update one of the smaller sites first, and once verified he will roll out updates to the rest.

At this point you might be wondering how I deal with WordPress updates on my own website. I did a lot of research on good web hosts, and in the end decided on going with a WordPress specific host, WP Engine.  One of the big advantages of hosting with WP Engine is that they handle the WordPress core updates. (They won’t touch your theme or plugins) Another big advantage is the built-in staging option. So whenever a WordPress update is imminent WP Engine sends an email to users with a time frame when all users will be updated. They instruct users to take advantage of the staging feature and to update a test site. The beauty of the staging site is that it is identical to your live site. Doing this can verify if a site will fail with a WordPress update, before going through with the update on the live site. Make sense? So my workflow is as follows:

  1. WordPress update released
  2. WP Engines emails a deadline before the site will automatically be updated
  3. I create a new staging environment
  4. I manually update the staging environment to the latest WordPress
  5. Test everything
  6. If something fails, I email WP Engine to say “please do not update me because XYZ”

Make better sense?

Now that I have gone through all of that, I want to ask you again. When you see that WordPress released an update, what do you do? Now that you’ve read the article, will you do something different?

Thanks for reading,


Scott Wyden Kivowitz is a NJ photographer and the Community & Blog Wrangler at Photocrati.