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Many times, when WooCommerce store owners come to us seeking for help, we usually find that the cause of the problem is an outdated site. In some cases, we find that the site’s plugins and themes have not been updated in years. And when a WooCommerce store site has not been updated in years, suddenly updating can sometimes break more things. Our recommendation is to update regularly.
Why Should You Update?
If you update your site regularly, you’ll be dealing with a lot less problems on your WooCommerce store. While it’s true that site updates may cause issues, these issues are usually less severe than issues that come up when you don’t update. In addition, you can troubleshoot these issues on a staging site which will have no effects on your live site. If your site breaks because it is outdated, your live site can go down for an indefinite period. That means no sales until you fix the issue. If this happens during a critical time for your business, it can have negative effects on your sales. Imagine running TV ads and then your site breaks due to being outdated. That’s advertising dollars down the drain.
How Often Should You Update Your WooCommerce Store?
The best schedule we’ve found for site updates is doing them at least monthly. You can update more often especially when severe security issues are patched.
What Happens When You Don’t Update?
When you don’t update your site, one or a few of these things could happen:
- Your site may go down and become inaccessible
- Your site layout may break
- Images and icons may not load
- Your payment processor may stop working
- Your shipping plugins may stop working
- Your product page may break
- You may have various problems on your cart and checkout
- Your sign-up forms and contact form may stop working
- Your site may be hacked and infected with malware
- Your SEO rating may drop
What Do You Need to Do Before Updating Your Site?
Test Updates on a Development Site
It is important to test updates on a development site. If you do not have a development site, also called a staging site, you can check with your hosting company if they offer a staging service. Some hosting companies like WPEngine provide an easy-to-set-up staging service. You can also set up a staging site yourself. You can check this blog post to learn how to create a staging site for WordPress.
Before you update your live site, test updates on your development site first. Then do some user testing to find out if there are any issues with the updates. Some things you need to test are:
- Your Site Layout
- Opt-in Forms
- Contact Forms
- Shopping Cart
- Any custom development you’ve done on the site
If you find any issues on your staging site, it’s time to get fixing. If you do not know how to go about fixing the issue, you can check out our guide on troubleshooting for WooCommerce. You can also drop us an email so we can help you out.
Create a Backup
If there are no issues on your staging site, it’s time to update your live site. But first, don’t forget to create a backup. For backups, we can recommend UpdraftPlus or BackWPup. Once backup is successful, you can proceed to update then test your live site again. If more issues come up, proceed to troubleshoot.
I updated my WooCommerce Store but my Site is Still Broken
Renew Your Plugin Subscriptions
Sometimes, issues may persist because automatic update are not available for your plugins. This is usually because your plugin subscription has expired. If this happens, you will need to renew your subscription. It is now easier to manage WooCommerce plugin subscriptions. You just need to connect your WooCommerce account to your WooCommerce store. For third-party premium plugins, you may need to check manually.
Do a Plugin Audit and Remove Abandoned Plugins
Another common reason why some websites break after updates is that it has a plugin that has been abandoned by the plugin developer. If a plugin is abandoned by the developer, it will not receive any updates and will eventually stop working. And it can break your site. Worse, it can even become a backdoor for hackers to get into your site. It is not easy to detect if your plugins are no longer being updated by the plugin developer so you will have to do it manually. View the details of each plugin on your plugin list and check when it was last updated. If the plugin has not been updated in a year or more, then remove that plugin right away. If a plugin has not been updated in over 6 months, use your better judgment if the plugin can be removed.
Find Incompatible Plugins
In some cases, plugins may break compatibility with each other. This is one reason why it is best to keep plugins to a minimum. Having more plugins can cause more problems. When plugins break compatibility, various errors can pop up on your site.
To troubleshoot incompatible plugins, deactivate all plugins on your site except WooCommerce. Then enable them one by and one while testing for the error. With some trial and error, you’ll be able to shortlist the incompatible plugins. When you find the incompatible plugins, you can replace one plugin with a compatible one. You can also report the issue to the plugin developers so they can address it.
WooCommerce Templates are Outdated
Sometimes you’ll find an error on your WordPress Dashboard alerting you of outdated WooCommerce templates. Most theme developers update their WooCommerce templates so check if your theme is updated. If your using a premium theme and have an expired license, you will receive automatic updates. If this is the case, update your subscription to get the updated templates. You can also fix this issue by following this guide from WooCommerce.
Add updating your WooCommerce store to your monthly to-do list to ensure your site is secure and won’t break in an uncontrolled environment. Renew your plugin subscriptions and do a plugin audit. If you find that you do not have time to do the monthly WooCommerce store updates yourself, the Wooassist team can help.