When you find your WordPress site has been neglected for far too long, sometimes trying to update it can be a huge problem.
I get a lot of requests to help update old WordPress websites. If your site has not been kept regularly up-to-date, clicking the update button can often take down your site.
Below are 4 reasons why your site might experience technical difficulties if it’s very out-of-date.
1. Your hosting company has upgraded PHP on your server and WordPress has stopped working.
With old WordPress sites, you can often find that the theme you are using or plugins installed on your site simply won’t work with the new 7.X versions of PHP.
Most hosting companies no longer allow older versions of PHP to be used as support for PHP 5.X has ended. In some cases your hosting company may simply upgrade you with no prior warning, causing all manner of trouble.
If your WordPress site is old, there’s a very good chance that some of the code or plugins used will throw errors or stop your WordPress site from working completely.
These errors may be visible to visitors to your site and can damage your reputation. Obviously, a site that doesn’t work at all is even worse.
2. Your WordPress theme is just too old.
Even if your WordPress install is up-to-date, if your theme is really old, this can also cause issues.
These can include PHP errors outlined in the first point, but can also cause plugin conflicts that can take your site down.
If your site was built on a free theme that’s no longer being supported or your bought a premium theme and have let the support lapse, you could face errors on your site.
Free WordPress themes can often be great at the time of install, but if the author decides to stop updating the theme, it gradually gets old and more out of date, leading to problems on your WordPress site.
If you’ve bought a theme, it’s often very common for the licence to not be renewed. Given that people often inherit WordPress sites when they change jobs, it’s all-to-easy for registration and renewal emails and details to get lost.
If your site is seriously out-of-date, it can also sometimes mean that you simply can’t update your theme at all.
3. You’ve let plugin your licences lapse.
This is another issue I see a lot. Often, when agencies build your site for you, they may install plugins that they own the licences for. Over time, as you change developers or people move on, these licences stop working.
This can be down to you not renewing them or the agency that built the site revoking the licence as they no longer have you as a client.
Whilst these plugins will continue to work, the all-important updates will not be available to you and over time, old plugins can also stop your site from working properly or cause massive security problems for your site, leaving you open to vulnerabilities and a possible WordPress hack.
4. Your WordPress page builder plugin is out-of-date.
Similar to the plugin issues mentioned in point three, this issue is one that I see the most often.
WordPress page builder plugins are tools that give you more control over the layout and content on your website, but they are seriously complicated plugins that can often cause be more troublesome than the problem they seek to solve.
Again, you may have let a licence lapse, or simply didn’t know you needed one, but a non-working page builder plugin effectively renders your site useless.
Best-case is that is simply doesn’t work, so buying a new licence and updating it might fix the problem. Worst-case is that your site stops working altogether.
When your page builder is the problem, it’s often a good opportunity to remove it completely and your website’s reliance on it. This not only fixes your immediate problem but also gives your site a performance boost at the same time.
Is your WordPress install really too old?
If you are running anything older than WordPress 5.0 I’d recommend updating your site.
If you can’t actually see what version of WordPress you are using, it might mean that your developers have actually removed the ability for you to update your site (this is often done to try and tie you in on a support contract).
The older your version of WordPress, the more likely you are going to have issues when you do update it, so it’s best left to a professional.
I generally clone problematic sites to my own server so I can take a proper look at everything without risking errors on your live site.
My process is as follows:
- Clone your live site to my server.
- Update WordPress, plugins and themes to identify where the errors are
- Fix what’s fixable – it could be a few lines of code or mean swapping out a plugin or two
- Advice on the best course of action for your site
It’s important to remember that while WordPress is as future-proof as can be, sometimes things do reach end-of-life.
What should you do next?
If you’ve recently tried to update a really old WordPress site and are experiencing problems, I can help.
I’ll take a look at your site, plugins and theme and can advise on the best way of solving your WordPress issues.