While using WordPress is convenient, it can be easy to overlook the importance of updating WordPress plugins. Read on to know why this should not be missed.
The Importance of Updating WordPress Plugins
WordPress is one of the most popular and long-established free open-source content management systems on the planet. It offers a highly accessible, simple platform that enables users to create their own blog or website without the need for any developer experience or background. If you’re a WordPress user, you would already be familiar with plugins and their usefulness, especially if you are using the self-hosted version on WordPress.org. Read on to learn how important updating WordPress plugins is.
What Are WordPress Plugins?
WordPress plugins are pieces of software carrying certain functions that can be added to a WordPress site. By uploading plugins, you can expand the functionality of or add new features to your website.
Businesses and individuals who use the self-hosted version of WordPress have the advantage of being able to upload and use plugins on their website. This version can also display types of content not originally intended for the basic or free WordPress.com site, such as videos (which you can upload for a fee).
Of course, plugins are also available for users of the free version. However, users here are subject to limitations set by the host. For example, they can’t get rid of ads and have no option to monetise their WordPress website or blog. They also can’t install themes or plugins that are not available on WordPress.com by default.
WordPress plugins are written in PHP just like WordPress, so they integrate seamlessly with the CMS once uploaded.
Some examples of popular WordPress plugins include Akismet (a spam-combating plugin), Redirection (enables 301 redirecting of error pages to the right websites), and Ninja Forms (provides contact forms and other types of forms).
With about 55,000+ plugins in the CMS repository, plus around the same number outside the WordPress plugin directory, it’s easy for users to find the perfect plugin for whatever function or feature they have in mind. It also helps that it’s fairly easy to install a WordPress plugin and to update themes and plugins as well.
However, one thing that users find easy to omit is to update plugins from older versions. But is this essential?
Updating WordPress Plugins — A Critical Task
Making sure to update WordPress plugins is critical for the following reasons:
- Up-to-date plugins improve security: All updates to the WordPress core, themes and plugins are designed to improve security features by patching vulnerabilities and fortifying the platform against cyberattacks. Cybercriminals and other malicious entities are always on the lookout for flaws or weaknesses, so ensure all WordPress updates are done quickly to reduce website exposure to cyberattacks.
- They fix bugs: Programmers continuously assess the system to check for bugs (flaws or faults) that can trigger errors or unexpected outcomes, so make sure to update once bug fixes are available. This way, your plugins will continue to work properly.
- They add more features and improve functionality: Plugin creators also work tirelessly to develop and improve plugins, adding more features and improving functionality in the process.
You’ll know when updates are necessary, as you’ll be notified the moment you log into your site. When you receive a notification to update, all you need to do are the following:
- Review the release notes to know what the updates are for.
- Test the update if you have a development site.
- Make a backup (on top of your auto-backup) of your current site for “in case of” scenarios.
- Install the WordPress plugin updates.
- Reassess and test your site, taking note of the changes indicated in the release notes.
You can also go to your WordPress dashboard and note which specific plugins are marked as out of date, then click the “update now” button to initiate automatic updates.
Once you are done updating WordPress plugins, you can also use this time to review your WordPress theme and any plugins that are idle. Remember that the less code there is on your website, the less would be the loopholes hackers can get into and exploit.