The Latest from WordPress: Update 4.9.3/4.9.4

At the beginning of February, WordPress released two updates in quick succession: 4.9.3 and 4.9.4.

You WordPress users probably got a few emails about the changes, particularly since 4.9.3 created a roadblock that required a manual update to correct. As with any WordPress update, it’s important that you upgrade to the latest version of the software, particularly if you’re responsible for hosting and managing client websites of your own.

Let’s look at why.

4.9.3 is all about maintenance

Released on February 5, 2018, this WordPress update sought to correct 34 bugs identified in its 4.9 release across several areas:

  • Customizer changesets
  • Widgets
  • Visual editor
  • PHP 7.2 compatibility

The full list of fixes is available for those of you interested in the minutia, but for general users, all that matters is that 4.9.3 corrects some annoying glitches that you may have noticed in your platform. From a housekeeping standpoint, these types of updates are always lifesavers.

…Or are they?

4.9.4 coming in hot

Your hard drive was probably still cooling down by the time WordPress released the update for its update: 4.9.4. Offered on February 6, 2017, 4.9.4 addressed an important bug caused by 4.9.3, which caused automatic background updates to fail to update on their own.

As WordPress waxes in its 4.9.4 maintenance press release, the company integrated self-updating tools into the platform over four years ago to support website security and functionality when site owners didn’t have the time to do updates by hand.

Well, the best laid plans clearly backfired in this case. The site admitted that after the automatic and glitchy 4.9.3 fix, manually updating to 4.9.4 would be necessary. A hassle? Sure, but if you haven’t made the switch already, don’t worry. The 4.9.4 update itself is relatively painless.

The issue at stake here isn’t really one of efficiency, but rather the inherent danger of trusting your platforms and service providers to monitor your website for you.

Know what’s happening on your website

Honestly, we love WordPress. And while we don’t want to rail on it too hard for this relatively minor mistake, we always like to use situations like these to point out the importance of having a web developer partner in your corner.

In the complicated world of website design, you need someone at the switch who knows what they’re doing. WordPress was quick with a fix in this particular situation, but this type of instant action isn’t always the case in web dev. Companies frequently uncover bugs in their code but decide that a full-fledged update isn’t worth the time. Plugins become outdated and create security loopholes. Add-ons to your page may conflict with one another and fry your website functionality.

These issues become particularly pressing if you’re responsible for hosting web services through platforms like WordPress. In its press release, the company pledged it would automate the 4.9.4 update as much as possible for business users who managed multiple websites, but these service providers will undoubtedly still have plenty of work to do to get their clients up to snuff.

Developer partners provide a control tower approach

Companies like WordPress want to provide a seamless experience, but as described above, the company can’t account for everything you do to your website. Unexpected errors (whether they come from ineffective software updates or something you’ve accidentally bungled on your own!) can compromise your website uptime, your marketing goals, and the public perception of your brand. Developer partners can monitor your website for these functionality issues and let you know when action is needed.

And when you’re working with companies less forthcoming than WordPress, this control tower approach can be a powerful safeguard against unexpected problems.

In short, if you’re working with the latest version of WordPress, make sure you install this important patch. But as WordPress’s rapid-fire succession of updates demonstrates, you have to be careful about what you install on your site. Consider working with an outsourced development company if you feel unprepared to tackle these issues on your own.