Are you worried that the new WooCommerce update will jeopardize your online store? Or if you’re reading this, the latest update may have already broken your site.
It’s okay. There’s a way to fix everything.
When you run an update on your site, more often than not, it goes smoothly. But we use WooCommerce ourselves on our website, and we know that there are occasions where updates don’t go as planned.
Some updates have caused incompatibility issues and even broken our site. When this happens, visitors will either see a malfunctioning store or they won’t be able to access the site at all.
While you find and fix the issue, you stand to lose customers and revenue.
But luckily, there is a way to update WooCommerce safely without ever jeopardizing your online store. In this guide, we’ll show you the steps you need to take to update WooCommerce safely.
Implementing updates is as easy as clicking a button, but sometimes, it can result in errors or a broken website. As WooCommerce sites are highly sensitive, it’s crucial to use a safe method to update WooCommerce. First, back up your site and then create a staging environment to test the update. You can use a reliable solution like BlogVault’s backup and staging plugin to do this. Once you are confident that the update works, you can update your live site.
Why WooCommerce Updates Are Different
WooCommerce is, without a doubt, one of the most popular eCommerce platforms in the world.
The developers of WooCommerce work hard at improving the plugin. They continuously add new features, fixing issues, and tightening security to make your online store look and function better. These new developments are released in the form of updates.
And with WooCommerce, updates are released quite frequently. Every update improves your site in one way or another and ideally, you should run every update as soon as it is available. This will ensure your site is using the best and most secure version of WooCommerce.
Now, to update WooCommerce, you can simply click on Update Now when you see an update available on your WordPress admin panel.
But as we mentioned, updating WooCommerce without testing it is risky, especially with WooCommerce, because online stores are extremely sensitive.
When customers see a broken site, they’re quick to move to a competitor site. In the meantime, you need to put your store into maintenance mode and investigate the issue. This could take days, even weeks! Eventually, you’ll figure out the solution but the cost incurred is high.
To avoid repercussions like this, it’s crucial to take the necessary precautions and follow safer methods of updating WooCommerce on your site.
That said, let’s get started. First, we’ll show you precautionary best practices to follow and then we’ll take you through the steps of safely updating WooCommerce.
Precautionary Steps When Updating WooCommerce
WooCommerce may look like just another plugin on your WordPress site, but it’s actually an extraordinary plugin.
For starters, it creates its own custom tables in your database. WooCommerce is also usually used in tandem with extension plugins. This causes a network of interdependencies which means a problem with one WooCommerce extension can cause problems for the whole WooCommerce segment of your site.
So before you run a WooCommerce update, there are a few very important steps to take. Listed below are precautionary steps you should take to facilitate a smooth WooCommerce update.
Step 1: Check the WooCommerce plugin’s version details
WooCommerce developers update the information about the plugin in the WordPress repository. Here, you can view which version of WordPress version and the PHP version is required.
From the example above, you can see that your website should be using WordPress 5.2 or higher and PHP version 7.0 or higher. Once you have this information ready, you can move on to the next step.
Step 2: Ensure WordPress is updated to the latest version
Like WooCommerce, WordPress too is updated from time to time for the same reasons – to introduce new features, improve performance, fix bugs, and tighten security. When WordPress releases a new update, some plugins and themes become incompatible.
So, developers of these plugins and themes also update their software to make sure it remains compatible with the core WordPress software.
What does this mean for a WooCommerce update? If you try to update WooCommerce while running on an old version of WordPress, it will most likely become incompatible and stop working.
In step 1, you learnt how to check the details of the WooCommerce plugin. Ensure your site is running on the version of WordPress required. In the example below, to update WooCommerce to version 4.3.2, your site should be running WordPress version 5.2 or higher.
To check which version of WordPress your website is using, visit your site and check the page source. You can use the shortcut CTRL + U or Command+Option+U to access the page source. Here, search for ‘WordPress’ and you’ll find the version number.
Our site is running on version 4.9.8, so we need to update WordPress before we update WooCommerce. To do this, you can follow our guide to updating WordPress safely. If you’re using a compatible version of WordPress, you can move on to the next step.
Step 3: Check PHP version
Your WordPress site uses a programming language called PHP, which is also updated on a regular basis.
To find out which version of PHP your site is using, log in to your hosting account.
Go to cPanel > phpMyAdmin.
Here, you can see which version of PHP your site is using:
In our example, the PHP version required is 7.0 or higher. Our site is using PHP version 7.3.6, so we can proceed with the WooCommerce update.
If the PHP version of your site is lower than what is required, you will need to update it before you run the WooCommerce update. You can learn how to update it in this Guide to Update PHP Version on WordPress.
