Update a WordPress Website Step-by-Step

Following on from the post about what’s involved in maintaining your WordPress website, this post shows you how to identify any updates that are needed and then work through them. The most important step, before doing anything (and there is a step in the procedure below to ensure you don’t forget!) is to make sure you have a current backup. Things do sometimes go wrong and being able to restore your site fast is vital.

With that warning placed ahead of any changes we’re about to make, let’s get started…

A guide to updating your WordPress core, theme and plugins: step-by-step with a little bit of nagging about the importance of a backup.

Login to your WordPress Dashboard

For this you will need an account with Admin-level permissions.
As soon as you have access to the Dashboard you will any updates will be shown next to the Updates and Plugins options as a red dot with a number, as in the example below.

Find out whether there are updates

If you click on Updates you will see a list of everything that needs to be updated. This will include any WordPress core updates, your themes, and also plugins.

In this example there are 17 updates pending – but what are they?

What updates are required?

If a WordPress Core update is required (this is the software used to run WordPress) you will see an alert similar to the one shown above.

Scroll down the page and everything that is ready to be updated is listed there.

If you see anything listed on this page, updates are definitely needed.

BUT don’t do anything yet. First we need to make a backup.

Backup your installation

If you’re working on the Live version of your site (rather than a local copy or a staging site) it’s imperative that you take a backup before proceeding. There are various ways to do this, for example, using UpdraftPlus (from the WordPress dashboard) or using Softaculous or a backup tool (from your hosting account cPanel).

If you don’t already have a method for creating site backups you must set that up before doing anything updates.

With your site all backed up, you can move on to the next step.

Update WordPress

With your backup complete, return to the Updates page and click Update Now under the heading “An updated version of WordPress is available”. If you don’t have any Core updates to do, skip ahead to the next step.

Update Theme(s)

If you scroll on past the Plugin list you’ll see the list of any Themes you have installed on your site that need to be updated. In this case the site has just the main theme used on the site (OceanWP) and one of the default themes.

To update them:
Click Select all and then click the Update Themes button.

On the subject of Themes, you really don’t need to keep old themes, such as any that you trialled and then disguarded, for example, or all the defaults that comes with a clean WordPress installation. It’s worth keeping one of the default, as they can be handing for troubleshooting issues – particularly after updating your site! – but the rest can and should be deleted since they don’t serve a useful purpose.

Update Plugins

Next you can start working through the list of plugins.

Each listing will show the change in the version numbering for the plugin with a link to the version details and also state compatibility with WordPress.

Note also that if there are any issues with a plugin’s compatibility, you’ll see an alert here, as in the last example shown above, which has flagged a PHP compatibility issue (check this blog post for help with this).

Now go through the list updating each plugin. You can do these all at once (not recommended), one at a time (ideal but can take a while) or in batches, determined by how “safe” you think they are. Generally I update the less invasive plugins in batches then the more integrated ones, like page builders, on-at-a-time.

That’s it!

All being well you won’t have had any issues and your site is working perfectly, just as before with the added bonus that it’s now up-to-date, meaning it’s safe and secure.

If you did have any problems, what to do?

In the next post I’ll go through some of the issues that sometimes come up when updating your site – and suggest ways to resolve those same issues.

Photo by Launchpresso on Unsplash

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