wordpress_logo1When you own a car or a home, you understand that on a regular basis you will need to perform maintenance and repairs.  Oil changes, tires, and brakes on your car and everything from yard work to leaky faucets in your home.  Houses and cars aren’t things that you can just buy and then ignore.

The same is true for your website!

The internet is constantly changing, in many ways, and so are the methods that people use to access the internet.  Failing to keep up with these changes can subject your website to security issues, errors, slow loading speeds, accessibility problems, and loss of functionality.

If you are web savvy, you’ll probably be able to handle most of the needed maintenance and updates on your own, but there will be times when you might find yourself needing to hire a programmer- just as you would hire a mechanic to repair your car.

If you have a WordPress site, one of those instances may have occurred recently with their version 3.5 update.

How Do WordPress Updates Affect Your Website?

First, it’s important to understand three terms that impact your site:  hosting, platform, and theme.

Hosting is basically renting (or buying) space on the internet.  It will cost you $10-50 per month depending upon where you buy it and if you are sharing that space with others.  Simply put, hosting is like buying a vacant lot- you have bare land and it’s up to you to build something there.

 A platform is similar to the foundation of your house.  You need it in order to create your masterpiece, but by itself it isn’t much.  Your platform is software that you upload to your hosting server that then allows you insert content, add images, and turn a blank screen into something brilliant.  WordPress is one of the most common platforms but there are others such as Joomla and Drupal.

Theme is what determines the look and layout of your website.  Do you have a customized header at the top of your site?  Is your menu bar across the top or down the left side of the page?  Is there a blog integrated into your site?  What are the colors and can they be easily changed?  Do you have images in the background?  These are all things determined by your theme.  When you hire a web programmer, this is what they are building for you-  your theme.

Now, back to the question of WordPress updates…

Typically 2-3 times per month, WordPress will update its software.  They do this for various reasons.  Sometimes they make things more user friendly, sometimes that add more features, and sometimes they have to fix security issues.  There are hackers all over the world that love to try and figure out how to wreak havoc on web servers.  They look for little “cracks in the armor” and when they find one, WordPress will design an update to seal the crack.

Normally these updates are nothing major but you do need to make sure you upload them when they are available.  When you log in to the back end of your WordPress site, you’ll see automatic notifications that an update is available.  With the click of a button, your WordPress software can be updated and you are fine…   usually.

On occasion, the WordPress update ends up being incompatible with your theme and then your theme will also need to be updated in order for it to function properly.

This happened recently when WordPress released update 3.5.  This version of WordPress was a major jump from the previous version and it resulted in incompatibility issues with many websites.  For some web owners, significant programming may have become necessary to keep their sites running properly.

Unfortunately, this is just one of the issues you’ll run into when you own a website.  It’s no different from your car needing new brake pads.  The key here is to make sure you have a reliable programmer at your disposal who can fix these problems when they arise.  If your website is integral to your business, then having a good programmer is perhaps even more important than knowing a good auto mechanic!

Feel free to contact me if you have more questions about this, I know that it can be a bit confusing.