This changes everything. Again. Almost. WordPress 4.o arrives August 27. What does that mean for small business websites running the world’s most used content management system? It means you need to review how to update your WordPress installation.

How To Update WordPress

When I train our clients to use WordPress, I always start with updates. Maintaining an up-to-date version of WordPress is one of the most important things you can do to prevent property loss from hacks and viruses. And it’s incredibly easy. You can do it in just a few clicks.

First, login to your website. Go to the login page by typing your website’s URL with the addition of /login at the end. All WordPress websites have a login page at this address. Enter your account’s username and password and click Log In to proceed. In seconds, you’ll find yourself at the Dashboard.

The Dashboard displays a number of modules that might be customized for your site. However, it’s the first place you’ll be notified about a new WordPress update. In the past, a notification like the one shown below appears when the update is ready. I expect WordPress 4.0 to arrive at your Dashboard in a similar way.

Screenshot of WordPress Update Notification

Click the link in the notification to be taken to the WordPress Updates screen. The first thing you’ll see is a warning to back up your database and files. Hopefully you’ve been doing this all along and you know you’ve got last night or last week’s backup in your pocket in case the update fails. It won’t, but now is a good time to confirm you have a backup anyway.

Click the blue Update Now button to start the update process. Then wait. Your website will download and install the latest version of WordPress automatically. This shouldn’t take more than a few seconds. If you’re stuck waiting at a gray screen, leave that tab or window open until the process completes.

Sample Update Now Button


When I updated to a beta version of WordPress on my test site, it booted me out and required me to login again. If this happens when you get the final version later this month, don’t freak out, just login. Then, you’ll see the Welcome to WordPress 4.o screen shown below.

WordPress 4 Welcome Screen

So, what exactly comes with an update to WordPress 4.0? Lots of stuff, actually. Most improvements and upgrades are behind the scenes. There are hundreds of fixes, patches and wholesale replacements to fix issues you may not have come across on your own WordPress site. Now you never will because those glitches are gone. WordPress is tighter, faster and more secure than ever.

However, there are a few new features you’ll enjoy upfront. You might just have to squint your eyes a little.

Look For These Subtle Upgrades

WordPress refines the media workflow with each release. The 3.5 update debuted a completely new system that made it easier to insert new media items and reuse your favorites. This time, look for a new way to view your Media Library. For years, it’s just been a list of titles with worthless thumbnails. Now you can see it all in a pleasing, easy-to-use grid.

The new grid view will make it easier to manage fast-growing collections of blog post images as visual content becomes a requirement for effective online marketing.

Media Library Grid View

Writing and producing all that great marketing content gets easier with an improved formatting toolbar that pins to the top of your editor. Previously, you reached the bottom of writing a post and found the formatting toolbar lost far above, forcing you to scroll up, use the toolbar and scroll back down where you left off. Now, everything’s always, intelligently available without scrolling.

I’m also excited about live embed previews in the post editor. In earlier versions, YouTube videos and other embedded media were shown as lifeless gray boxes with no identifying marks. Now, simply copy a media item’s URL into your content from any of these supported sites and watch it magically load next to everything else.

Screenshot of Live Embedded Media Preview

One more thing, in WordPress 3.9.1, color was kidnapped. Text color customization was taken far away, leaving users with a predefined pallete of text colors. The color picker returns in 4.o, so prepare to let your imagination run free. You know you need Quinacridone magenta (Hex #8E3A59).

Were you expecting more? Like I said, a tremendous amount of the value in updating your site is increasing the stability and security of the operating system. It’s not always about features. That said, what features would you add to WordPress if you could? Let me know in the comments.

Look for the update to drop on August 27th. Make sure to back up your site before updating, and follow the simple steps above to keep your site running the latest and greatest WordPress.

Interested in using WordPress 4.0 effectively but not sure if all the features are for you? Make to sure to read through our WordPress 201 guide before you upgrade: