In this post, I’ll explain why it’s important for your website to have the latest updates from the platform vendor. Most of my examples and discussion will be centered around WordPress, since many of my clients are using it for their content management system (CMS), though the principles will apply to any major platform.
The first and most important reason for keeping your website updated with the latest code is: security.
Since I started developing about a dozen years ago, several of my customers have complained about viruses or malicious software being embedded on their websites. Typically, means that the website gets redirected, or code gets embedded into a page. Bots will attempt to gain access to the website to capture your customer’s payment information, get admin login details, or even to scrape content. Hackers love to spend their time trying to find new ways to exploit or uncover vulnerabilities in a website or a CMS. This is why it’s so (so!) important to keep things up to date regularly.
WordPress is a great way to manage a website. It’s the most popular CMS in the world. In fact, of the 10 most popular CMS platforms, WordPress has about 59% of the market share and represents almost 28% of the top 10 million websites (Wikipedia reference). While I would recommend WordPress for most of my customers, a negative is that the source code is completely exposed, since you can freely download it from WordPress.org. This, combined with the overwhelming popularity of the system, it becomes a primary target for hackers. Luckily for us, though, the software has been rigorously tested and continuously developed by a massive world-wide developer network, since it’s inception in 2003.
Forced Third Party Plugin Updates
When you update WordPress, outdated plugins may no longer work. Also, there is an indicator that shows whether a plugin has not been recently updated. This forces third party plugin developers to continue to update their software so that it does not become irrelevant, or get bad reviews.
Another reason why it’s important to keep your website’s code updated is that newer versions may have improved performance. Essentially, this means that platform developers spend a lot of time trying to make code faster so that your website loads more quickly and takes fewer resources to render a web page.
Your customers WANT your website to be fast. For this reason, Internet companies have invested billions in infrastructure and people will gladly pay their higher subscription fees. If your website is slow, this is a sure automatic turn off to your customers. They’ve been trained to think that way.
Google has also been a force behind the industry’s push toward faster websites. A faster website will generally rank better than a slower website. Google has built this metric into their search algorithm.
You need to have a fast website. Since your CMS developers are likely working hard to improve performance, you need to take advantage of their updates that address this important objective.
Another reason to have a plan for updating your code regularly is that software bugs may be present. The term “bug” is just tech jargon for an error in the code’s logic that might cause problems. In my own experience, though I thoroughly review code, write unit tests, perform interface testing, and stage releases, I can tell you that it’s impossible to account for every single issue that might crop up ahead of time. The great thing about a platform like WordPress is that there is a huge group of programmers that regularly test for bugs. Not only this, but it’s massive user base will also report bugs that crop up during use.
Have a Plan
For the reasons mentioned, it’s vitally important that you have a plan in place to update your website regularly.
I strongly suggest that you only update the website yourself if you first download a backup of the website files and database. I suggest that you do not let WordPress or other platforms update automatically since someone really needs to test thoroughly after the updates are run to be sure nothing is broken. One of my customers had a website hosted on their own server. They clicked the Update button and it destroyed their website. Unfortunately, they did not have backups available on the server and their website was completely lost. The lesson: know what you’re doing before you click the button.
If you would like SiteHatchery to update your website monthly, let us know and we’ll get a plan in place for you.