Is WordPress’ latest change to automatic updates for plugins and themes a good idea? Should you enable them on your own website? WordPress experts Peacock Carter discuss.
What are automatic updates in WordPress?
Automatic updates – or Auto Updates – are just as they sound – WordPress will try and automatically update plugins and themes on your website, as of version 5.5. This feature is not enabled by default on WordPress websites, so you will need to enable
Previously WordPress has required a degree of proactivity in order to maintain plugins and themes, as well as the WordPress core updates, but a move to automatic updates is a step to making maintaining your WordPress website much less intensive, time-wise; with a few caveats, of course. Updates to plugins, WordPress core, and themes, will be triggered by the wp-cron.php now, up to twice a day. In essence, this means that updates can be run automatically twice a day – without any need to log in to WordPress and click buttons.
How will Auto Updates effect my website?
How Auto Updates effect your WordPress website will vary hugely depending on your website hosting arrangements, and the plugins and themes you have installed. As a first port of call, you may find our article on getting help for your WordPress website helpful if you are struggling with this.
A handful of WordPress plugins (such as Wordfence, a popular WordPress website security plugin) already update automatically, so you may notice no difference at all. For more information on WordPress Auto Updates, see WordFence’s article on this topic.
Disadvantages of WordPress Auto Updates
Updates are vital in keeping your WordPress website secure, so this move to automatic updates is largely a positive, but, as with many things,there are some side effects.
- The major disadvantage of automatic updates in WordPress is that features can suddenly fail without you realising – this can mean, for example, that your contact form stops working overnight, without you realising. This can be somewhat mitigated by using popular and reliable WordPress plugins.
- Many updates add fixes for security issues, but some updates can introduce security issues of their own for your WordPress website. Automatic updates could make these issues hard to detect.
- The quality of WordPress plugins and themes varies greatly. This means some plugins will be able to update automatically without issues most of the time, whereas other, less tested plugins, will not be as thoroughly tested and may be more likely to cause issues.
Should you enable Automatic Updates for your WordPress website?
Thankfully, WordPress allows you some options as to whether you should enable updates on your own website:
- Don’t enable WordPress Auto Updates at all – continue to manually update everything
- Enable Auto Updates for certain plugins in WordPress. As we’ve mentioned, some plugins already do this, but chose carefully!
- Turn on Automatic Updates for everything – a riskier proposal, but you’ll certainly discover which plugins and themes you use are built more robustly. Not recommended without some serious research!
As ever, if you’d like any help with your WordPress website, Peacock Carter are an established WordPress agency in Newcastle upon Tyne, and offer ongoing WordPress support packages for corporate and third sector clients.
Are you struggling with your WordPress website? Have a problem and don’t know what to do next?
Here are some tips and tricks from the WordPress experts at Peacock Carter to get help with your WordPress website if you live in Newcastle upon Tyne, Gateshead or County Durham here in the North East of England.
Is the issue with a WordPress theme or plugin?
Have you used a free plugin or theme for your WordPress website? You can use the WordPress community’s free support pages here: be sure to describe your issue very carefully (it’s really helpful if you can describe, step by step, what the issue is, and how someone else might be able to replicate it).
Have you purchased a WordPress theme or plugin for your website that doesn’t work? Try contacting the website you bought the item from first, as they should provide at least a basic level of support for customers to help you get it up and running! If that doesn’t help, you may need the ask for help from a WordPress web developer.
Is it a WordPress website hosting issue?
Is your website loading slowly, or not loading at all? Check with your website hosting company first; small WordPress websites shouldn’t struggle to load, even on cheap hosting packages, but there are a few things you could do to help speed up your WordPress website, including:
- Consider disabling any WordPress plugins you aren’t using (or even deleting them from your website entirely)
- Compress images in your website; there are a few plugins you can use to help you do this in WordPress, including Smush
- Add a caching service; some WordPress-friendly web hosting such as Siteground.com provide these tools built-in to their hosting packages
If speed is still an issue for you, ask your Newcastle-based WordPress developers for a recommendation for WordPress hosting.
Ask at WordPress North East
WordPress User Groups are meetups for WordPress website users, designers and developers. They are free to attend, and can be a great place to get a little free help (though be prepared that could be anything from 5 minutes to an hour, depending on who’s there). WordPress North East covers the North East of England, and usually meets monthly in Newcastle upon Tyne or Gateshead. Peacock Carter are co-organisers of this meetup, and place emphasis on making WordPress accessible to as many businesses and organisations as possible.
You can find out more about WordPress North East on their meetup page.
