One of the biggest advantages of WordPress is that the users receive constant updates for the core as well as the themes and plugins. That means the websites are always updated with the latest features and functionalities.
But some updates, especially with the plugins, can totally disrupt your website. And a prime example of that is WooCommerce, which you use to turn your website into an eCommerce store. Since WooCommerce is fundamentally integral to the eCommerce store, even one issue with the update can bring the whole site down. That’s why you need to be very careful with it.
So, how to update WooCommerce correctly? Are there any precautions to take? And more importantly, what do the WooCommerce experts suggest on this matter? I’ll answer all of these questions, but first, let’s see “Why?”.
Why Update WooCommerce Carefully?
When it comes to plugin updates, it’s usually recommended you enable “Automatic updates”. But WooCommerce is a little different from the other WordPress plugins.
Contrary to other plugins, it’s highly recommended to disable automatic updates for WooCommerce, and there are a few reasons behind that.
WooCommerce updates often introduce new features, security patches, and bug fixes. While beneficial, these changes can sometimes conflict with existing themes, plugins, or custom code on your store. This can lead to broken functionality, visual glitches, or even complete website crashes. Careful testing before updating helps mitigate these risks.
Outdated software is vulnerable to security exploits. Hackers target older versions of WooCommerce, knowing many store owners might neglect updates. Keeping WooCommerce updated ensures you benefit from the latest security patches, protecting your customer data and website from malicious attacks.
Certain payment gateways, shipping providers, and other integrations might require specific WooCommerce versions to function properly. Neglecting updates might lead to compliance issues, causing payment processing problems or shipping errors.
So, you need to be very careful when updating your WooCommerce integration. To that end, you can either update this plugin manually or consult with the hosting service for monitored updates. Or you can opt for site maintenance services of a professional WooCommerce development company. They offer WooCommerce updation so your website doesn’t encounter any downtime.
How to Prepare for Updating WooCommerce?
As I mentioned earlier, WooCommerce updates are a little more complex than those for your normal WordPress plugins. So, you need to consider a few preparative steps to ensure everything goes well when you do update WooCommerce on your website. Let’s take a look.
Backup Your Site
This is a crucial part of updating any plugin or even the WordPress core. Create a complete backup of your website files and database using a plugin like UpdraftPlus or Duplicator.
That allows you to rollback to a previous version if the update encounters issues.
Review the WooCommerce update changelog and documentation. See if there are any known compatibility issues with your current theme, plugins, and custom code.
Update these elements first if necessary. You can also use compatibility checkers like Plugin Check. It will help you understand whether or not the new WooCommerce update will be suitable for your website and its plugins and themes.
It allows you to simulate the live environment and identify potential issues before they impact your actual store. So install the WooCommerce update on the staging site first to test for any conflicts or issues before applying it to your live store.
For that, you can either visit your hosting panel or install a plugin like WP Staging.
Gather update information
Read the WooCommerce update changelog to understand the new features, changes, and potential compatibility issues. This helps you anticipate any adjustments or troubleshooting you might need after the update.
Disable caching plugins
Caching plugins store static versions of your website’s pages to improve loading speed. This is great for performance. However, after updating WooCommerce, the cached versions might not reflect the latest changes. So, temporarily disable caching plugins like WP Super Cache or W3 Total Cache to ensure you’re seeing the latest changes after the update.
By taking these steps into consideration, you can have better chances of a smooth and successful WooCommerce update. After the preparations, it’s time to update WooCommerce.
As I mentioned earlier, it can be a little tricky to update WooCommerce on your website. So you can get help from a dedicated WooCommerce development company. But if you would like to complete this process yourself, refer to the next section.
How to Update WooCommerce Carefully?
During the preparations, I stressed the importance of having a staging site. That is going to come in handy during the WooCommerce update process. First, we are going to update WooCommerce on the staging site and clear any potential issues. Then, after being satisfied with the results, we can move on to updating this eCommerce plugin on the live site.
So, let’s begin the process with the first stage, i.e., staging.
Updating WooCommerce on the Staging Site
Here’s how the WooCommerce updation goes on the staging site.
Step 1: Take a picture of your website
It’s more than just taking your phone out and taking a picture. This visual comparison tool helps create a complete backup of your live site’s files and database before making any changes. It will give you a benchmark for how the site should look after the update.
Although WP Boom is a popular tool, there are other options available. Choose one that captures both website files and the database. Consider incremental snapshots to capture changes made during the staging process.
Step 2: Run a testing tool on your staging site
Don’t rely solely on manual testing. Integrate automated testing tools like BrowserStack or Behat to cover various functionalities systematically.
Go beyond basic functionalities like login and navigation. Test specific features like product search, checkout flow, payment gateways, shipping options, and integrations with other plugins. All tests should pass before proceeding with the update. Address any failing tests to identify and fix potential issues before they impact your live store.
Step 3: Update your other WordPress Plugins and the Theme
Start by updating core WordPress files. After that, move to the plugins and the theme. Make sure you check for compatibility issues after each update. Use plugin and theme documentation or online resources to check for known compatibility issues with the new WooCommerce version.
After updating each plugin and theme, re-run your tests to ensure everything still functions as expected.
Step 4: Update WooCommerce on Your Staging Site
Now comes the crucial step of the process: updating WooCommerce. You can use the built-in WordPress update functionality for more granular control over the update process. Observe the update process carefully and look for any error messages or unexpected behavior.
