A WordPress upgrade was released earlier this month as the latest major release from the WordPress Community. This is great news! The new features and functionality that is available provide a solid step up from the previous version and we plan to use many of the features and functions with our clients.
As we start the client upgrade process, here are the steps we will use to make sure that our clients have a successful upgrade and encounter minimal downtime during the upgrade process.
- Backup the WordPress database including all additional tables installed by the various addon’s and plugins installed.
- Validate the backup to make sure that the database is valid, all tables are represented, and all data is included.
- Backup the file structure, especially the changes that we have made to the theme files to ensure that the customizations are available for reinstall in case of catastrophic problems
- Validate the file structure, including PHP files, image files, CSS files, etc.
- Do plugin research. Which plugins installed have upgrades available that support the latest version? Which ones don’t? Of the ones that don’t, which ones are mission critical? If there are mission critical plugins that do not support the latest version of WordPress, is there activity on the Plugin Homepage that indicates that a release is pending that will support the latest version of WordPress? If not, is there another plugin available that is supported that accomplishes the functionality required. If not, contact the plugin developer to understand if the plugin will be updated to support the latest version of WordPress. If it is pending, you might want to delay the upgrade until mission critical plugin support is fully available.
- Schedule the upgrade with the customer. This will ensure that we are not doing maintenance during a time critical to their business
- Make sure that the disaster recovery plan is in place and agreed upon with the customer
- Before upgrading WordPress, upgrade all plugins to the latest version that you validated in step 5. Plugin incompatibility is a major cause of WordPress upgrade failures
- Do the actual WordPress upgrade – during the time scheduled with the customer
- Validate the install. If the site is small, verify every page. If the site is large, validate a statistically valid sample of pages and posts. Check to make sure images are being displayed correctly. Check to make sure that all plugins are working appropriately, including any galleries, forms, social media interfaces, etc.
- If the site has a storefront, physically test the store. Add items to the shopping cart, checkout, run a credit card, make sure that the autoresponders are working. Make sure the checkout process is working, etc.
- Finally, have the customer validate that the upgrade was successful as well. Have them look the site over and check to make sure that things are working as they want.
In our experience, the biggest cause of failed upgrades is due to plugins that do not work with the new version of WordPress, so the Plugin research is important to eliminate downtime.
This is a good time to discuss with the customer a website review. Is there new features and function needed? Is the client taking advantage of all needed functionality? Does the client need social media options added to the site? Does the client need any new feedback forms or other updates to the site? Does the new version of WordPress contain feature/function additions and improvements that the customer would like to leverage on their site?
Also, new themes typically become available shortly that take advantage of the new WordPress features & functionality. This is a great time to consider updating the look and feel and functionality of the site as well.