Plugin & Theme Updates

The Basics

Within a WordPress website there are 3 components that need to be regularly updated in order for a WordPress website to function optimally, maintain health, and be secure:

  1. WordPress Core
  2. Plugins
  3. Theme

Maddlab Design recommends updating these things as often as possible. However for most customers, once per month or every other month is the most realistic and feasible time frame to work with.

What is Core?

When you install WordPress, you are actually installing a group of files (the “WordPress core”) that become the admin interface of your website. Because WordPress is an open source platform, it receives regular updates from WordPress.org that become available for download upon release. The updates for WordPress core most often include security patches, and occasionally new features.

The most current version of WordPress, as well as what patches are included in it, can always be found here: https://codex.wordpress.org/WordPress_Versions

What are Plugins?

WordPress plugins are bits of software that can be uploaded to to extend and expand the functionality of your WordPress site. There are tons, literally tons, of WordPress plugins available for free download from the WordPress.org Plugin Directory. There are also premium or paid WordPress plugins that often offer richer more robust features than their free counterparts. You might be asking what types of things plugins can do. Well, if you can imagine it, there’s probably a plugin for that. All you need to do is take a stroll through the WordPress plugin directory to see all of the possible ways plugins can extend or enhance your WordPress site.

Like the WordPress core, keeping up on plugin updates is essential to maintaining a healthy website as they most often include security patches. Letting plugins go un-updated for months (and in some cases years) is the most common cause of WordPress website hacks.

What are WordPress Themes?

A WordPress theme provides all of the front end styling of your WordPress site. Most WordPress themes provide:

  • the overall design or style of your website
  • front styling
  • colors
  • widget locations
  • page layouts (or templates)
  • styles for blog posts and archives
  • additional stylistic details

Just like WordPress plugins, you can choose from over a thousand free themes from the WordPress Theme Directory or invest in premium, or paid themes like Astra, which is what Maddlab Design uses to build WordPress websites. The advantages of premium themes are like those of premium plugins. Premium themes usually have a reliable code base and offer support if something goes wrong.

How Often should these updates occur?

WordPress core, plugin, and theme updates should be updated as often as possible. However, due to the fact that between all three of them, your WordPress website will have a pending update once per day, it is not feasible to do these updates with such frequently without need to update again the next day. As one might imagine, that would be a costly and time intensive obligation.

To strike a responsible balance between feasibility and security, Maddlab Design’s official recommendation to customer’s is to update their plugins at least once per month, and on an as needed basis if a critical security patch is released.