Remember that staging sites might not always perfectly replicate your live environment. Be prepared for minor discrepancies during the update.
Step 5: Check your logs for errors
Next up, you need to review server logs, error logs within your WordPress dashboard, and any logs generated by your testing tools.
Pay attention to error messages, warnings, or suspicious activity that might indicate issues introduced by the update. And research their causes and fix them before applying the update to your live site.
Step 6: Take a second picture of your website
After the above steps are complete, take a second screenshot of your website. It will help you identify any unexpected changes introduced during the update process. You can use WP Boom again to analyze the differences between your initial and post-update snapshots.
Pay close attention to changes in core files, plugin/theme settings, and database entries that might affect your store’s functionality.
After this, you can run the testing tool again to ensure everything is working as intended. If yes, move on to updating WooCommerce on the live site.
Updating WooCommerce on the Live Site
After you are satisfied with the WooCommerce update on your staging site, it’s time to update it on the live website. Here’s the process for the same.
Step 1: Back up your live website
First off, back up your live website. It provides a safety net in case anything goes wrong during the update. Use a plugin like UpdraftPlus or your hosting provider’s backup tool to create a complete backup of both website files and the database.
Consider taking an additional backup just before starting the update process for added security.
Step 2: Take a screengrab of your website
Capture a screenshot of your entire website before the update. This serves as a visual reference to compare against after the update, helping spot any unexpected changes. Consider taking screenshots of key pages like the homepage, product pages, and checkout flow for a more detailed comparison.
Step 3: Run a testing tool on your website
The process of updating WooCommerce on the live site would be roughly the same, except for a few differences. Run the same testing tools you used on your staging site (BrowserStack, Behat) to identify any functionality regressions or errors introduced by the update.
Remember, live testing might not be as comprehensive as on a staging site due to potential traffic disruptions. Prioritize critical functionalities.
Step 4: Sync and push your changes on the live website
Now comes the most significant part of this process, i.e., updating the WooCommerce changes on the live website. That means using the built-in WordPress update functionality or a plugin like “WP Version Manager” for more control.
But if you encounter issues with plugins, a plugin like “WP Rollback” will enable rollbacks. Using a plugin to solve plugin-related issues. What an irony, huh?
Watch the update process closely and look for error messages or unusual behavior.
Step 5: Check your error logs
At this point, review server logs and error logs within your WordPress dashboard. Also, check any logs generated by your testing tools for any errors or warnings. Then, address any identified issues before moving forward. Research their causes and fix them to prevent potential disruptions.
Step 6: Take another screengrab of the site
Similar to the 2nd step, capture a full-page screenshot after the update to compare with the pre-update screenshot. Pay close attention to any visual or layout changes, especially in critical areas like product pages and checkout flow.
Step 7: Run the testing tool again
Just like you did in the staging site, execute the automated tests after updating the WooCommerce plugins on your live website. That will help ensure everything still functions correctly. Simultaneously, repeat the manual checks on critical areas to confirm a smooth user experience and functionality.
Step 8: Final visual check
Carefully compare the pre and post-update screenshots to identify any unexpected visual changes or layout issues. And browse your website thoroughly, testing different functionalities and user flows to ensure everything looks and works as intended.
If possible, enable maintenance mode during the update. That will prevent visitors from accessing the site while changes are being made.
As you can see, this process can be a little confusing for those without the technical know-how. So, if you’re not sure about the process, I suggest you consult with dedicated WooCommerce development experts.
FAQs on How to Update WooCommerce
Q1. Is it necessary to update WooCommerce?
Yes, regularly updating WooCommerce is crucial for your online store’s security, performance, and functionality. Updates often include:
Security patches: Fix vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers.
Bug fixes: Address issues that might cause errors or malfunctioning features.
Performance improvements: Enhance website loading speed and user experience.
New features: Expand your store’s capabilities with the latest additions.
Q2. What should I do after updating WooCommerce?
Here’s what you need to do after updating WooCommerce:
Test all functionalities: Checkout, payments, shipping, product pages, and custom features.
Review error logs: Check for any errors or warnings that need attention.
Monitor performance: Keep an eye on website speed and user experience.
Keep backups readily available: In case you need to revert to a previous version.
Q3. Can I automate WooCommerce updates?
While convenient, it’s generally not recommended to automate WooCommerce updates due to potential compatibility issues and risks. Consider manual updates or scheduled updates during off-peak hours.
Updating WooCommerce might seem daunting. But with proper preparation and a step-by-step approach, you can ensure a smooth and successful transition. Remember, these updates are essential for keeping your store secure, functional, and competitive.
Here’s how you update WooCommerce on your eStore website.
Backup your live site
Create a staging site
Update other plugins and the theme
Test your website
Want WooCommerce update or other eCommerce maintenance services? Then, talk to our experts today!
Ankur Shah is a tech-savvy expert specializing in eCommerce solutions. With a deep understanding of WooCommerce and Shopify, he helps businesses optimize their online stores for success. Whether it's implementing new features or troubleshooting issues, Ankur is your go-to guy for all things eCommerce.
Leave a comment
Develop Your eCommerce Store with Us!
It is just a tap away! Experience our eCommerce development expertise. Our talented team delivers projects on time, using advanced techniques. Stay connected to achieve seamless business objectives.