Of all of the things I’ve seen as a web developer, the one thing that continues to baffle me the most is people not updating WordPress.
I understand people staying on 4.9 to avoid Gutenberg (though the Classic Editor plugin can help here). But seeing people with websites below 4.7 is still pretty astounding and concerning.
Currently, roughly 20 percent of websites using WordPress are using a version that’s below 4.9 (to take into account those holding off on Gutenberg). Considering WordPress continues to say they power roughly a third of the internet, that’s a huge chunk of websites that are not updated.
There is a proposal to automatically bump everyone below 4.7 to that version automatically, but I am not touching that in this post. That’s another debate that will likely be more heated than Gutenberg.
But separate of that proposal, you should always stay up-to-date with your WordPress version.
Security, security, security
The top reason you should always stay updated with WordPress is security. That should always be your main concern when it comes to your website. You
And staying up-to-date with WordPress helps you a ton in that regard. Each update of WordPress usually contains some security fixes, whether it’s a response to a reported issue or just an added security features that can help your website.
And most of the time, there will be a security only release that’s made in response to an issue and they will have to report the issue in the changelog, meaning that security risk is out in the wild and if you don’t act quickly enough, it could put your website at risk.
If you still don’t want to jump major versions, like 4.9 to 5.0 because of Gutenberg, you can still get backported security fixes for WordPress, but you will have to do it manually. WordPress has a “Releases” page where you can download backported fixes and install them via FTP to your website.
I don’t really recommend it. You need to know what you’re doing in order for it all to go right and you won’t be notified when a new version is out. And honestly at some point WordPress will stop supporting your version. It’s the circle of software life.
Neat new features
Also, staying up-to-date means getting new features every now and then. Now, I know when I say that, the first thing that might come to mind is Gutenberg and 5.0, but let’s move past that and look at other WordPress releases.
For example, the WP REST API was added in version 4.7 in 2017 which allowed developers to do some really cool things with their websites, plugins and themes. Also in 4.7 was the addition of a dashboard widget for upcoming WordPress events in your area, allowing users to find the amazing and widespread WordPress community that is the best feature of the whole thing (if we’re being honest).
Version 4.5 added theme logo support, which greatly helped adding favicons to your website. And 4.3 made it easier to create stronger passwords for user accounts.
So don’t discount the new features and help you can get with the newest things added in the latest release of WordPress.
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Keeps things running
Finally, staying updated with your version of WordPress helps keep your website running and running fast.
With each update, there are a lot of minor things under the hood that help your website’s performance. For example, each update of Gutenberg has seen the new editor’s speed increase. And the team has worked on better functions that help code run faster on the front end to load quicker for your users. And page speed is everything.
Also, if you’re updating your plugins but not WordPress, you’re probably going to run into issues as well. If a plugin uses a function, like the WP REST API, that aren’t in your version of WordPress, it’s going to break. Needless to say, that’s not good.
So no matter what you might think about Gutenberg or WordPress’ direction, the best thing you can do for your website is to keep WordPress updated to the latest version. The website will be more secure and you’ll be able all the cool new features.
Keep everything updated. You’ll be thankful later.