New Version of WordPress Released – Should I Upgrade?

guinea pig tester

Upgrading When New Major Versions of WordPress Are Released

WordPress version 4.8 is considered a major functional release.

It was for functional updates, not security updates.  A functional release includes changes to the WordPress core functionality. New stuff,  “bells and whistles”…

The next day I had a client contact me in a panic that his site was outdated (as he put it “old as hell” – It was running the most current version to date – 4.75).

I’ll tell you, one day out from any functional WordPress releases, my websites will not be upgraded, nor will I have  upgraded any clients’ websites that I perform monthly WordPress maintenance services.

Here’s Why:

I Don’t Want to be a “Guinea Pig”

Guinea Pig TesterEven though WordPress is fully tested through before a new major release, not every scenario can be tested.

Essentially every WordPress website is a custom website, with a unique theme (including any premade theme that has been customized). They have been  configured differently and have different combinations of WordPress plugins installed.

Bugs in the new version of WordPress are going to be found and I prefer to let others find them and get patched with a minor release update in the days following.

Do I Need the New WordPress Features “Right Now”?

Most likely the new features released will be “cool” and may help in my productivity when building a website. Will I use them immediately? Possibly. Can I live without them a bit longer.  Yes. (I have so far). So I can wait  a bit longer to upgrade WordPress.  (I do not feel the same about a WordPress security update though. If a security update is released, I review it immediately.)

Theme and Plugin Compatibility Issues

Wordpress Compatible ThemeOn the date of a new WordPress release, all themes and plugins are not going to be compatible with the new release. Clicking the “Please update now” WordPress button without first researching the new changes and how they may conflict with your site is asking for trouble.

For a major WordPress version update like this one, I will first check if the theme has been updated. From this image, you can see this theme is not yes compatible with version 4.8. At this point I would stop, and recommend not to update WordPress yet.

If the theme were compatible, then I would go on to review plugins individually to see if there may be potential conflicts.  If all is good, then I would start the process to update WordPress.

Taking a full back up of the WordPress code and database is where I always start. Then I make a copy of the site to make upgrades on, fully test the site and the apply upgrades to the live site if all looks well.

You can view a history of all WordPress release dates here, long with the next planned version release dates. Bug and security updates can happen any time. Major release updates happen about every 4 months.Before you panic because you see a message that there is a new version of WordPress available, take some time to look into why a new version is being released and if it is something really needed for your website to function.

Depending on the size and complexity of your website, taking on an upgrade can be some effort. If your not comfortable with properly performing a WordPress update, contact an experienced WordPress developer that can review your website and make a recommendation if it make sense to update your website right now.  You may be in a panic when you really have nothing to worry about.


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