Make sure that WordPress, WooCommerce, your plugins and your theme are updated to the latest version. That could have been enough said really, but the purpose of this article is that I want to help you who find it a bit terrifying to click on that “Update” button. Because what if something happens?
Do you have the latest version installed?
Before I go into some tips and tricks, I just want to emphasize the importance of having everything updated.
We who develop plugins work continuously to improve these, with increased functionality and improved compatibility. We also fix bugs and other small errors that may appear. Sometimes security holes are also discovered, which we close as quickly as we can. This applies not only to plugins but also to themes as well as WordPress and WooCommerce.
Updating simply gives you both improvements and increased security. Should you also ever need to contact support for a plugin or theme, they will nine times out of ten ask if you have updated to the latest version.
Different levels of knowledge
In theory it’s no problem to run a WooCommerce store without any in-depth knowledge of how it actually works. In reality, however, sooner or later there comes a time where you benefit from having an idea on how things are connected and interact.
Depending on what level of knowledge you are at when it comes to WordPress and WooCommerce your heart rate can be different when it’s time to update a plugin. Especially if it might be a plugin that handles your payments or your shipping. Most of us have been in a situation where we have updated a number of plugins and our theme and all of a sudden our website, or online store, has stopped working or looks as it should. To end up in that situation is not so difficult, but to get out of it can be trickier if you don’t have the knowledge.
We have earlier created a guide to troubleshooting in WooCommerce before creating a support ticket. You should have read this if you have a WooCommerce store. So that I don’t take too many parts of that article and reuse in this one I recommend that you take a moment and read through it right now. Click on this link and it will open up in a new window so you can easily return to this article once you’ve read it. I’ll wait.
Great, now you are in the loop on a few things that are good to know. I will repeat parts of what’s in that article, but with a little more information about the different parts.
A word like “backup” appears quite often when it comes to updating a website and its plugins. If you take a backup right before that heart racing update that didn’t go as planned you have nothing to worry about for the moment. Then it’s just a matter of restoring the backup and you’re back in business. Of course, this will not solve the problem that things will happen if you hit that update button again, but it gives you time to investigate a little closer what went wrong.
This is when we come to another concept you’ve probably come across; staging environment, or test environment. Actually, this is relevant from day one when you set up an online store, but since you’re still reading this text I assume you find it useful and might not have full knowledge of everything.
What is a staging or test environment?
What then is a staging environment? It is a copy of your website, installed so that only you can access it. You now have the currently functioning installation as you restored your backup after the previous mishap. Then it’s time to create a staging environment based on this working installation. Several web hosts offer one-click installations for staging features via the control panel. If your hosting provider does not offer this, you can take a closer look at plugins such as Duplicator and WP Staging.
You have probably already figured out why you set up your staging environment. So that you can update plugins, themes and systems without the pulse rushing if things go wrong.
In the case above, you already know that something went wrong when you chose to update all plugins that had an update. What you don’t know is which plugin caused the error. Here in your staging environment, you can now calmly update one plugin at a time until the error occurs and in this way you know which plugin caused the error. You can now take a step back before that plugin was updated and then continue with the rest of the plugins, one at a time, to determine that there were no more errors. If your theme also has a new version, you can update that as well and make sure that nothing happened there. Here you can also change the theme without worrying about your customers coming to your web shop and it doesn’t look like it usually does.
You are in your staging environment, you can try things out and never have to worry about something going wrong with serious consequences. For troubleshooting purposes, it’s very valuable to be able to disable and activate plugins as well as try out different themes. You can even force errors just to learn more.
If you keep your staging environment updated with the latest versions of your plugins, your theme, WordPress and WooCommerce and everything works as it should – well then you can also update your public page. Any troubleshooting and headaches have already been, now it’s just a matter of making your shop even better for you and your customers.