04 Nov Updating WordPress: How and Why
WordPress has become incredibly easy to update. Before version 2.7 (I believe) you had to download the new version of WordPress and actually use an FTP client to upload it to your server. That basically resulted in no one updating WordPress, ever. It caused tons of sites to break, and forced them to rebuild from the ground up.
Note: to see the latest version of WordPress go to wordpress.org or view the bottom right corner of your dashboard.
Thankfully, it is much easier now: literally one click. If you’ve updated before you know that it can be quite a bit of a headache, though as your site can break and be down for, in some cases, days or even weeks. So how does updating WordPress work? And why is it important to do it?
First, I’ll start with the why. Every time a new version of WordPress is released it fixes issues the old one had. Sometimes you don’t even see these issues, actually often you don’t even see these issues. They’re under-the-hood changes to make WordPress faster and more secure. Sometimes, they’re major design overhauls to the backend which make our lives easier. Version 3.3 featured the flyout menus you see now. The older versions, had all the same links on the left, except their submenus had to be clicked down and then they stayed there. This resulted in literally 2.5x more clicks. That can really add up.
Now, the how. WordPress has 3 main folders, and about 15-20 files in it’s main directory (folder). The 3 folders are: wp-admin, wp-includes and wp-content. You’ll notice wp-admin is the same thing you can append to your domain to login. That’s not a coincidence. The wp-content folder is where all your content is stored: themes, plugins, pictures and update info.
When WordPress gets upgraded, this folder remains untouched. Thus, all your theme files and content stay the same and won’t break on an upgrade. It’s all the other files that get changed, but continue to work together. In some older themes, developers actually changed what is called the core (all files besides the wp-content folder), and this caused an update to break.
So, how often should you update? Every time a new version is released! Your site gets opened to security and maintenance flaws should you decide not to. Once you do it once, you’re set to do it every time. Sure, your site may break if you update from version 2.7 to 3.4, but it will also be worth the time spent to rebuild, as your site will be much faster and safer. Not to mention, easier to use.