Nine times out of ten, when you update WordPress or one of its plugins, everything will work without any issue. In fact, for a while now, WordPress has offered the ability to enable automatic updates both for its core and its plugins. However, at PatchPress we prefer to only do the updates manually so we can see exactly when a problem might arise. Either way, backing up of files and databases before updates is the only way to go.
The following is a list of plugin updates that we’ve found problematic in the past. This is by no means an exhaustive list, nor something that everyone would agree on; it has just been our experience.
There are quite a few out there now, but we’ve mostly experienced issues with WPBakery and Elementor specifically. Unless a client requests it, we stay clear of these types of plugins as they add load times and increase the complexity of troubleshooting greatly.
As long as the updates are fairly recent, meaning that they are extremely out-of-date, then there’s a greater chance for it being successful. But, it’s common for sites to go without updates for some time. This is probably where the auto-update philosophy comes into play, but again we believe manual updates are safer. Also, auto-updates can be unsuccessful if licensing for a plugin has expired.
The worst thing about these plugins is that the entire look and feel of the site can break with them. Out of the two, we’ve found WPBakery more problematic.
The one that we’ve had difficulties with has been Facebook for WordPress, though it’s generally had more to do with its interactions with other plugins. Like medications, they sometimes interact with each other, and sometimes in disastrous ways. One particular combination that works flawlessly most of the time, but has caused huge problems at times, is Facebook for WordPress and Gravity Forms.
Now, we’ve found Woocommerce itself to be fairly stable; it’s the addons/extensions that can be sticky. The really difficult thing about Woocommerce updates is how important it is that they NOT break, since we’re dealing with customer purchases. The safest bet is to stick with official Woocommerce addons, but it’s pretty common to find that third-party extensions are cheaper and often work better.
Really, just about any plugin has the potential to cause problems upon updating, but some are a little riskier than others. Keeping site backups is a definite must so that in the worst-case scenario you can restore your backup and go back to the drawing board. Also, there are managed WordPress services (which we offer) that can help you make sure everything is always working as it should, without you having to worry about the details if anything bizarre happens.