April 28, 2016

Updating your WordPress website regularly is really important. Aside from feature enhancements, most updates are to fix known security vulnerabilities. Once a vulnerability is discovered by hackers they share that information on the Internet for other hackers to exploit these vulnerabilities. Keeping your WordPress site updated with the latest updates is your best defence against hackers.

WordPress recommends speaking with your developer first before doing these updates to prevent the possibility of your site breaking. This emphasises the need for website owners to have service level agreements (SLAs) with their developers to prevent site problems before they occur.

A quick look at the most recent major WordPress release illustrates the risks inherent in updating WordPress yourself.

WordPress version 4.5

wordpress 4.5

 

 

 

 

 

Earlier this month WordPress rolled out version 4.5, aka “Coleman” named after jazz saxophonist Coleman Hawkins. The new release led by Mike Schroder, included work from 298 contributors, and adds numerous new features, functions and updates to the WordPress platform in an effort to stay ahead of their competitors in the highly competitive CMS market.
The Coleman update however seems to be causing more headaches than usual for website owners, especially with the biggest changes coming from JavaScript library updates.

Noticeable changes in the new update include:

  • A responsive emulator in the customiser, which allows users to see how their website looks on mobile and tablet screens (further evidence of how important responsive websites are nowadays).
  • Inline hyperlinking in the editor.
  • More formatting shortcuts in the editor.
  • Ability for users to login with their email address.
  • Ability to add custom logos in the Twenty Sixteen and Twenty Fifteen WP themes.

Coleman update breaking sites across the web

Murphy’s Law states that whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. This is especially true with software updates – something WordPress try their best to minimise by releasing beta versions months beforehand for developers to test on different systems. The Coleman update however seems to be causing more headaches than usual for developers, especially with the biggest changes coming from JavaScript library updates. WordPress say these updates are designed to clean up the web of poor coding practices which previously they had been trying to cater for. Well, no more!

The problem with this new hard-line approach is most plugins and themes run JavaScript and if web owners haven’t been regularly updating their sites, using themes and plugins which are no longer supported, or cut corners by using cheap developers then they are far more likely to experience problems when they update. This is evident by the large number of frustrated website owners voicing their anger at WordPress on the web.

 

Wordpress customer complaints

 

So how do you prevent your site breaking?

If you follow these guidelines, your risk of a catastrophic breakage will be minimised:

  1. Create a staging environment for your site to test updates before deploying updates to your live site. This means you’ll need to create a complete copy of your site. It’s a bit of a hassle but it’s totally worth it!
  2. Keep plugins and themes updated.
  3. Remove all plugins which are no longer supported.
  4. Update your WordPress plugins before you update your WordPress theme. Plugins are usually the first to break.
  5. Always use a child theme to prevent your custom theme files being overwritten.

What if your site does break?

If your website breaks from updates there are a number of ways to troubleshoot the problem and fix it. Before you contact your web developer try these steps:

  • Flush any caching plugins you might be running, as well as server and browser caches.
  • Troubleshoot with your browser’s console. Your browser can help you identify JavaScript issues or conflicts.
  • Deactivate all plugins and reactivate them one by one (except plugins that aren’t supported – you should have removed these).
  • Switch to a default WordPress theme to see if that fixes the problem.
  • Manually upgrade your plugins, themes and WordPress core files one by one.

A Service Level Agreement by Mogul can save you a lot of headaches

In other words, if this is all a bit intimidating and you are worried about your site breaking with WordPress’s latest updates, your best bet is to contact Mogul – we’ve got a range of plans for maintaining your WordPress website and avoiding the pain of site downtime and security vulnerabilities. Our SLA plans include but are not limited to:

Website Maintenance

Throughout the year WordPress releases new versions of the platform, so in order to remain up-to-date and secure, Mogul will deploy the major releases of the software and check that the plugins are still viable.

Customer Support

This includes the following:

  • Immediate support for major outages.
  • Domain name issues or changes.
  • Support for CMS users performing the following tasks e.g.

– Adding or editing images, content and pages.
– Adding content to the website and formatting it appropriately.