Developing a plan to updating your website

Updating components of your website is incredibly important.

Not updating the website means leaving with a massive security risk for being hacked, plus what about those cool new features that plugin or WordPress core just introduced. Simply put, you must always update components of your website.

But how do you do it in a way that won’t accidentally take down your site and leave you in a bigger predicament? After all, it’s running fine now, isn’t it?

Well, like anything, creating a plan on how you or an employee will update a website can go a long way to being successful with your updates. And the following four steps will give you a great leg up in creating that plan.

Figure out who will be doing the updates

So first things first, you need to figure out who the point person is for updating the website. This will be the person responsible for updating the website and the person to contact when something goes wrong with the website (Don’t worry, something will inevitably go wrong if you have a site long enough.

Ideally, this person will know every detail about the website, including what could potentially break when something is updated. It could be the person who developed the website, another developer that’s hosting your site, a member of your team or even yourself if you know enough.

The most important aspect is that this person knows what they’re doing, that they’re updating the site regularly and can coordinate a response in case anything goes wrong.

Always make backups before doing anything

If you or an employee of yours is updating the website, always, always, always create a backup snapshot of the website before you touch anything on the site. If you’re using WordPress, at some point a plugin, theme or even core update is going to break something on your website. That’s fine. But not having a very recent backup that you can quickly restore will get you every time.

Some web hosts, like WPEngine, have daily backups schedule for every site as well as the ability to create backups on demand. If your host doesn’t have scheduled backups (or even the ability to take backups), there are plugins in the WordPress sphere, such as VaultPress, BackupBuddy and UpdraftPlus, that can help you take care of that.

And if you’re paying someone else to host and update your website, make sure they’re taking backups too. If they’re a reputable developer, they should already be doing this.

Let’s Keep Your Story Online

Creating a new website can be a challenge. But keep it up and running efficiently can be a challenge. You have to make sure things are updated and running smoothly because if your site is down, no one can find or read your story. But I can help make sure that’s never a problem for your business.

Let’s Come Up With A Plan to Maintain Your Site

Always read the changelog for potential breaking changes

If you or an employee is in charge of the website, another great idea is to look through the changelog for each item that needs an update. This can help you catch problems before they become massive issues on your website.

You don’t need know all of the technical details. Sometimes changelogs can be extremely technical or they can be easily read by “regular” people. The key is to see if there’s anything that jumps out at you that could break the site, such as a change to databse tables or function names. And honestly, if you’re not sure if an update might break something, you can always reach out to the developer to see if they might be able to help you figure out if there are any changes that could cause problems.

Again, if you’re paying a developer to update the website, they should already being doing this if they know what they’re doing.

Check your website after updating

Finally, always make sure to check your website after things are updated. It seems like something that should be obvious . And even if you have someone doing the updates for you, you should still be periodically checking the website for issues.

While an update to a theme or plugin or WordPress core might not introduce a site-breaking error (AKA the “white screen of death”), it could still causing something on the website to not work the way that it should.

For example, I got caught not doing this once. I updated a few things on my site like I always do but didn’t have the time to check the site. I went back later and saw that the main menu was broken. Fortunately, I had taken a backup right before making the updates and was able to revert to it to at least fix the site while I figured out where the issue was coming from.

Also, you can’t always rely on visitors to relay those types of issues to you. You’ll have to go through a couple of pages (especially the ones that are pretty customized) to make sure it all looks good for the world.

So if you’re worried about updating parts of your website and breaking something, don’t be. If you create a plan and stick to it, you’ll be just fine. Things might break occassionally, but you’ll know what you need to do to get things back up and begin solving the issue.

With a plan in place, you’ll be ready to attack updates with confidence.

Get started on your updating checklist now!

Do you need a bit of help putting together a checklist you or your employee can use to update the website safely? No problem. Head on over to the WordPress Website Update Checklist resource to get a head start! Feel free to use this to help build your own checklist.

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