Are you thinking about the best way to update your WordPress-powered website to the latest version? Thanks to the availability of a variety of automation tools, updating a WordPress website is now just a matter of a single click! Sounds easy, right? However, before you rush to update your site, it is crucial to plan well before applying a major update so that you don’t end up with a broken website that makes you regret your decision.
We have simplified this task for you with the following sections:
- 6 Things to do before updating your website
- 3 Steps to safely perform a WordPress update
- 2 Automation tools that can be used in the WordPress update process
Let us look at these in detail.
6 Things to Do Before Updating Your Website
Let’s start with a list of six critical things you must do before applying a WordPress update. These measures will ensure that you don’t face any website-related complications later.
Create a List of Your Most Important Webpages with Their URLs
Whether you are running a local business or a major E-commerce website, every website has its list of important web pages that are commonly visited by your visitors. Depending on the nature of your business, this could include a variety of webpages such as your homepage (for any website), landing page (that is the starting page for visitors following an online search or clicking an online ad), shopping cart or payment checkout pages (for online shoppers), or the online donation page for any charitable organization.
As a website owner, you want to ensure that your website visitors are still able to access these critical pages even after the update. Make a list of all your important webpages (along with their URLs) before applying the update.
Is your current website performing as expected or does it have any broken links? As a good safety measure, navigate through your entire website (before the update) to check if your website is functioning properly or if any major issues need to be fixed first. Here’s what you need to do:
- Check all your website URLs to see if there are functioning or are broken.
- Take and store a screenshot of each of your website pages.
Create a List of All the Installed Plugins/ Themes on Your Website.
If you are running a highly functional website, you are sure to have installed many third-party plugins and themes that are enabling these functionalities. Create a list of all your installed plugins and themes and check if any of them are running on outdated versions.
To prevent problems related to outdated plugins/ themes, visit the respective website of the plugin/ theme development company to check if they have the latest version available. Plugins and themes that do not have an updated version available on their website mean that they have been abandoned or are not being maintained by the company. In this case, it’s advisable to remove the outdated plugins/ themes and replace them with another plugin/ theme with similar functionality.
Check and Review “What’s New” in the Updated Version
Before applying your WordPress update, you first need to check the new features or bug fixes in the latest version of either your core WordPress version or each of the plugins/ themes.
Example, for your WooCommerce tool,
You can click the “View version … details” link to check the changes that have been made by the respective developers in the updated version. This could include a list of new features or enhancements or just a minor bug fix. Reading and understanding these changes will enable you to determine their impact on your website functionality.
You can also save on a lot of website update hassles by learning from the troubles faced by other WordPress users when updating their websites. Online support forums like WordPress.org is a valuable resource for learning about WordPress updates from other users and how they tackled the issues.
Deactivate Your Browser Caching or Caching Plugins
As website owners, we often enable our browser cache or install caching plugins to improve the speed and performance of our website. A website update may change the content of your website page, which may not reflect if your caching is still enabled.
Hence, it’s recommended to deactivate your caching plugin (if installed) or clear your browser cache before applying your update.
Create a Checklist of What You Need to Test After Update
Apart from the list of your most critical webpages, you must create a checklist of the website functionalities that you need to test after applying an update. This could include the list of website buttons and links that you need to check.
For example, a college website can include the following checklist items:
- List of offered courses
- Tuition fees information
- The download links for the college brochure or application forms
Put Your Website in Maintenance Mode
If your website update is going to be time-consuming resulting in major downtime, create a “Website under maintenance” page that can inform your website visitors of this temporary inconvenience and request them to check after some time.
Image courtesy: https://www.rtitb.co.uk/images/eshots/underMaintenance.jpg
Instead of seeing a broken website, visitors are informed of your website’s maintenance mode, thus improving overall user experience. Additionally, your website ranking will not be affected in the Google search engine until the maintenance mode is disabled.
You can implement this maintenance mode either by:
- Installing and executing a WordPress maintenance mode plugin.