WordPress support packages
As a Newcastle web design agency who have worked with WordPress since we started in 2006, we offer a range of WordPress website support packages which may be of interest for ongoing help with your website. If you’re not sure WordPress support is for you, check out our article which explains some of the common tasks we undertake in WordPress support packages.
Some WordPress training courses are not like the others, and in this article we look at a few of the reasons we believe our training sessions and workshops stand high above the others.
We’ve seen those poor quality, mass-marketed training courses which provide ineffective at best, and down-right incorrect guidance at worst. Our WordPress training courses are designed to give you and a small team a deeper understanding of WordPress tailored to your business.
1. Technical knowledge without the jargon
We’ve been working with WordPress since our foundation in 2006, and have a wealth of technical knowledge on WordPress, but we’re also experienced training course facilitators, and are adept at tailoring the level of information to the audience in the room. Simply, Peacock Carter’s training courses are designed to tell you what you need to know, without overwhelming you with technical jargon.
2. We use WordPress every day
At Peacock Carter, we use WordPress every day. We’ve worked with hundreds of clients in the last 14 years who have relied on WordPress to run their business systems and boost their turnover, and we share our accumulated knowledge with you. This means you can benefit from 14 years and counting of WordPress experience!
3. Learn about search engine optimisation
Our WordPress trainers also have a knowledge of SEO (search engine optimisation) practices, allowing us to advise on structuring your website’s content for best results in search engines. This goes much beyond the depth of many basic WordPress training courses, adding true value for your organisation.
We can also add a workshop session to help you run an SEO audit on your WordPress website as part of our time with you, which provides an actionable list of improvements and suggestions you can make to your website to improve its performance in search engines such as Google and Bing. You can find out more about how SEO audits for WordPress websites work here, in a previous blog post.
4. Comparison to other content management systems
WordPress is just one content management system of hundreds out there, and Peacock Carter have had experience with many of the most popular over the years. This allows us to give you some insight in to workflows and good content management practices to ensure your business makes the most of WordPress.
5. WordPress workshop time
Unlike some WordPress training courses in the UK and elsewhere, we offer a “WordPress workshop” session at the end of your training, to allow you to recap any content you’d like to know more about, and to ask any questions the training material hasn’t covered. Many of our clients find this hugely beneficial, as it provides an opportunity to have our WordPress expert review specific areas of their websites and provide extra value in the training.
When dealing with new web design clients, one topic that crops up regularly is how we can migrate content from an old website system in to a new platform such as WordPress.
As with many web development tasks, there are many ways to address the challenge of moving all of your content, files and images to a new website platform – and potentially a new web server, too. We take a look at the options available to businesses wanting to move their website to WordPress – a process known as migration.
Why move to WordPress?
There are a number of good reasons to move your website to WordPress:
- Moving to WordPress can potentially reduce your ongoing website support costs by allowing you to manage a lot of your own website’s content
- Migrating can also save on potentially expensive license fees for proprietary content management systems – WordPress is free to use, open source software
- Your staff are already familiar with the WordPress platform
We love WordPress at Peacock Carter for providing a solid base for building all variety of websites, from simple brochure websites, to ecommerce websites and membership databases.
Of course, before we begin – if you’re attempting this yourself, please make sure you back up files and database of your previous website before attempting anything!
1. Migrate your website manually – copy and pasting!
This is one – very painstaking and slow – way to move your website to WordPress, and we wouldn’t recommend it! Copy-and-pasting your website’s content in to a new WordPress installation is one way to migrate your website, but it’s a potentially long and painful experience.
Copy-and-pasting your website is prone to introducing errors in to your content, and you may miss content that isn’t publicly visible (such as draft content which hasn’t been posted yet) doing it this way.
2. Use a WordPress migration plugin
WordPress is open source software and is also free to use, and supported by a huge worldwide community who contribute extra features you can add to your website, known as “plugins”.
Some plugins are definitely better than others, but we highly recommend the WP All Import plugin if you’re going to attempt it yourself – it makes it about as easy as it can be to migrate even larger websites to WordPress. No plugin can deal with every content import situtation, though, so you may find limitations in even the premium plugins which call for a little help from a WordPress developer.
3. Ask the WordPress experts
Peacock Carter have migrated countless websites to WordPress since we started in 2006, from custom built content management systems, to Drupal, Weebly, Wix and Shopify. Each platform comes with its own challenges when migrating to WordPress, and as experienced web developers, we can work with you to solve them.
Considering a WordPress website support package for your own website, but not sure if you’d make the most of it?
Peacock Carter have worked with WordPress since 2006, and since then have worked with a range of small business, corporate and non-profit clients to support their websites day-to-day. Here are some of the top tasks we do for our support and maintenance clients.
