The question is not SHOULD you update, but WHEN should you update?
Whether it’s a plugin, theme, or a WordPress core update, they’ve been done for a reason. Sometimes it’s to add a cool new feature, sometimes it’s to fix a security hole, and sometimes it’s to fix something that broke when they introduced that last cool new feature. As you can see in the below screenshot, the latest Wordfence update had both improvements and fixes.
So should I update these plugins immediately?
Unless a plugin’s update is to fix a security hole, I usually wait a couple of days before updating – to make sure the new update is working well.
How do I know there is an update?
There are a couple of ways. First, when you log in to your WordPress website you will be in the dashboard. Hopefully you are doing this at least a couple of times a week, if just to check in and see that all is how it should be. If there are updates available for either plugins, themes or WordPress, you will see an orange circle with a number in it. The number indicates how many updates are available.
The screenshot above shows that there are 3 updates available (the number next to the word “Updates” at the top). One of the updates is for WordPress and you will see that notification at the top of the screen. The other 2 updates are for plugins (the number next to the word “Plugins” at the bottom of the image – which will actually be more towards the middle of your screen in your dashboard). Additionally, you can see that there is one comment waiting for approval (the number next to the word “Comments”).
So what’s new?
If you want to know what’s changed in this update, go to the Plugins tab in the dashboard, and below each plugin with an available update you will see “View version X.X details or update now.” Click on the “View version X.X details and you will see the changelog, as pictured at the beginning of this post.
What about themes?
So, periodically, themes may need updating as well. If your theme has been customized you should be using a child theme. A child theme uses the styles from the parent theme and adds any changes through the child theme. If the parent theme is updated then your changes will not be lost, but if you make changes to the parent theme, when it is updated you will lose all of your customizations. I typically use child themes with the Genesis framework. When Genesis has an update, my customizations are not lost.
Don’t be a pack-rat!
If you are not using any plugins or themes you can delete them. No sense in cluttering up your WordPress installation with things you are not using. Before you delete any themes check with your developer to make sure you are not deleting the parent theme.
BEFORE you do any updates make sure you have a recent backup of your website! I cannot stress this enough. Do NOT rely on your host to have a backup – make sure you have made one and have moved it off-site (either downloaded to your hard drive or cloud storage such as Dropbox). Read this post about backing up.
Have any questions about updating? Better to be safe than sorry – contact me for a free consultation.