How to Properly Update to WordPress 5.5

September 14, 2020

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If you run a WordPress website, keeping your WordPress version up to date is important to make sure all security issues and bugs are caught to make sure your website keeps running properly.

The largest WordPress release of 2020 WordPress 5.5 was released a few weeks ago, and already there have been significant conflicts with Plugins and Themes that have caused millions of WordPress websites to crash.

WordPress has a full team dedicated to making improvements, however sometimes plugin and theme developers don’t stay up to date, and any large-scale updates cause conflicts.

Already, WordPress has rolled out 5.5.1, which essentially rolled back some of the latest changes in order to provide plugin and theme developers more time to adjust properly (even though this has been in the works for over a year!).

As with any major WordPress release, we generally recommend waiting a few weeks before the initial release before upgrading.

These large upgrades have generally been well tested before release, but that doesn’t guarantee there won’t be new issues or bugs caused by the release.

While most of the core WordPress features are improved or new features are added that make WordPress a more user-friendly tool, the general ecosystem of plugins and themes that most sites are built with need some time to make sure they push updates and upgrades to comply with the new WordPress release.

What does WordPress 5.5 mean for website owners?

For a large majority of websites, updating to the latest version shouldn’t cause any issues. However, if you’re using a customized child theme, or a variety of plugins (almost all sites fall under this category), tread cautiously.

If your theme or one of your plugins hasn’t been updated yet for the new WordPress 5.5, it can cause conflicts that could cause individual parts of your site or your whole site to crash.

In general, we recommend waiting a few weeks to update your WordPress version, so theme and plugin developers can make the necessary changes and push updates.

If you don’t feel comfortable or have the skills to have to potentially re-upload your entire website’s files and database, we strongly recommend that you ask for professional help. There is nothing worse than losing a website to a bad update, and your years of hard work and investment can sometimes be impossible to recover.

Shameless plug!!

Please reach out if you’d like any help updating your website. We also offer monthly maintenance support for WordPress clients and always cover proper backups and updates.

New Feature in WordPress 5.5 – WordPress Themes & Plugins Auto-Updates

There are a lot of other updates coming in this release, but we’re going to focus on the new ability to have your plugins and themes automatically update when new releases are pushed.

On the surface level, this is great for website owners and admins as it removes the need to manually make these updates. If you’re using out-of-the-box configurations, this will most likely be a game-changer.

However, where we advise caution is for any auto-updates to themes or plugins if you’re using any sort of custom settings, CSS, or coding that would affect the front end of your website.

For example, most websites use child themes (or should be using) to make sure that when core theme updates happen, any customizations or custom coding isn’t lost.

Normally, this isn’t a major problem but if you’ve created or added custom functions to your core theme, you (or your developer) may need to make updates to the child theme to make sure everything works properly.

The same can be said for plugins that affect or control front-end experience or behavior on your site.

For all of our clients’ websites we make sure to update each plugin one by one to identify any issues that may have arisen so we can roll-back to the previous version and troubleshoot whatever issue may have been caused.

With Auto-update enabled, this becomes much more difficult to diagnose and resolve whatever issue has been created.

In summary, tread cautiously when choosing which plugins or themes to auto-update with WordPress 5.5.

What should you do to upgrade to WordPress 5.5?

This is our general advice for all new software releases, but specifically to WordPress 5.5, we recommend the following steps:

1) Wait at least a few weeks or a month before upgrading to the latest WordPress version

Generally, with major WordPress updates, waiting at least a few weeks after the initial release allows for WordPress to resolve any bugs or issues that are common with large software releases.

In this recent release, it turned out to be updating jQuery to the latest library that caused the majority of outages for websites.

We’re already about a month after the initial release, so we’re now actively updating all of our clients’ websites, so we feel comfortable taking the steps to update properly.

2) Take a full backup of your website’s database and files.

We do this before updating any plugins or themes but is more important now than before a major WordPress update. There are some plugins available that make this task a little easier if you’re not familiar with accessing your site’s DB via phpMyAdmin or using your FileManager or FTP access to download your files.

We like BackWPup to pull regular backups of your full site, but if you need to restore to a previous version, you’ll need full access to your database and files.

3) Update all of your existing plugins and themes before updating WordPress

After making a full backup of your site, make sure all your plugins and themes are up to date. Sometimes the update process can be messy if you’ve missed important updates in between.

4) Update to WordPress 5.5.1

Please let us know in the comments if you have any questions or feedback, or please reach out if you’d like Chainlink to help update your WordPress site to the latest version 5.5 when it’s released.

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