If you’re looking for WordPress help in Newcastle or Gateshead, you may find the linked article helpful too!
WordPress security updates
One of our key tasks is to ensure that WordPress and all of your website’s plugins are up to date.
Updating WordPress core and any plugins you have installed is key to ensuring the security of the website, though this usually quite a small portion of the support work we carry out for our clients, as some tasks can be automated or semi-automated.
New feature development
A much larger proportion of WordPress support time is used to define, design and build new features for your website. This could be anything from improving your website’s search engine friendliness (see our SEO audits, below), adding a membership area, integrating WooCommerce to take payments through your website, or more bespoke functionality. The larger the project, the more support hours you’ll require of course – and we can also provide these WordPress development tasks on an ad-hoc basis.
We work with clients to develop a roadmap of features and functionality to be added to your WordPress website over time, allowing you to continue to adapt and thrive in your sector.
Auditing your website is often something we undertake as part of WordPress website maintenance as a housekeeping task to check on the health of your website, including website loading times and performance in search engines. Our SEO audits for WordPress websites can be undertaken as part of ongoing support contracts, giving you a prioritised, actionable list of items and areas to improve on your website to improve search engine friendliness and user experience on your website.
Training and documentation
We also allow clients on WordPress support contracts to book training sessions as part of their support contract. These can be key to your inhouse teams making the most use of your WordPress website, and are invaluable in giving your team confidence to manage your website on a day-to-day basis.
Training might be shorter, more informal training sessions delivered by video call, or fully-fledged half-day or full-day WordPress training courses delivered at their premises.
Documentation is also a key factor for many clients, delivering step-by-step guides on how to use particular functionality on your website which can be shared across your team, or company-wide.
Hello? Is it us you’re looking for?
In those infamous lyrics from Lionel Ritchie, the purpose of a website contact form is described; it adds the ability for your customers to complete a form and send you a message without requiring them to open their email program. If you’re running a business, this can be a useful feature for your website as it gives customers another option to contact you about your services or products.
Here we look at ways you can improve contact forms on your WordPress website to make them easier to use for your customers – and hopefully therefore increase the number of sales enquiries you might receive via your website.
1. Keep your contact form simple
As people, we only tend to have so much patience when completing forms, whether they’re on paper or online. Keeping your contact form as simple as possible should help more people successfully complete your contact form.
Here are a few guidelines to help keep contact forms simple:
- Do you need this information to process a proposal or quotation for the customer?
- Can this field be merged in to another, reducing the total number of fields being asked for?
- Have you already asked for this information in another format? If so, remove one!
- Do you have a way of contacting the person making the enquiry? Be sure to ask for an email address or telephone number.
Of course, data protection laws in the UK mean you need to have a clear reason to ask for – and collect – information, so think carefully about the information your contact form asks for.
2. Use the correct field type
Once upon a time, there were only limited types of field available. These days, there are a multitude of field types available to use which can help customers enter the information you need more quickly, and with fewer errors:
- URL (web address)
- Email address
- Number fields, which allow you to set a minimum and maximum value that can be entered
- and many more!
For older browsers that don’t support these new field types, don’t worry – they fall back and customers will see a normal text field. Dropdown fields can be an excellent way of preventing customer errors when filling in forms, giving them a preset choice of options to chose from.
The benefits of using the correct field type are increased validation – modern browsers on computers, tablets and mobile phones – meaning the information customers are sending you is more likely to be correctly formatted. For things like email addresses, this can help prevent customers accidentally giving you a wrongly spelt email address. Handy!
3. Test your contact form
Finally, testing your contact form once it’s ready – and then on a regular basis – is a useful bit of website housekeeping for your website. The best way to test your contact form is to try and break it! That means entering the wrong information and experiencing what your customers might face when trying to complete a contact form.
- Do the error messages make sense to you? Will they help a customer to work out what they did wrong so they can fix it and complete the form?
- Does the email you receive from the contact form make sense? Does it have all of the information you ask for in it?
- Do messages sent through the contact form have a back-up? Do you check this regularly. For example, if you’re using the Contact Form 7 plugin for WordPress, you may want to add the Flamingo plugin, which stores a copy of every message submitted through the website. This is really helpful if you have issues with your email, or the form malfunctions and doesn’t send the email to you.
- Have you tried the contact form on your mobile phone? Completing a contact form on your laptop or desktop computer is one thing, but have you tried completing it on your mobile phone? Customers using their mobile phones to browse your website (which can be over 50% of visitors to websites in our experience) may struggle to fill your form in, as they have smaller screens to see your form with, and smaller keyboards, leaving room for more errors. Using the correct field types (see above) can help here