Upgrade WordPress, then upgrade plugins!

The current version of my WordPress SEO plugin has a new feature: it supports post type archives in several places. It also has a bug: if your version of WordPress (ie. everything before 3.1) doesn’t support post type archives, it’ll break. Now, this is annoying and something I will fix in the next release, but I’m absolutely astounded by the number of people that seem to upgrade to a new version of my plugin religiously (thank you!) but do not upgrade WordPress.

You see, the plugin is in beta. WordPress is not. Why, please do tell me, would you not upgrade WordPress first but instead upgrade the plugin and then decide not to upgrade WordPress? I’ve had 10+ threads on the WP forums about this same topic now (which actually is another issue in itself, people don’t search and I can’t close threads).

Common reasons not to upgrade WordPress

Let me list some standard reasons for not upgrading and my response:

  • “I’ll loose my customizations” – I’m sorry to say that you’ve done it wrong and should’ve built a plugin, which is your fault, not mine. At some point I will drop support for 3.0, so you really should go and fix it.
  • “My theme doesn’t work with 3.1″ – for starters, I don’t believe it. WordPress 3.1 hardly broke anything that was built using normal WP standards. If it’s really true, you’ve got a crappy theme and you should either fix it or change themes.
  • “I can’t tell you why but it’s not an option to upgrade WordPress” – if you can’t tell me, I can’t help you, but the above reasons probably apply.
  • “My developer says it’s not safe to upgrade” – fire him and get another developer. If he / she thought it was safe to use beta software (my plugin) but doesn’t think it’s safe to upgrade WordPress, he has too high an opinion of my coding and too low an opinion of the WordPress development team. You’re in luck though, apparently there are 20,000+ of them.
  • “Other plugin X-Y-Z breaks when I upgrade.” So, instead of complaining to the developer that doesn’t update his plugin to work with the latest version of WordPress, you decided to complain to the developer who did do that, in fact updated his plugin to let you benefit of all the new functionality? Wrong way round.
  • “This plugin I paid for breaks when I upgrade”. This is he worst of all. Read the line above and then add to that in your head that my plugin is free.

Now, I’ll point everyone here who has one of these issues. If you feel I’m too harsh: I’m sorry. That won’t change my opinion though. If you really need my plugin and are at a loss at what to do, you can always, you know, hire me.


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42 Responses

  1. RichardBy Richard on 22 April, 2011

    couldn’t agree more. I even ditch plugins that aren’t updated frequently enough (only if they break down of course).

  2. Justin ParksBy Justin Parks on 22 April, 2011

    Bloody hell Yoastie, you having a bad day? :) Hope ya feel better now that you got it all out on a post!

    • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 22 April, 2011

      Responded to 48 threads in the WP forums in 2 days ;)

  3. MaxxBy Maxx on 22 April, 2011

    Because of WordPress’ developers track record for releasing too early and breaking users sites, I wait a week before upgrading, better safe than sorry :)

    • David ArtissBy David Artiss on 22 April, 2011

      Now that’s interesting, because according to the WordPress release history the last time a WP release followed within a week of another was… never. So this theory will never have protected you from a buggy release.

      I wasn’t aware WP had a “track record for releasing too early”. The recent betas, in my opinion, have gone on too long, although I have had a rock solid upgrade.

      • MaxxBy Maxx on 22 April, 2011

        My bad, it was 10 days after 2.9 was released, 14 major bugs were discovered(curl related) and WP 2.9.1 RC1 was released. It just makes sense to wait a little before upgrading.

        • David ArtissBy David Artiss on 22 April, 2011

          Fair enough. But if everybody has the same mindset, how do these bugs get discovered?

  4. Pothi KalimuthuBy Pothi Kalimuthu on 22 April, 2011

    Recently I fixed a series of sites that were hacked. In all those sites, there were two common issue. Firstly, none of the blogs were upgraded to the latest version of WordPress. Actually they were running 2.8 or less! Secondly all were using plugins that are not actively developed or maintained.

    I did see those comments and can’t blame you for anything. Actually I laughed at some of them. Because they were written as though you owe something for them. :)

    • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 22 April, 2011

      Yeah it really is a good test of my patience…

  5. GrahamBy Graham on 22 April, 2011

    Hey Joost, I see your point regarding your beta plugin, but generally speaking upgrading plugins first makes sense because it gives plugin authors time to fix any incompatibility introduced with WordPress core changes.

    • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 22 April, 2011

      Well that’s true but not if the new WP version has been out for over a month.

  6. Dylan van der HeijBy Dylan van der Heij on 22 April, 2011

    I think you hit it on the post. When we develop websites based on WordPress for clients we never, ever, change the core code of WordPress itself and we always make sure that we can upgrade.

    WordPress will not upgrade if there is no improvement since the last version, so I believe there is never a reason to say ‘it’s not save’. If you find it not save as a developer you probably delivered bad work.

