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Why update WordPress plugins is a very common question…more common than you might think.
Keep in mind, however, that WordPress themes and plugins are software programs. Over time, these programs can become outdated, or the software developer may have released newer updated versions with better features or even bug fixes. So, the main answer to “why update WordPress plugins” is to help keep your WordPress website up-to-date and working optimally.
One of the selling features of developing a website in WordPress is there is pretty much a plugin for everything and anything you might want to do on your website.
That’s what makes WordPress web design so powerful and popular. In fact, according to whoishostingthis.com, WordPress powers almost 15% of the top 100 websites in the world. That’s big brands trusting WordPress to get the job done. But it’s more than the big guys using WordPress. In fact, according to w3techs:
- 32% of all websites in the world are run on WordPress
- WordPress is the most used CMS system
- With 59.4% market share, WordPress is far ahead of any other CMS system (by comparison, #2 is Joomla with 6% market share)
Why is WordPress so popular?
Another great answer to “why update WordPress plugins” is that WordPress is open source software. It’s free. And, some of the greatest minds work openly to create seamless and useful website functions, which we know as plugins. This helps web developers and designers code and create websites more efficiently and effectively.
What is a plugin?
Most WordPress websites are compiled of a group of functions that are pre-programmed for functionality and integrate seamlessly into the WordPress platform. WordPress plugins are pre-built software solutions that can save web developers a lot of time and money when programming their own solutions.
There really is a plugin for almost everything, from SEO tools to rotating banners and from image resizing to pop-up messages. If you can dream it, there’s likely someone who has already built a WordPress plugin solution.
Here are a few other reasons why updating WordPress plugins is necessary.
Proliferation – The WordPress Plugin Directory currently lists over 56,365 plugins (and growing) with over 1.3 billion downloads.
Too Many Plugins – Overuse of plugins can slow down a website. Plugins can also clash with each other, which could then cause problems with your website that might be difficult to assess.
Stale or Outdated – Some WordPress plugins are completely useless and others no longer function as they should or are now obsolete.
Nevertheless, if you need something for your website, chances are there’s already a plugin for that.
Web developers are also continually challenged to answer this important question: “When to use and when not to use a plugin?” The key to using plugins effectively is to only select plugins from verified sources and only install them if they solve or serve an essential function that isn’t already a part of your framework.
Keep Up with the Changing WordPress Platform
From security and bug fixes to enhancements and improved speed, every WordPress update is released to help your website function better.
Your website sits static in its hosted environment. Meanwhile, the Internet and programming languages are constantly evolving. As well, hackers are consistently finding new vulnerabilities. WordPress plugin updates are released in an effort to keep up with the improvements and bug fixes.
As of March 12, 2019, WordPress was running version 5.1.1. By the time you read this, this number will most likely have changed. WordPress is constantly releasing new updated versions in an effort to ensure functionality and security.
Ensure Regular Backups of Your Website
Change is another reason “why update WordPress plugins” should be a mantra.
When you make any sort of update or change on a website, anything can happen. Even with the best-laid plans, sometimes updates or plugins are incompatible with other functions, even unrelated functions of the website. This is why it is important to ensure regular website backups.
There are plugins for website backup protocol! Popular solutions include:
- iThemes Backup Buddy
- Vault Press.
With the ability to run daily or weekly site backups, you’ll be thankful you have a recent backup to revert to should you ever get hacked or run into a major problem.
Use a Security Plugin To Protect Your Website
According to Sucuri, WordPress is the world’s most hacked CMS system and 61% of infected websites are running an out-of-date version of WordPress. Meanwhile, 52% of the vulnerabilities reported are coming from incompatible or outdated plugins, as reported by WPScan. Why update WordPress plugins indeed!
Common and popular WordPress plugins that are often a gateway for hackers include:
- Gravity Forms
In order to protect your website from potential vulnerabilities and hackers, you need to ensure your website is secure. While ensuring you are up-to-date on WordPress plugin updates is a great start to ensure your security, you can do more to protect your website. Popular security plugins include:
- iThemes Security Pro
- WordFense Pro
Update Your WordPress Theme
Themes are another reason why update WordPress plugins are important. Most WordPress websites use a theme to ensure consistency in look, feel and function. A theme is akin to a skin. A theme provides more control over the look and presentation of a website, without having to make constant custom updates.
Many WordPress themes have a variety of features, customizations, and functions already embedded within the theme. WordPress themes can be updated to improve security, reduce vulnerability, and add features and functions. If your chosen theme has a new update, it’s important to listen and act accordingly. If you fail to stay up-to-date on plugin updates, it can cause website problems down the line.
Update Your Plugins Regularly
As is the case with the WordPress platform and themes, plugins can also have updated versions. Most plugin creators continue to add new features, improve code, enhance quality and reduce vulnerabilities. These changes are released as updates. It is important to ensure your plugins are up-to-date so your site can benefit from these updates immediately.
