How to Update WordPress Without Breaking Your Website

So, you need to update your WordPress website, but you’re worried that with one wrong click you could break everything. Your trusty Full Windsor team understands your hesitancy and we agree—without taking the proper steps, updates can go wrong. And while your website may be running fine today, updates are necessary to ensure the best security, performance, and visitor experience of your website. Update your Wordpress site safely and easily with these best practices:

  1. Keep a backup
  2. Use staging
  3. Create a child theme
  4. Set up auto-update

We recommend updating your WordPress version and plugins regularly, and update themes only for security purposes. And when you add these practices to your workflow, these updates can be worry-free!

Keep a backup

Keeping a backup copy of your website is an essential practice, and it's especially important when performing updates. This way, no matter what happens during an update, you can roll back (restore) to a previous version. Once you have a backup system in place, make sure you familiarize yourself with the controls, terms, and steps in the process of restoring — or even practice in a staging environment.

Use a staging website

Changes to your website’s plugins or server software mean code changes. And where there is a code change, there is an opportunity for unforeseen problems. A staging site is an exact copy of your website intended as a safe, private place for your team to play before anything goes live to the public. It allows you to run updates and test their functionality across multiple devices and browsers without risk. A staging website lets you experience your site as your visitors will—and gives you the opportunity to fix what needs fixing.

Create a child theme

Updating your WordPress theme involves multiple file changes, which invites multiple opportunities for error, so we recommend only doing this if it's required for security reasons. If you do update your theme, create a child theme first. A child theme allows you to change small aspects of your site’s appearance yet still preserve functionality in your main (parent) theme. Child themes allow you to customize a parent theme without touching any core files, which ensures you’re less likely to lose customizations when performing updates to the parent theme.

Set up auto-update

WordPress developers regularly find and fix bugs, add new features, and improve security vulnerabilities. These changes are then released in a new WordPress version, and if the update isn’t major, WordPress can automatically update itself. WordPress allows you to set which components will auto-update, including updates to core, plugins, themes, and translation files. Getting these settings right allows you to dial in the level of automation you want and feel comfortable with.

Making updates to your WordPress website may feel like just one more thing you have to do, but it’s important. Knowing how to update your Wordpress site safely is the first step. If real peace of mind is what you need, consider Full Windsor’s Maintenance Plan for confidence that your website will run smoothly through updates—and every day. We perform regular maintenance tasks and are always around if anything goes wrong. Get in touch to learn more.

Reach out

Monthly newsletter: Interviews with experts, websites doing it right, and recommended tools.

Sign me up

Hire us: exceptional websites and a better project experience.

Get started today
× strategy-guide-graphic

Free eBook: The Website Strategy Guide

Develop an air-tight plan for a winning website.

Learn more