Step 4: Check changelog details of the WooCommerce update
It’s important to check what the WooCommerce update contains – whether it carries new features, bug fixes or security patches.
This will determine how quickly you should update your plugin. If it is a security patch, you should run the update immediately using the safe method we’ve detailed below. However, if it contains new features, then you can wait a few days to check how the plugin update performs.
You can find out the details of the update in the WooCommerce using any of these methods:
1. When you see an update available on your dashboard, you can click on View Version Details to view the changelog.
2. You can also view the changelog from the WooCommerce plugin’s development page in the WordPress repository.
3. Visit the WooCommerce site and check out their blogs on their update releases.
Step 5: Check WordPress forum support
When WooCommerce users run updates, they usually post about it in WordPress support forums. You can find out if the update caused problems for others. You’ll find information about errors, bugs in the new version, and even how to resolve them.
Once you’re confident that your WordPress site is ready for the WooCommerce update, you can proceed with the method detailed below.
How to Safely Update WooCommerce?
We’ve emphasized how sensitive online stores are and how different the WooCommerce plugin is from other plugins. Therefore, the WooCommerce update needs to be handled with extra care. We’ve detailed a method below that guarantees that you can run the WooCommerce update without the risk of breaking your site. Let’s begin. The steps you’ll need to take are:
- Backup Your WordPress Site
- Create A Staging Site
- Run The WooCommerce Update On Your Staging Site
- Push WooCommerce Update From Staging To Live
- Test Your WooCommerce Site After The Update
Note: To carry out these steps, you need a WordPress tool that will enable you to backup and stage your website. You can backup and stage your site with your web host, if they provide the option. There are also a number of backup and staging plugins available, however, not all of them work flawlessly.
As this is a highly sensitive update, we recommend using the BlogVault backup and staging plugin. It’s easy to use, it’s reliable and trusted by thousands of WordPress users, and it’s guaranteed to work every time.
It’s also important to note that WooCommerce has its own custom tables. Not all backup plugins are designed to backup WooCommerce sites because they do not backup custom tables. BlogVault has a specialized backup option for WooCommerce that ensures custom tables are copied. Plus, any changes made to your website are backed up in real-time.
Now, we’ll show you how to safely update your WooCommerce site.
1. Backup Your WordPress Site
To backup your WordPress site, follow the steps below.
PRO TIP: Whenever you’re making any major changes to your WooCommerce site, take a backup. If anything goes wrong while you’re making changes, you can restore your backup quickly.
- Install the BlogVault plugin on your WooCommerce site.
- Select the plugin on your wp-admin panel, enter your email address, select staging, and Get Started.
- BlogVault will redirect you to its dashboard where it will automatically take a backup of your entire WooCommerce site.
Note: The backup will only take a few minutes, but it can largely depend on the size of your website. You can exit this page and the backup will continue in the background. BlogVault will alert you via email when the backup is complete.
2. Create A Staging Site
- Next, on the BlogVault dashboard, you’ll see Staging. Click on Add Staging Site.
- On the next page, you can choose the backup version and PHP version. By default, the latest backup version is already chosen, so we recommend that you skip this.
Once you hit Submit, BlogVault will set up your staging environment in under a minute.
- Next, you’ll see a username and password. These credentials make your staging site inaccessible to any visitors or search engine bots.
Make a note of this because you’ll need it in the next step. You can proceed by clicking on Visit Staging Site.
- A window will appear requesting the username and password to sign in. Enter the credentials you noted down.
- To access the staging site’s admin panel, add ‘wp-admin’ at the end of the staging site URL. You can use the same wp-admin credentials as your original site to login here.
That’s it. You’ve successfully taken a backup and created a staging environment for your WooCommerce site. Now, you can test out the new update.
3. Run The WooCommerce Update On Your Staging Site
On the staging site’s admin panel, go to the Updates or the Plugins tab. You should see that a WooCommerce update is available. Click on Update Now.
Once done, visit the staging site to make sure everything is functioning fine. Run a test run of your customer’s journey from browsing to checkout. If you see anything out of place, you can fix it here.
A few important areas to check include:
- Check all your main pages such as the home, contact, pricing, cart, and checkout pages.
- You can use a tool like https://nibbler.silktide.com/ to check if there are any broken links and broken images.
- Make sure all your button links or custom theme layouts work fine.
- Check custom menu items that you can find under Appearance > Menu.
- Run a cross-browser test on all major browsers such as Chrome, Mozilla, and Safari.
- Run a cross-device test on all major devices such as iPhone, iPad, Laptop, and Desktop.
Once you find that everything is working fine, you can proceed to update your live site.
In case you encounter errors or a broken site, we’ve detailed what you need to do in the next section. You can skip ahead and come back here to update your live site once the errors are resolved.