    One thing I can understand are lazy and cheap clients, in this case maybe it’s not possible to upgrade. They will experience the result themselves I guess..

  7. Ken JonesBy Ken Jones on 22 April, 2011

    Yoast, I’m stunned that there are so many people out there who are choosing to bitch about about your plugins, which in my experience are always updated regularly and swiftly after WP core updates, rather than addressing the other issues that they’re using as excuses for not upgrading WP. I’m stunned but not really all that surprised considering the low opinion I have of 99% of people out there, although I would have credited anyone who’s smart enough to use your plugins with enough intelligence to understand the reasons and benefits of keeping EVERYTHING in their WP install up to date.
    Personally, whenever I set up a new WP site and go looking for plugins I always check to see how recently they were updated before installing and generally shy away from those that haven’t been updated in more than 6 months. There’s so much abandonware cluttering up the WP repository but there are also tonnes of alternate plugins that will do the same job so there no excuse from a user perspective for insisting on using an out of date plugin.
    I’m always grateful for the amount of work you put in creating and maintaining your range of plugins. In fact, whenever I am going through the task of setting up plugins for a new WP install I usually just search “yoast” and install nearly everything that comes up before I bother looking for anything else.

  8. Marcin CzekajBy Marcin Czekaj on 22 April, 2011

    Yes, Sir! Sad to hear, that you have to waste your time because user is lazy.

  9. Gary BarrettBy Gary Barrett on 22 April, 2011

    I saw those threads on WordPress.org.

    Unfortunately a lot of people seem to bitch about plugins/themes not working, when it’s actually the users fault for refusing to upgrade WP, or they’ve chosen a shitty host that runs php4.

  10. Richard AmsterBy Richard Amster on 22 April, 2011

    Joost, I have not installed the new version because it’s in beta.

    I’m new to WordPress and blogging. As a newbie, I can tell you that we are ignorant of such things as the order in which to update programs. I’m glad I read your post.

    Question: if I am on the current WordPress release, is it now totally safe to install SEO 2.x, or should I wait till it’s out of beta?

  11. Dave DurbinBy Dave Durbin on 22 April, 2011

    Don’t let em get you down. You’ve been educating the WordPress community for years now I for one am grateful. Matter of fact, that may be a good post -( READ THIS FIRST – Basic Blog Maintenance The Right Way ) Best practices by Joost

  12. Jesse McDougallBy Jesse McDougall on 22 April, 2011

    HAHA! I’ve had days like that. Good for you. Go get ‘em.

  13. SanderBy Sander on 22 April, 2011

    Hey Joost, I was thinking about this.. I always advise my users to first upgrade plugins, and after that WordPress. As it happened to me once that after upgrading WP, the site broke down because a plugin wasn’t compatible. Well it was, but not until I updated it to the latest version.

    Since that accident I first upgrade plugins, then WP.

    • GrahamBy Graham on 23 April, 2011

      I agree. From a configuration management point of view, you don’t want to upgrade the core first as soon as it is released because if you do, you’re running a combination of plugins and core that have never even been tested by the plugin developers. WordPress’s automatic upgrade is damn handy, but makes tight CM a bit of a nightmare. This is why I maintain local copies of my sites, and do the upgrade locally first to make sure nothing breaks before I upgrade live sites.

  14. Jacob SmithBy Jacob Smith on 22 April, 2011

    Great post.

    It’s easy to forget sometimes that wordpress and all the plugins we all use don’t always work. I maintain about 60+ wordpress driven sites, and it’s rare that I find an issue when upgrading the plugins I use regularly, or the WordPress core – especially since about 2.9.

    It’s also quite easy, when you maintain a lot sites for clients, to simply click ‘upgrade’ on a plugin – especially when it’s Yoast plugin! I might be more careful if it were a rarely-developed or random plugin…but a Yoast plugin always works, right. :) That beta stamp feels a bit like a Google ‘beta’ stamp. You read it, but trust that it’s pretty much as good as it gets for free.

    The trick of course is not to get lazy with your maintenance and upgrading. Follow the directions, back it all up, use a good host, and keep current on the wordpress core – even if only for security and peace of mind!

    Thanks Joost for all your work and (yes) nudging towards best practices.

  15. RyanBy Ryan on 23 April, 2011

    I have never seen a WordPress installation that I have built break during an update, and I’ve built/updated quite a few of them. I’ve seen plenty of other peoples sites break during upgrades, but it’s usually due to them running shonky code or the upload process going wrong.

    • RemkusBy Remkus on 23 April, 2011

      My experience exactly. There are way too many wonky themes out there done by ‘professionals’..

  16. JatinBy Jatin on 23 April, 2011

    Hello Joost de Valk, I ran through the bug that you mention in beginning of your post. At that time, I was using 3.0.1.

