An honest word on website updates

Sep 21, 2023 | Website FAQs

Website updates – it’s your decision

TL;DR

Updates are best carried out on a staging site, checking each one carefully, some time after the update has been released and in conjunction with other updates.
Auto-updates are an option but carry risk of site breaking.
Your site will likely be fine if you do nothing for a while so don’t stress.
Don’t get ripped off by any web agency telling you constant updates are needed – they’re talking shit.

I see conflicting views on this topic, and I also see a lot of opinions from web professionals who are either trying to squeeze money out of clients or simply don’t know what they’re talking about.

Your WordPress website will definitely require updates at some point. There’s PHP version updates (the language your site is written in), WordPress itself, any theme that’s been used to create your site (Elementor, Divi, Astra etc), and a whole host of independent plugins which provide functionality for your site.

If you take a look in the plugins section of the backend of your site it may look something like this…

plugin updates
Now, some people will tell you to keep everything fully up to date as soon as updates are released. You can absolutely follow this advice (by clicking “enable auto-update” on everything – it doesn’t require a web agency to carry this out… PHP updates are an exception), but there’s a pretty high chance that updating everything as soon as an update is released will break your site. This is because not every developer of everything is working together. If WordPress releases an update, it takes time for the theme and plugin developers to catch up and make their products fully compatible with the new WordPress version.

That said, it is important to keep software up to date because it can help with security and performance.

The Razorbill website update method

I like to treat updates as a bit of a balancing act, I wait for major releases to come out, look at the release notes, read forums to see if there are any huge issues being reported, then do some more waiting for the themes and plugins to catch up/release their updates, and I do the same reading for them.

When it seems like a good time to update everything (usually when any bugs have been ironed out), I test on a staging site going through each update one by one and checking everything on the website is working as it should be. It’s not a five minute job, and care should definitely be taken while doing it (as in, it’s probably not the best idea to do major updates on a live site!)

Regardless of my own methods, I give my clients options after their new site is launched and I tell the truth. They can go with auto-updates and risk the site breaking unexpectedly, they can opt in to one of my monthly maintenance packages (starting at £20 per month – very affordable), or they can leave the site completely as is until they feel it needs some attention and give me a shout if they need help.

Final word

Don’t get ripped off by web agencies telling you everything needs updated all the time and charging you hundreds for it, because the reality is, most businesses’ main concern is having a working site and you risk your site breaking whether it’s constantly updated or not!