If there’s one thing WordPress users most ignore, it is the Update notification that they see on their WordPress dashboard. If you’re one of them, you’re not alone. In fact, industry statistics reveal that only 12.17% of the top million websites are using the latest WordPress version 5.4.
This begs the question – why don’t users install the latest WP version/update, especially when it is free? The most common responses include:
- My website is working great, why bother updating?
- There is a new update every day, and it’s a task to update the site every time!
- My site is working perfectly, and updates could break or crash my website, so why take the chance?
While these reasons might seem justifiable, ignoring updates can prove to be an expensive oversight.
Today, let’s find out why updates are so important and some of the consequences of not updating WordPress.
Why are WordPress Updates Important?
As open-source software, WP has a small team of core developers working towards improving its features by releasing new versions and updates. However, there are many independent developers or companies around the globe who are working on releasing a variety of plugins and themes for WordPress. While plugins add or improve your website functionality, themes can be used to improve the overall look and design of your website. And, both are important for your site.
So, when we say, “WP updates,” essentially we mean updating these three components:
- Core WordPress – developed by the Core WP team
- Plugins – developed and maintained by third-party developers
- Themes – developed and maintained by third-party developers
Now, let’s understand how an update is released –
- First, when a bug or security flaw is found in a version, it is reported to the Core team
- The Core WP team validates the bug and fixes the problem.
- The team then releases an updated version to the marketplace. For instance, if you are currently using version 5.3, you will see a message on your dashboard stating that “WordPress 5.3.1 is available! Please update now.”
- Once you apply the update, the reported bug is fixed on your website.
A similar procedure of reporting bugs is also followed for any plugin/theme version. Hence, it’s crucial that you update all the three WP components.
On the other hand, if you choose not to apply the update, the software or security bug remains on your website, thus making it vulnerable to malware, hackers, or even a website crash.
How? In the next section, we look at five of the most drastic consequences of not updating your site.
5 Consequences of Not Updating Your WordPress Site
1. Your website could be hacked
While there are several reasons for how your site can be hacked, outdated WP versions or plugins/themes can be one of the most common causes.
If you’re wondering why hackers target old WP sites, the reason is pretty simple. When developers fix security flaws in a specific version (example, WordPress 4.x) by releasing an update (example, 4.x.1), it’s revealed that the particular WordPress version (4.x) has a security flaw.
Hackers only need to search for websites using that version and exploit that to their advantage. The same applies to the plugin/theme; hackers only need to look for websites using the same plugin/theme version.
So, the longer you delay, the easier you make it for hackers to compromise your website.
2. Your website could crash due to compatibility issues
If you have installed many plugins/themes on your site, you would have noticed that every plugin/theme version mentions the WP version that it is compatible with.
This generally means that the respective version has been tested on and compatible with this version.
Now imagine that you try to install a plugin (let’s say, release 1.0) on your site running on WP version 5.0. Since this plugin has not been officially tested on the older version, it could lead to compatibility issues. Such types of issues between the Core WordPress version and the installed plugin/theme versions can overload your web server – finally crashing your website.
3. Your website could face slow loading speed
With users’ reducing attention spans, it’s no surprise if you are looking for ways to speed up your site. Website load time is a key aspect that affects user engagement and conversions. In fact, even search engines like Google favor fast loading websites and give them a higher SEO ranking. This, in turn, can increase incoming traffic to these sites.
Installing low-quality plugins and themes on your site could overload your web server resources, causing your website to slow down. With each new version, WordPress developers optimize their products for faster loading by releasing updates that ensure plugins/themes consume minimal server bandwidth and resources.
On the other hand, websites using outdated WordPress or plugin/theme versions will be slower as these outdated components are not optimized for fast loading.
4. You miss out on new features
Like any other software, WP developers add new features and improvements to existing versions. With these new features, WordPress sites have better functionality and features that translate to a better user experience.
For instance, the latest WordPress version 5.4 contains the “Social Icons Block” feature that allows users to share the page links to their social media pages easily. Additionally, this version contains many modifications to the Block Editor feature, including enhanced color options for blocks and drag and drop elements for featured images.
Without any updates to your WordPress version, you stand to miss out on any new features and enhancements that can improve your website and its user experience.
5. You miss out on bug fixes
And finally, not updating your website means that you miss out on fixes for major or minor bugs that are reported for every WordPress version. If you’re using an old version, your website could have performance issues, or worse, even malfunction depending on the severity of the bugs. To fix these bugs, WordPress and plugin/theme, developers regularly release minor updates or patches at short time intervals.
By enabling automatic updates on your WordPress dashboard, you can easily take care of these minor fixes. However, if you are using an old version like 2.x or 3.x, applying updates is not easy and can potentially break your site.
Be it a major or minor update, apply each WordPress update, including updates for plugins/themes as soon as it is released and available for installation.
One of the most effective ways to minimize risks with updates is to use a staging site. A staging site is an exact replica of your site where you can test updates without affecting your live site. Once you’re satisfied that the updates work, you can merge them with your live site.
Besides WordPress staging, another highly recommended practice is taking timely backups. Think of a backup as a safety net that you can use if an update causes your site to crash. We highly recommend that you take a backup of your site before applying any updates to your site. This is not as complicated as it may sound. You can use WordPress backup plugins such as BlogVault that provide scheduled automatic backups, unlimited on-demand backups, and even inbuilt free WordPress staging.
We hope this article helped you understand why updates are so important for your WordPress site’s security and functioning. By avoiding updates, you are missing out on new features and improvements and worse, risking your website security. The longer you put it off, the more you risk you expose your website to. While it may sound cliche, in the case of WordPress websites, prevention is better than cure. We recommend that you make timely updates part of your WordPress maintenance.
What are your thoughts? Do you regularly update your website? We would love to hear from you. Do let us know in the comments below!