If you see the "updates available" notification in your WordPress dashboard and it fills you with a sense of dread, you're not alone.
Updating WordPress or WooCommerce plugins and themes and their extensions can sometimes be an easy process, just a few seconds of waiting and you're done. But it can also involve backups, testing, additional updates, and even support requests. Basically, the hassles no one likes.
However, avoiding or postponing these occasional problems can put your site at risk and even potentially affect your customers. So, while you may not always like to go through the process of keeping your WooCommerce store 100% up to date, there are many reasons to do so.
Let's look at why it's important to upgrade your store in a timely manner, starting with some background on why we upgraded WooCommerce and its extensions in the first place.
Nothing is perfect on the first try, and that's especially true for software and applications. Try as they might, developers cannot predict every possible use case for their platform, requested feature or possible incompatibility.
Proactively seeking and responding to feedback is one of the best ways for any developer to move their product closer to perfect, bit by bit. Proactively seeking and responding to feedback is one of the best ways for any developer to move their product closer to perfect, bit by bit.
That's part of the reasoning behind our WooCommerce updates. When a client requests new features or changes to the platform, then we act accordingly.
WooCommerce also needs to be reliable and secure, which requires regular maintenance and security updates. When you do maintenance on your stores you are always on the lookout for bugs, but also for conflicts with other extensions or plugins, possible security issues and other factors that could affect the speed or stability of your store.
In short: WooCommerce is updated to keep customers happy and the store and all data up to date. So, while it may seem like a hassle to keep up to date, it's actually quite crucial.
Although the update may take a long time (for example, if you have several extensions), avoiding the process for too long could put your store at risk.
As we have already mentioned, no software or platform is perfect. New bugs are discovered all the time. And with every update and improvement applied to individual pieces of your store, the chance of a conflict or newly discovered problem increases ... even if just a little bit.
Sometimes it is common to avoid an update when a new security threat is discovered in WordPress. These threats are usually discovered by individuals and disclosed to the team of volunteers who create the software. They then release a new version that resolves the issue and publicly state what has been fixed.
While the chance of your site exploding because of a security problem is low, especially if you have taken other precautions, there are always people who will look for stores without major updates and try to break into them.
With access to your store, these people could try to steal your private data, damage your store or cause other unwanted problems. And this would not only affect you, but also your customers.
While WooCommerce never stores full credit card information, the physical and email addresses of your customers can be stored and therefore can be stolen. While this may not seem like a big deal, this information could be used in a case of reverse engineering to break into online accounts, sell to spammers, etc. It is also quite disturbing for customers to hear that their data has been accessed, no matter how in depth.
In addition, stores running on outdated software may experience slowness, conflicts between extensions or even errors appearing during the checkout process. This can negatively affect your shoppers' experience ... and cause them to abandon your store for someone else.
Basically: avoiding upgrades can lead to a loss of confidence. Even if your customers don't know that the lack of updated software is the reason why your store is not working well, they will realize that they are not getting the best experience.
At this point, I hope you are convinced: upgrades are critical and you must perform them.
The key to success here is to follow an upgrade process for your store that is consistent, repeatable and relatively easy to understand for anyone following the steps (whether it's you or someone else). Fortunately, it's not too difficult to set up a process like this.
This is what we recommend doing whenever you encounter a major update to WordPress, WooCommerce or a critical extension:
A potentially useful tip for your store updates: don't do them sporadically or "when you have time"; instead, set aside a dedicated weekly or monthly time to make it a priority.
If you're not making maintenance of your store a priority, you're likely to neglect it in favor of things you consider more important. And this may not cause any problems initially, but in the long run, it could be very damaging.
If you need to, set a regular date for your updates, I always recommend, for example, the first week of the month. The occurrence and duration of these update periods should be based on how many plugins you have and when the update is most convenient for you.
While it may seem a little strange to make a process for something like this, it will quickly fall into a routine, and backups, updates and other regular maintenance will no longer interrupt your regular work schedule.
We know it can be time-consuming, sometimes even annoying, to go through this process of updating your store. But it's all worth it, because it's the only way to keep your data and your customers' data safe, as well as to understand that if your store works well and your profits will increase.