Updating WordPress – a how-to, and why the f*ck it matters...


WordPress is an open-source content management system (CMS) that burst onto the scene in 2003 – yep, it turns 17 years old in May! What started as a fairly rudimentary blogging tool has expanded into a full-blown platform that allows web developers and site owners to set up anything from brochure sites to online shops to mind-meltingly complex custom web apps. In fact, WordPress is behind more than 60% of all websites with a known CMS. Literally, most fricking websites that are out there. We take a quick look at how to update WordPress and why it matters (hint: you’re going to want to keep hackers at bay).

WordPress rules. Well, mostly…

The vast majority of the websites made by Illicit are powered by WordPress – its flexibility, familiarity and user-friendly editing tools make it a no-brainer for our projects. But we’d be lying if we said there weren’t any downsides. People love WordPress, but hackers love it too. Its sheer popularity makes it a natural target for malware, so maintaining its security is super-important. WordPress is also an ever-evolving beast with new features being introduced all the time, so you have to keep up with its changeable environment.

Updates are more essential than you might think.

So here’s where we come to updates. They matter – a lot! Like Windows or Mac OS, security patches, bug fixes and general improvements are released over time, and eventually you have to go with the flow and install them. We don’t mean to scare the bejesus out of you, but if you don’t update, then you do run a far greater risk of your site breaking and introducing malware into the mix. Pretty grim, right?

Updating is easy – let’s do this.

If you want to give your website the best chance of staying stable and secure, you need to update your WordPress version and its plugins regularly. It’s really easy, and definitely worth five minutes of your time now and then. Here’s how…

Log in to the admin area of your WordPress website. Along the top left of the toolbar, you may see a little circular arrow with a number next to it. This number tells you how many updates are available. Click on that or go to Dashboard > Updates page.

If a new version of WordPress is available, it’ll say so, with a button to prompt you. Now you just need to click on the ‘Update Now’ button.

As the update proceeds, WordPress will put your site in maintenance mode. This should only last a few minutes maximum.

Once done, you may be redirected to the WordPress welcome screen where it will tell you about everything that’s new about this version.

Return to Dashboard > Updates and scroll down a little. You may also see a list of plugin updates that are available. Select them and click the update button.

If you have a theme or modular website you may also wish to update that using similar steps to the above. You can see theme updates near the bottom of the updates page. You will not need to carry out a theme update if we have made a bespoke website for you.

A few final thoughts.

It’s understandable to be nervous about something going wrong (though this is rare), so you can request that your website is backed up first in case it needs to be restored. You can also sign up to our Cerberus package where we will perform a monthly backup and all updates for you.

The rule of thumb is to apply your updates every time you log in and see one that’s there. Don’t leave it for months (or even years!) at a time as this can make your site less stable and more bug-prone.

Stick to these simple steps, keep your shit updated and fingers crossed your site will be happy for years to come.

Peace, love and keep it Illicit x