As the owner or administrator of a WordPress-based website, one of the important things you need to keep in mind is that the software powering your site isn’t a static creation that you can just forget about after the initial installation. WordPress – and the plugins and themes that enhance WordPress – are dynamic pieces of software that are continually being upgraded and improved. Here are three of the most important reasons for keeping all of your WordPress software up to date.
Keeping your website and site visitors safe from hackers, malware, and other bits of Internet devilry is the single biggest reason you need to keep your WordPress site up to date. WordPress itself is open source software – meaning that just about anybody can dig through the code base if they have the time – and programmers with bad attitudes are always looking for ways to break WordPress’ security. And, while plugins and themes aren’t always open source, it’s nearly impossible for even the best developers to predict what new security threats will emerge as time goes by.
WordPress’ popularity as a site development platform makes it an equally popular target for hackers. The best way to stay ahead of (or at least even with) the security curve is to keep all of your site’s code as up to date as possible. Running a version of WordPress that’s even slightly out of date is just asking for trouble – for you and potentially for any website that share the same web server!
Features and fixes.
All software evolves over time, and WordPress is no exception. Developers, site admins, and users are always looking for better ways to display and manage content. As the technology of the Internet continues to change, especially upgrades to browser technology and mobile devices, software like WordPress has to change along with it.
The same holds true for plugins and themes. Nobody really wants to poke around a site with theme features that look (and usually act) clunky. Plugin creators frequently update their software to improve functionality and compatibility.
There’s also the issue of software bugs to deal with. Major updates and maintenance releases for WordPress frequently fix a number of problems discovered by users – and just as frequently make coding changes to prevent future problems. A good example of preemptive fixes is last April’s 4.7.4 maintenance release, which changed some code to avoid a compatibility issue with a not-then-released version of the Chrome browser.
Nobody wants their Internet stuff to go slow. As server muscle and processing speeds continue to steadily climb and access to ever-faster networks expand, the definition of “slow” has changed from response times measured in seconds to time measured in milliseconds. Even most search engines are in on the performance act, awarding better search rankings to sites that load faster and respond more quickly to user input.
Newer versions of WordPress are coded to take advantage of the latest server technologies, and also use newer methods of scripting (and script compression) to speed up page load and response times. Older versions simply can’t compete when it comes to site speed.