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Updating WordPress Plugins

July 24th, 2021

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An affiliate recently said to me, “If you want special features on your website you’ve got to use plugins.” He’s right. A site without even the most common plugin consists of only text and images… no contact forms, no mobile menu, no Google maps, and no social media integration. Sure, it can be done but these “little bits of software” are often what sets your site apart from sooo many others.

So now we’re faced with a routine of keeping up with plugin “updates,” which are many times security-related and almost always considered an admin &/or user experience improvement. In the past, plugin updates followed scheduled WordPress updates (roughly every 120 days or less). More recently, these updates have become more frequent and often independent of the WordPress update/upgrade. So why are updates important?

Aside from security, there’s functionality. Last year Google announced their decision to add “user experience” to their search ranking algorithm. This development began in May of 2020, and was expected to be complete by August 2021. From all indications, they’re on schedule. That means if Google thinks your site offers a poor or questionable user experience–for ANY reason–your site rankings will be effected. (Read more about this topic, or here).

Now that we’ve established that updates are truly necessary, let’s list what to consider before updating a plugin and HOW to perform an update:

Considerations Before Updating

  • Do you (or your developer) have a back-up of your website?
    • Small Details installs software — actually a plugin called “All in One WP Migration” to back up all of our WordPress sites. Please get in touch with us (by email or phone) to discuss the last back-up made of your website and make note of it for future reference. As long as you haven’t updated your content, the back-up will be current.
  • Do you have an idea of which function the individual plugins perform? (for troubleshooting purposes)
    • Each plugin performs a different task and almost every single website is unique as far as which plugins are installed and activated. It’s a good idea to review your plugins by clicking “Plugins” > “Installed Plugins” from the left column (logged in admin user). You can read about them by clicking “View Details” (link) to the right of each plugin name. You will ALSO see the “Update” link in an orange rectangular area if action is needed (see below).

  • Are there “licenses” associated with any of your plugins?
    • Some plugins require (paid) “pro” licenses to get the full benefit. In many cases we will include your site in a group or bulk license to keep expenses to a minimum. If you’ve attempted to update a plugin but they’re asking for a license key, please reach out to us. Chances are we can either provide the key or log in and submit the key from our end. NOTE: You MUST be a Small Details client to apply a license key to a plugin we’ve installed.

“How To” Update Your Plugins

Compared to the detailed explanations, and considerations/preparation, the actual “how to” is simple as long as no troubleshooting is necessary. Once you’ve logged into your administrative Dashboard you will almost immediately notice the “Plugins” area with a red, circled number next to it. This is the number of plugins awaiting an update. Click on the Plugins link (or “Installed Plugins” from the expanded menu). This will bring you to the full list of plugin tools installed on your site.

From there you should look for the orange rectangular area (see screenshot above) to locate the appropriate plugins in need. Simply click the blue “Update Now” link in that panel. Alternatively you can scroll to the top of your plugins list, check the box next to the “Plugins” title, and choose “Update” from the dropdown. This will automatically update the appropriate plugins although it does take a little time — generally no longer than updating them individually.

What To Do If You Run Into a Problem?

As is the case with other website administrative tasks, you can always reach out to us to help with problems that arise from a plugin update such as:

  • “500 error” or being blocked from the admin
  • Warning message from the plugin after an unsuccessful update
  • Problems viewing content on a page or post following a plugin update
  • General dysfunction of the plugin or of the website itself

ALL of these can happen to ANYONE from time to time and typically they can be resolved in a matter of minutes. Please keep in mind, however, if you are self-managing the website (as far as WordPress & plugin tech maintenance), we treat these situations as “on-demand” support. Standard hourly rates apply.

That said, phone:  410-996-9713  Email: mmay@small-details.com or dhsmith@small-details.com

THANK YOU for your interest and for your business. We DO appreciate it.

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