When to Update WordPress

Broken Website = Unhappy Client

I read an interesting article today which had some useful feedback on when and why WordPress users were updating to the latest major version, WordPress 3.0. Based on the comments in the article, I noticed a few trends as well as some good insight.

  • Major upgrades can break compatibility with plugins and themes.
  • Wait for feedback from early adopters before upgrading.
  • Backup the entire website before upgrading so a rollback is possible if needed.
  • Keep a separate installation of WordPress for testing purposes, and test the upgrade on this installation first, including desired plugins and themes.
  • Upgrade immediately if security flaws are addressed to mitigate cyber attacks, otherwise wait for feedback from early adopters.
  • Broken Website = Unhappy Client. For a webmaster who is managing a client’s website, it is generally not a good idea to jump on upgrades unless they are proven to work (use a test installation first!) or the client is pushing for them (recommend against it but let them know the risk!).

You definitely don’t want to get burned by jumping ship too early like some people:

  • odtaa wrote in stating that his Viva 7 theme stopped functioning, and upon contacting the theme’s vendor he discovered the business had been sold and their website was gone.
  • Mary from A-List Blogger Club wrote in stating that she upgraded right away and some of her plugins were incompatible. As a result, several pages ended up in the trash and WordPress somehow granted a newbie user admin status.

You can read the full article here.

As for my take…

I normally would have waited to see what the general reaction was from the public, but in this case I upgraded immediately, which turned out to be painless. I was too eager to implement the new menu system on my blog.

The highly customized basic2col theme I was using would no longer render in WordPress 3.0 and displayed a PHP error, so I switched to TwentyTen and threw in some quick CSS customizations. Also, the WP-Syntax plugin didn’t seem to work properly, so I switched to using basic pre tags until I discovered SyntaxHighlighter Evolved about a week later. After working through these hiccups my site was back online in about 15 minutes.

My blog is rather new and I try to keep the plugins limited by writing custom functions instead, so I wouldn’t recommend a compulsive upgrade for everyone, especially those who are using many customizations.

I’m happy to see such a stable release from a dev team.


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