Solving Plugin Incompatibility Issues
Plugins…the very thing that makes WordPress so great can also cause major issues! Because there are so many plugins available from third-party developers, it is common to run into compatibility issues.
- Some plugins are not compatible with updated versions of WordPress
- Other plugins will have issues working in tandem with other plugins.
How do compatibility issues arise? Well, different plugins might be trying to do the same thing on the website, or they might be trying to change or update a feature or element but in different ways. Plugins may also have been developed based on a past version of WordPress. Finally, a common reason for compatibility issues is when a plugin was created with bad or buggy code.
Generally, somebody else will have already discovered the compatibility issue and will have made a note of it or offered a possible solution. So, before you install or update a plugin, it is wise to search for any known issues.
What does a compatibility error look like? Well, it can be anything from broken functionality to something less obvious. In fact, sometimes you might not even realize the issue because it will manifest in a way you are not expecting or looking for. This is why it is important to test and do a thorough run through of your website whenever you perform a WordPress or plugin update.
Only Keep Plugins That You Are Using
Keeping your website clean – another reason why update WordPress plugins help. You can help prevent future problems and vulnerabilities. Often, plugins are left active or installed on a website even if they are not being used. They are then forgotten and left abandoned and vulnerable to hackers, or they can cause other issues within the website.
Regularly perform a plugin audit and disable any plugins that you are no longer using.
How to Update, Maintain & Secure Your WordPress Website
You can find out more about this topic by reading this Guide to Updating WordPress Plugins courtesy of SitePoint. Now that we’ve outlined why it is important to ensure your WordPress platform, theme and plugins are up-to-date, maintained, and secure, it’s now time to discuss how to do this properly.
When you log in to WordPress you may see a message alerting you to a core WordPress update or plugins that have available updates.
If you are an experienced web developer you shouldn’t have any issues making the updates; however, if you are a website user, you should have your web developer make the updates for you so you can try and avoid any issues that might be caused. GitHub is a community that is great for feedback, so posting here can help save you time and avoid issues.
But, guess what? As you might suspect; there are plugins for this, too. Site Push, Theme Check, Sandbox and Plugin Detective can help you before you run into big problems.
If you run into an incompatibility issue you’ll likely want to take your website to a staging server and deactivate every plugin. Then, one-by-one, reactivate them until you can source the plugin causing the issue.
If you decide to run updates yourself and run into an issue, this can cause further issues down the line. The best practice when it comes to website maintenance is to let the professionals handle it.
The Importance of Regular Website Maintenance Plans
Years ago, when most businesses got their first website there was a mindset of “set and forget.” In other words, you had your website built for you, the content was static and you didn’t really have to think about it again unless you wanted to make a change. It was likely built and coded in a custom environment and likely lacked complexity and functionality. In other words, there was no need for website maintenance, except if there was something you specifically requested.
With the advent of content management systems such as WordPress, updating your own website got a lot simpler; however, vulnerabilities opened up. Functionalities increased and websites got better; however, with one update you can cause serious issues.
It’s important to have a long-term site maintenance plan. While the most obvious risk to your website is a site hack, there are other problems that can arise if you fail to, or wait too long to make updates.
From improved functionality to increased speed, regular site maintenance plans are designed to ensure optimal user experience. A regularly-maintained and updated website helps search engine rankings, helps with speed, improves usability, protects your brand, and can even increase customer retention and conversion.
Unfortunately, your website is at risk. Wordfence reports there are up to 90,000 attacks on WordPress websites every minute. Even non-WordPress sites are just as susceptible to a hack.
Functionalities can Change, Break and Evolve
Think of your website as a car. With regular use, your car needs regular maintenance including gas, oil changes, tire alignments, etc. Think about modern-day cars and the vast speed of new technology that has become available in recent years. The same is true for websites. Today’s websites are complex with a variety of moving parts, much like a car. Even elements that do not seem to be integrated with each other, can be connected in some way.
Just like you take your car to a mechanic, it’s important that your website has a professional team looking out for it.
Maintenance plans generally include things such as ensuring the hosting environment is optimal or updating themes and plugins. Larger, more complex websites often have a custom, hands-on approach to maintenance that involves a lot of testing when things are updated.
Generally speaking, the more complicated your website the more regular maintenance that will be needed.
Here’s the thing. You could wait for your website to break before you realize it needs to be maintained, or you can pre-empt disaster and get a handle on a proper maintenance plan now. Back to our car analogy: regular oil changes end up far less expensive in the long run than replacing your entire engine because you failed to maintain your oil.
About 1st on the List
1st on the List is more than just an SEO company. We can help you understand “why update WordPress plugins” is a question that needs to be addressed, continually. We offer website maintenance plans to ensure your website is running at optimal levels because we know that a well-running, functional website helps with SEO and lead generation.
Trust your website maintenance to the professionals so you can focus on your business without any risky technical interruptions.
Did you know? It’s because of services like our WordPress Maintenance and Security Plans that we are recognized as a top E-Commerce Design & Development Company on DesignRush.
For more information, call us toll-free at 1-888-262-6687.