    I was at sea (totally), then my friend suggest me to upgrade WordPress first, and then all the plugins. I did what he said, and it work :)

    Thanks for writing this article, as it will help many people, who are new to WordPress and plugins.

  17. Alex AguilarBy Alex Aguilar on 23 April, 2011

    To be honest I never bother upgrading WordPress because I am happy with the way everything works as it is. But I do use your SEO plugins and I guess I’ll have to upgrade WordPress to maintain compatibility with the plugins. If it weren’t for plugins there would be absolutely no reason for anybody to fiddle with a WordPress installation that is secure, stable and works well.

    • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 25 April, 2011

      You couldn’t be more wrong Alex. WordPress tends to backport it’s security updates only 1 release, so if you stay on a release too long, you won’t be secure at all.

  18. Jacob Guite-St-PierreBy Jacob Guite-St-Pierre on 23 April, 2011

    Hahaha! Amen to that!

  19. RickBy Rick on 23 April, 2011

    I totally agree with this post. My developer tried to tell me I couldn’t upgrade WordPress 3.0.1 because of my theme, certain thing wouldn’t work and so fourth. Then I had a issue with IO Error upon picture uploading which Joost kindly gave me the quick answer to my problem…. but that was after my server technicians tried everything possible and mistakenly upgraded my WordPress version to 3.1.0. (nothing at all broke or stopped working might i add).

    I haven’t look back. My currently now on WordPress 3.1.1 and everything works like a charm still.

  20. BrandonBy Brandon on 23 April, 2011

    I was a little hesitant to use this plugin when I was looking it over based on all the problems I was reading about it.

    I decided to give it a go anyway and it seems to be functioning perfectly for me. Looks like most of the problems I was reading about must have been related to people slacking on their updates.

    Glad I wasn’t tricked by the update scaredy cats. Awesome plugin is awesome.

  21. NormanBy Norman on 24 April, 2011

    Good post. We are all at the mercy of various plug-in developers and should be cautious about adding plug-ins left, right, and center (and use only plug-ins developed by respected developers). Personally, I’ve weeded out a few poor plug-ins from my sites simply by upgrading WP religiously. If the plug-in developers are not on top of keeping their plug-ins up to date then it’s time to find a replacement plug-in from a developer who is!!

  22. Douglas GalbiBy Douglas Galbi on 24 April, 2011

    Thanks for all your work on your plugins. Don’t let the complainers get you down!

  23. Rev. VoodooBy Rev. Voodoo on 25 April, 2011

    Excellent post. I don’t know how many threads I see on the forums with issues that can be fixed by keeping everything up to date. It’s so vital… keep WP up to date. And only use extras (themes, plugins) which are up to date, and reputable.

  24. Mike WilsonBy Mike Wilson on 25 April, 2011


    Thanks for the article and thanks for all the contributions you’ve made to the WordPress community! I’ve used your SEO plugin on a couple of projects recently and it is awesome.

    As to your question, sometimes I can’t upgrade WordPress first because I’m using another plugin that isn’t (yet) compatible with the latest version of WordPress AND the functionality of that “other” plugin is vital to the project. That shouldn’t automatically prevent me from applying plugin updates as they become available and in most cases it does not.

    Backwards compatibility is obviously something you have to consider and I completely understand if a developer chooses not to or cannot support an older version of WordPress in a particular update. I think the best thing to do is just make it clear which version(s) of WordPress you do support so folks can make a proper decision.


  25. Référencement AnnecyBy Référencement Annecy on 29 April, 2011

    Managing a little bit over 200 WP websites for our customers means nearly a full-time job now with all these updates to carefully follow and testing websites thereafter. WP= easy to build but chrono-eating to manage ! :-/

  26. MarcusBy Marcus on 29 April, 2011

    amen to that! as a courtesy though, you should give the complainers a refund :)

  27. Mike Henry Sr.By Mike Henry Sr. on 3 May, 2011

    I’m one of the ones who contacted you. I have a membership site with one or two plugins that provide features for users and I don’t have a replacement for them. So I understand your passion and I agree in principle with you, but the practical application is that I’m not able to do the work or pay the developers to migrate things to the new version.

    Everyone doesn’t have the time, money and resources to upgrade every time WP does. Besides, it saved me the 3.1.1 upgrade. Mike…

  28. Benjamin LeeBy Benjamin Lee on 5 May, 2011

    Hi Joost,

    Thanks for the plugin. You said it right. Besides that, latest WP had security fix and comes with new cool features. Thanks again for your free contribution to the WP community.

    I would like to point out a couple of spelling mistakes in your post. teh word “loose” should be “lose” and it should be “the” in the “This is he worst of all”.

    Cheers….You are wonderful.

  29. dalibor_rodenBy dalibor_roden on 20 May, 2011

    Hi Yoast! Hi guys! Thanks for the posts. Please, help to find the best solution for my phoshop files to be published on wordpress engine for future website? I know there are pluins, but are those functional enough??