4. Push WooCommerce Update From Staging To Live
Once you’re happy with your updated staging site, updating your live WooCommerce site is easy. BlogVault has a convenient feature called ‘Merge’ that will push your changes to your existing site.
So the update along with any fixes you’ve made will be replicated on your live site without any downtime.
To push your changes from your staging site to your live site:
- Go back to the BlogVault dashboard, under Staging, select Merge to Source.
BlogVault will take a few minutes to sync your staging and live site to determine the differences. A list of changes will be displayed. BlogVault gives you an option to merge all changes or select the changes you want to merge.
- On the next page, you need to enter your FTP credentials. These credentials give BlogVault permission to merge the staging site with your live site. If you don’t know your FTP credentials, contact your web host. We have a guide to Finding Your FTP Credentials which you might find helpful.
- Next, select the folder in which your live WooCommerce website resides. By default, this folder is called public_html. If you’ve named your website’s folder something else, choose that folder.
Your WooCommerce store will be updated in a few minutes.
5. Test Your WooCommerce Site After The Update
Now we know you already tested out the update on the staging site, but WooCommerce is a tricky business. So we recommend re-running the same tests again on your live site.
If you’re using a caching plugin, clear your cache to ensure only new content is displayed. Visit your store and run the same tests as you did on the staging site. It may take a few minutes of your day but it’s worth it to ensure your site is performing optimally.
Once you’re done testing, you can sit back and relax. You’ve successfully updated WooCommerce without breaking your site.
This method guarantees a smooth WooCommerce update every time. It saves you from negative events like a broken site, a crashed online store, or a malfunctioning feature on your site. It saves you from having to put your site in maintenance mode and investigating the issue. It saves you from spending time, effort, and money in fixing botched updates.
Next, we’ve listed out the common errors you might encounter while running WooCommerce updates on your site and how to solve them.
Common WooCommerce Update Errors And How To Solve Them
We’ve run WooCommerce updates plenty of times and have seen all sorts of errors. Some are easy to resolve, but others are fatal. But in all cases, the steps towards resolving the issue remain more or less the same. Let’s get started.
Common WooCommerce Update Errors
- You see a broken website or white screen of death
- You notice that only the store section of your website is crashing
- Your theme, or certain plugins and extensions have become incompatible with the new WooCommerce version
- You get error or warning messages
- WooCommerce Install doesn’t exist anymore
- The WooCommerce update itself has failed
If you encounter such errors or issues, don’t be quick to uninstall WooCommerce. We recommend following the steps below.
Checkout our latest guide on “Another update is currently in Progress” Error
How To Safely Resolve The WooCommerce Updates Errors
Before we jump straight into resolving the errors on your site, there are a few important things we need to address:
- Sometimes trying to fix the error only makes things worse. Always backup your site, create a staging environment and use it to troubleshoot.
- In case you’ve run the update on your live site directly and you encounter these errors, a quick resolution to get your store back is to restore your backup. This will work provided you have a working backup copy. Once you restore your site, follow our process of using a staging site to test the update first that we entailed above.
- Alternatively, you can also try rolling back the update using the WP Rollback plugin.
- If you do not have a backup copy and cannot roll back the update, put your website into maintenance mode while you troubleshoot the problem. If you have access to your WordPress admin panel, you can install a plugin to do this.
Now, you can begin to troubleshoot the problem.
Step 1: Check the WooCommerce plugin’s version details.
Step 2: Check if your site is using the latest WordPress version available (or at least a compatible version).
Step 3: Increase your PHP memory. You can learn how to do this in our wp-config guide.
Step 4: Check and update the PHP version.
Step 5: Rule out theme conflicts due to outdated theme template files.
Step 6: Rule out and disable conflicting plugins.
Step 7: If all this is in order and you’re still facing problems, you should check the WooCommerce support page or the WordPress forum support.
Being Careful About Future WooCommerce Updates
The main lesson to take away here is that WooCommerce is a special plugin that needs extra care. A WooCommerce site has so much at stake – inventory, listed products, purchase orders, customer details, and more. It’s too risky to update your site directly from the dashboard.
Spending an extra hour is well worth it! Here’s what we recommend you always follow:
- Schedule your updates at a time when your website doesn’t get much traffic
- Dedicated an hour or two towards the update
- Always check the details of the WooCommerce update
- Make sure you’re running on latest WordPress version and PHP version
- Check popular forums for other WooCommerce user’s experiences
- Always… always take a backup first. Then, create a staging site to test the update. Never run an update without testing
- Only once you’re satisfied with it, merge the updated staging site to your live site
This method will guarantee that your WooCommerce site is always up and running. Your customers are never affected and you can carry on your business as usual at all times.
Backup & Stage Your WooCommerce Site With BlogVault