Best Practices to Update WooCommerce

December 5, 2019 . by Aaron B

Keeping your WooCommerce website up and running means your business can operate 24/7. If you let things slide, however, you’ll find that transactions are abandoned, sales decrease and site traffic wanes.

If you’re wary of doing updates, there’s no need to be. With our easy-to-follow guide, you can keep your site secure quickly and easily.

Update WooCommerce in Six Easy Steps

  1. Create a staging site
  2. Make sure that WP_DEBUG_LOG is enabled
  3. Go to the WordPress plugins tab and update WooCommerce and any other related WooCommerce plugins
  4. Turn your payment options to testing mode
  5. Act as a customer and explore your site as they would. Follow the typical customer journeys and look out for errors and issues. Remember to check the error log at wp-content/debug.log for further info.
  6. If an error appears, use the message content to identify and fix the issue. The most common warnings to crop up are PHP related but others may appear too.

That’s it! With this simple process, you can test and do WooCommerce updates without worrying about downtime or loss of functionality on your site.

Creating a Staging Site

You’ll have noticed that Step 1 of updating WooCommerce is creating a staging site. This is an essential part of the process because it allows you to test updates in a safe environment, rather than on your live site.

Not sure how to create a staging site? No problem!

There are plenty of WordPress hosting companies which offer a one-click solution to your staging needs. 

Flywheel

If you’re using Flywheel for hosting, you’ll find it simple and straightforward to create a staging site. Simply click on the Advanced tab of your site’s Flywheel dashboard and toggle the staging switch to on. Voila! You now have a multipurpose staging site to test your updates on.

For sites using HTTPS, you may receive a security warning before accessing the site. This is because staging sites don’t use HTTPS credentials. However, there’s no need to panic. You can simply click through the warning and go straight to your staging site without causing any harm.

It’s worth noting that Flywheel doesn’t currently offer one-click staging for sites on their Tiny plan or any sites which have multisite enabled. Aside from this, all other sites hosted by Flywheel should facilitate one-click staging.

SiteGround

You’ll find a ‘Create Staging Copy’ button next to every Joomla or WordPress install that you have on SiteGround, so it truly is a one-click solution. If you have files and folders that aren’t part of the default application but are part of your root directly, you’ll be able to choose whether to transfer these to your staging site too.

To reduce the pressure on their servers, SiteGround does have some limitations when it comes to staging, including:

  • You must have fewer than 500 tables in your database
  • Site databases must be under 2GB
  • You will need to have more than 20% free space in your account
  • You can make up to 15 staging operations each day
  • You cannot have more than 10 staging environments per SiteGround account
  • Staging cannot currently be used alongside WordPress Multisites

Kinsta

Kinsta also offers straightforward staging site creation, so you’ll have no problem testing WooCommerce updates with this hosting provider. The left navigation pane has a handily named ‘Sites’ tab, which will show all of your WordPress installs. Just click on the one you want to add a staging area to, and look for the Staging dropdown button on the right. From there, simply click ‘Create a Staging Environment’ and you’re done!

To access your staging site, you can add the URL directly into your browser. All new Kinsta hosted sites use the following format:

https://staging-yoursitename.kinsta.cloud

It can take around 15 minutes for a newly created staging site to become available, so don’t panic if it doesn’t appear right away. Kinsta does state that Multisites may or may not work in conjunction with staging, depending on how they’re set up. However, any space you use within your staging environment won’t be counted as part of your plan. This means you can test updates and develop your site without worrying about exceeding your limits.

WP Engine

For sites hosted on WP Engine, you can create a one-click staging copy from your Admin Dashboard too. However, WP Engine has announced that their one-click staging is now considered legacy and will eventually be retired. You can find it under Legacy Staging on the WP Engine plugin at the top left of your menu. Clicking ‘Copy site from LIVE to STAGING’ is all you need to do to create a staging copy of your site.

As this option is due to be retired, however, you may want to start using their Environments menu. Once logged into your user account, click on the site you want to work on. Under the production menu on the left, you’ll see an ‘Add Staging’ option. Simply click this and a staging copy of your site will be created. Additionally, you can create production sites and additional environments if you wish to develop your site.

These four examples show just how easy it is to create a safe staging area in which to test your WooCommerce updates. Are you using a different hosting provider? Let us know how easy their staging options are and whether they measure up to SiteGround, Kinsta, Flywheel and WP Engine.

WP_DEBUG_LOG

To make sure that any issues are logged it’s important that you set up the WP debug and debug log on your staging site (more on that to follow).

To get started you need to add the following three lines to the wp-config.php file:

define( 'WP_DEBUG', true );
define( 'WP_DEBUG_LOG', true );
define( 'WP_DEBUG_DISPLAY', false );

Now with this set, any errors should appear in wp-content/debug.log.

The importance of updating payment gateways too

Customers expect payment gateways to work without a hiccup, if the functionality of your site fails at any point during the transaction process, the customer may be wary of your website and disappear off to a competitor’s site. Not only will you lose that sale, but you could also lose the customer forever.

Due to this, it’s important to take extra precautions when you’re updating payment gateways. Although the latest updates can enhance the security of transactions and add new features, it’s vital to subject them to proper testing before you update them on your live site.

If you’re only going to test one type update, make sure it’s payment gateway updates. 

Testing payment gateway updates

When you update payment gateway on your staging site, run through various dummy transactions to ensure they all work. It’s beneficial to test every type of payment method you offer on your staging site, as this will give you peace of mind that the update doesn’t negatively affect any of them.

Once you’re satisfied that the update doesn’t destabilise your site or decrease functionality, you can switch back to your live site and do the update. Whilst some site owners assume that testing a WooCommerce update will be complicated and time-consuming, this isn’t the case at all. One-click staging solutions make it easier than ever to test updates, so there’s no reason not to trial them before you modify your live site.

By conducting comprehensive testing, you can save yourself the trouble of trying to debug your site if and when an untested update goes awry. With the potential to protect your site, your customers and your brand, testing your WooCommerce updates are essential for any online retailer.