Some people are very reluctant to update their sites – they fear, perhaps not wrongly, that their stuff will break. So they stand on the deck of their slowly sinking ship (read – outdated website), afraid to step off into potentially shark-infested water. Well, that is maybe not the best analogy – the newest version of WordPress or your updated themes and plugins are not shark infested water. Probably. I mean, they shouldn’t be.
As a brief practical aside, this is not a sustainable way to live your digital life. You should pick reputable themes and plugins – and pay money for them, so they will be maintained and kept current. Then you can update without worry.
All this is to say you should update when WordPress pushes out a new version, and you should update your themes and plugins. But how quickly? And what is the process to do it safely?
For years, WordPress (and therefore the attendant themes and plugins) averaged updates every 4 months, and, it seems to me, they usually try to time the big releases for the end or beginning of the year.
One school of thought is to immediately update on all minor releases, as those are only bug-fixes and security patches. You can tell it’s a minor release by the 3rd digit – eg, 5.1.1. Some people wait on the major updates – eg, the latest 5.2 from last week. Sometimes this is the sort of update to break your site, and sometimes, because these are bigger updates to a lot of WordPress files, there are errors. And sometimes there is another update almost immediately afterward to fix those errors (please see the list of release dates for major updates and then the next minor update – they are often only separated by days). So some people wait for that next minor after the major.
As stated above, I use only themes and plugins that I know are actively maintained and will work with the latest version of WordPress. But I do like to update them on a staging site first.
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