Should I update WordPress, my theme or the plugins first?

WordPress updates, when they pop up on your admin dashboard, the question “How many things will break this time?” comes straight into your mind.

As a WordPress Web Designer I have to deal with updates to the Core Version, Theme & Plugins almost daily for my clients so today I decided to share a few tips you need to consider when visiting the “Updates” tab of your WordPress Website.

Let’s jump right into it!

What is the best way to update my plugins, theme and WordPress without breaking my website?

The sad reality is, you can never guarantee a smooth update of your website without the risk of things breaking.

What you can do though is making sure you have a backup of your site if something goes wrong so make sure you do it even before touching the “updates” section of your WordPress admin dashboard!

What is the fastest way to backup my WordPress website?

I always use All-in-One WP Migration Plugin because all you have to do is:

    1. On your WordPress Admin Dashboard’s left menu mouse hover to All-in-One WP Migration and click on “Export” and then “Export to File”.
    2. Download that file and guard it with your life!
    3. If something goes wrong, go to your WordPress Admin Dashboard’s left menu, click on “All-in-One WP Migration” and then on “Import.”

Bear in mind that this method will only work if your PHP File Upload limit is higher than the size of your website. The WP Beginner website explains how to do this here.

The All-in-one WP Migration plugin also offers a paid unlimited extension that allows you to import a backup file of any size.

Make sure you always keep a full server backup as well because the file that the All-in-one WP Migration plugin generates isn’t the average zip file that you would typically use to migrate your site to another server manually.

That file only works on a website with a WordPress installation, and you have to install and activate the All-in-one WP Migration plugin to import your backup.

If you can afford to do the updates on a test environment first, that is also an excellent way to deal with any bugs after the updates.

Also, make sure you have a Child theme installed and activated, you can generate one quickly using Child Theme Configurator Plugin.

Now that you saved your precious work, it’s time to have some fun!

In which order should I start updating my WordPress Website?

My advice is, always update your plugins first, then update your theme second, your WordPress Core after that and if you have any new translation updates, do them as your last task during this website update session.

Yes, I used to do the core WordPress updates first, and yes, I used to create loads of incompatibility between different elements of my website.

It makes sense to update the plugins first because their developers always release new updates based on the latest versions of themes and WordPress itself. Theme developers have to base their updates on new WordPress versions so if we update WordPress before anything else, your plugins and theme aren’t prepared to handle the latest version of WordPress’s core files.

Still, since I started updating the websites in this order, I didn’t have any major incidents, and on the rare occasion it happened, I fixed it in seconds or just a few minutes.

If your website is built using Divi (affiliate link – 20% OFF), Divi Space published a great blog post explaining in more detail how you can update your Divi website.

Wrapping up.

WordPress updates can be scary, but if you take the right measures and use the tips I shared with you today, you will be able to minimise the risk of hours wasted fixing your broken website or even worst, having to build a new website from scratch.

I love a challenge so if you are nervous about updating your WordPress website, make sure you check out my Website Maintenance Packages and let me carry all the scary work for you.

Freelance Web Designer

By Tiago Lavis-Fernandes

Tiago is a Portuguese freelance web designer living and working in Manchester for over ten years. Fascinated by WordPress and the Divi Builder, he helps clients achieve success through UX/UI website design and search engine optimisation. If you're looking for someone to help with your online marketing, look no further.

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  1. Amos Calfin

    Thank you, very useful info!

    • Freelance Web Designer

      Glad you found it useful, thanks for your comment.

  2. Michael Smith

    I’ve been stuck on how best to go about updating my wordpress site, but this article has answered the queries I had. I look forward to the content you produce in the future, as this was very informative

    • Freelance Web Designer

      Hey Michael, I know. Once a website breaks because of updates, it fills you with anxiety the next time new updates popup. Hopefully this post will help many. Thanks for dropping a comment.

  3. Sam Harris

    This is a really useful article, thanks. I’ve been meaning to update wordpress for a while, but was concerned about losing my content. Thanks to this article I don’t have to!

    • Freelance Web Designer

      Thanks, Sam! I hope this article saves you time.

  4. Josh Parsons

    What’s up, I check your blog like every week. Your writing style is witty, keep up the good work

  5. Chloe McLean

    Oh man, you are an absolute life saver! Thanks for this.



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Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. This website is run by Tiago Lavis-Fernandes and not associated, or act on behalf of Elegant Themes. Divi is a registered trademark of Elegant Themes, inc.

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