- Making the required code changes in the .htaccess file of your website.
3 Steps to Safely Perform a WordPress Website Update
What are the correct steps to perform to update your WordPress website without impacting its performance or user experience in any adverse way?
We recommend that you execute the following steps in the same order:
Take a Complete Backup of Your WordPress Website
Be it any small or large business website; you need to have a safe and consistent website backup strategy that can restore your website to its previous version if an update goes wrong.
For safety purposes, use a backup tool that fulfills the following requirements:
- Does not impact your website speed or performance during the backup process.
- Stores your backup data in a secure location.
- Enables easy restore of backup data to your website after update.
Website backup and restore tools like BlogVault make a copy of your website and database files and store the backup data securely for a quick restore when needed. BlogVault enables you to take automated backups of your complete website with a single click and stores them at secure offsite locations for easy retrieval. It can also be used for real-time backups of WooCommerce websites.
Apply and Test Your Updates on a Website Staging Platform
If you don’t want to risk making changes or updates on your live website, we recommend you make your changes on a staging site to avoid a broken website.
A staging (or clone) website is a replica of your live website. You can use the staging website to test out your updates or changes without any impact on your live website.
You can use WordPress staging tools like BlogVault or WP Staging to create a staging environment where you can safely apply and test your updates to see if they work without any issues. You can later use these tools to merge the changes on your live website once you are satisfied with the tests.
To utilize the staging environment, check each of your updated webpages and functions to see if they are working as expected. If there are any issues, you can troubleshoot them in the staging platform without any negative impact on your live website.
Apply the Latest Updates on Your Live Website
Once you are satisfied with how the changes and updates are functioning on your staging platform, you can choose to merge these changes to your live website.
That’s it! At the end of these three steps, your WordPress website is now updated and ready for use. Want to simplify your WordPress update process further? Here are two automation tools that can make your work a lot easier!
2 Automation Tools That Can Be Used During WordPress Update Process
Now that we are done with what you need to do before applying a WordPress update to your website, here are two of the best available tools that can automate and make this process a lot easier and effortless.
Visual Comparison Tools
Taking manual screenshots of your complete website before a major update is a necessary step to compare and determine if the entire update was completed smoothly. Whether it’s for a small or a large website, manual screenshots can be a time-consuming effort.
Automated visual comparison tools like WPBoom can make this process very easy. Sign up for a free or premium version and specify the website whose screenshots you want the tool to take. WPBoom also allows you to schedule the screenshot capturing process along with comparing the new website pages (after the update) with the previous ones to view the differences (if any). The tool also allows you to identify and fix any broken links.
Want to see how your website loads up on popular browsers like Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox or even on iPhones or Android phones. Try these tools:
With paid versions of these tools, starting from $29, you can use these tools to take website screenshots across browsers and devices or even test your live website URLs.
WooCommerce Testing Tool
Imagine an E-commerce retail shop where the payments page is not working after an update! This is quite common for a WooCommerce-powered website resulting in loss of revenue for the online retailer. Another real-life scenario is that you have applied a successful update to your E-commerce website, which is functioning smoothly for your customers and your online business. Unfortunately, after a few weeks of operation, a crucial WooCommerce plugin fails, resulting in checkout failure for your customers.
This is where WooCommerce testing tools like Robot Ninja can implement automated tests of your updated WooCommerce website and provide a complete report of whether all its functionalities (including payments and product check-out pages) are working.
Although there are numerous benefits associated with keeping your WordPress website up to date, there are some risks associated with the process, such as a broken website or a sub-par user experience. While there is no 100% guarantee against such failures, some of the safety measures outlined in this article can make regular WordPress updates a far safer and fail-proof process.
Additionally, the availability of website backup tools like BlogVault with features like website staging and easy restore has reduced some of these risks. Try the BlogVault backup tool today if you’re looking for an easy way to update and manage your WordPress websites.