Do You Actually Need a Joomla Upgrade?

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Do you actually need a Joomla upgrade? You have a Joomla website that may have a little age on it. You still think it looks good (or maybe you don’t), but you know that technology moves quickly and your Joomla website which was once shiny and loved may now need some renewed attention.

As of June 2024, the most current version of Joomla is 5.1. Later, I will discuss what’s new and improved in Joomla 5x. But for now, it’s time to find out if you actually need a Joomla upgrade and how. Let’s get started.

Why Should I Upgrade My Joomla Website?

We should start with why you should upgrade your Joomla website. Joomla, like other content management systems (CMS), must be upgraded on a regular basis. Joomla is continually patching and improving its software. Some of these releases contain minimal improvements and changes. Other releases offer major changes to the platform. 

You don’t necessarily have to upgrade your Joomla website each time Joomla releases a new update. However, you don’t want to fall too far behind the latest version.

While not an exhaustive list, here’s the major reasons to upgrade your Joomla site sooner rather than later.

Avoid Your Website Becoming Obsolete

As new versions of Joomla are released, older features are no longer compatible with newer technologies, plugins, extensions, etc. This can lead to quite a few headaches. You may begin to see more bugs with your website performance and even some security issues.

Improve Website Security

website hacker - Joomla upgrade concern

Speaking of security, older versions of Joomla are more susceptible to being hacked than updated or upgraded Joomla websites. Also, when vulnerabilities are found, security patches may not be available for older versions. Hackers actually seek out older Joomla websites with known vulnerabilities as the targets for their nefarious activities.

Additionally, some web hosting companies may no longer host older versions or they may banish your website to a high-risk hosting server with other high-risk websites, further increasing your vulnerability.

Better Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

There are many variables that affect how your website will rank on Google and the other popular search engines. Much of this has to do with on-page content, but there are many “behind the scenes” elements that also affect website performance and thus your ability to rank well. The older the version of Joomla you have, the better the chances that your website is being held back by technical SEO problems.

Joomla Support for Your Website

As Joomla releases new updates and upgrades for its website platform, it has to also stop supporting older versions. Joomla does announce when the life-cycle of a version ends in terms of support. If you have not upgraded your website by that date and then have issues, you will not have Joomla! Support to help resolve your website malfunctions.

Improved Website and Content Management

There are many reasons why Joomla and other website platforms continually update their offerings and release new versions. One of these reasons is to offer a better experience for the website owners. They want to offer new features to those that use the product. They may want to offer a new dashboard that is easier to navigate. 

Oftentimes the content management system (CMS) allows you to more easily add, edit or remove content from your website so you can improve the user experience of your website visitors and increase revenue.

Rekindle the Romance with Your Website

When running a business, it is easy to push some things aside that feel like a lower priority when compared to day-to-day tasks and emergencies. Upgrading your Joomla website gives you the opportunity to get back to some of the goals you had for your website and some of the things that you may have left undone. 

If your website is important to your business, then these items can make a big difference in the impact that your website has for your business. 

What are some of those things?

Joomla Web Design

  • Revisit goals for the website.
  • Clean up navigation (are there any pages that are no longer relevant).
  • Add new functionality.
  • Create (and stick to) a content schedule to bring in more visitors to your site.
  • Analyze site traffic and ROI for the website.
  • Consider a new web design.
  • Evaluate digital marketing options

Major vs. Minor Joomla Upgrades

You may not quite understand the scope of the upgrade that is needed for your website. Joomla updates and version upgrades come out frequently. Oftentimes they are simply a security patch for the versions of Joomla that are currently supported. These types of Joomla upgrades can be done within the admin of your website and are simple. You will even see a warning if you login to the backend of your website telling you that the update is available.

A major Joomla upgrade is when you are moving from one version of Joomla to another. For instance, if you are still on Joomla 1.5, you need to move to Joomla 3.8 or higher. This is when you need the help of a Joomla developer who knows what they are doing. If you are unsure, reach out to us to get an estimate.

Mistakes to Avoid During a Joomla Upgrade

Performing a Joomla upgrade or update is not as simple as just pushing a couple of buttons to sub in the newest version. Joomla releases new versions for a number of reasons. Depending upon the upgrade that you are performing, there can be major differences between those versions. 

Lots of website elements must be considered, which means many opportunities for things to go wrong. Our experience in performing Joomla upgrades over the years has taught us a few things. In this case, we want to share some of the most important no-no’s!

Not Running a Full Backup Before Starting

There is absolutely no excuse for not running a full backup for your Joomla site. You can use Akeeba Backup. The free version will make you a nice backup that includes BOTH your files and database.  The Pro version lets you set up automated backups, upload to Dropbox and more.

We also recommend running a plain Jane SQL backup as well because it can be helpful when working with migrating other extension data.

Not Checking System Requirements Beforehand

The latest Joomla versions have higher technical requirements than previous versions. You can see those on the official Joomla website.  Even though it lists PHP 7.2.5 and up, most 3rd party extensions are going to require PHP 8.1+, so you might as well start there.  You also need to make sure that Magic Quotes is disabled.

Using Out of Date Joomla Extensions

The absolute quickest way to break a site is to have an out-of-date extension on it that is not compatible with the version of Joomla you are using.  If you are upgrading from an early version of Joomla, you should be building on a fresh install and importing the database data with SP Upgrade (preferred) or JUpgrade.  If you are going from Joomla 1.6, 1.7, or 2.5 up to Joomla 5.x, then you will need to physically uninstall any extensions that are not compatible.

If you currently use an extension that does NOT have a newer version, you need to make a choice: 1) Switch over to an alternative extension 2) Delay upgrading 3) Remove the functionality if it’s not completely necessary. Many times it’s still worth upgrading if there is a minor loss of some feature.  I do not recommend #2 unless the developer specifically has stated it is in progress and either has a release date or milestone.

Not Getting a New Version of the Joomla Template

You have made EVERYTHING else migrate perfectly, but if your template isn’t upgradable, then you are probably not going to successfully go live. If you’re already on a newer version of Joomla, templates will require a decent amount of tweaking. If you’re on Joomla 1.5, 2.5, or 3.x, it will be much quicker to just replace the templates rather than trying to update.

Many times, someone will have a commercial template on a site and not have a current subscription for it. Know that you will need to get a new license before upgrading. This is similar to what I said about budgeting for extension subscriptions.

If there is NOT a new version of your template out, you are probably better off selecting a new one that matches your design rather than paying to get your current one converted.  Most new templates are “responsive” (which means they auto-resize on different size devices) and have lots of other new features like being built on a framework that allows you to make changes.

Not Running Website Backups Regularly During the Joomla Upgrade

Just as it is important to run a backup before starting upgrading, you need to regularly run those backups while you are in the Joomla upgrade process. It may save you a lot of time and headache.

Once you get all the core Joomla data migrated (users, content, menus, etc), make sure you run another backup. Anytime you accomplish another chunk of the upgrade, run ANOTHER backup (such as setting up a new template, installing new extensions, migrating data for other extensions, etc). 

Many times I have gotten all the basics done, then when I go to migrate over a 3rd party extension, I’ve gotten completely stuck. This way you can roll it back and not have to start over again, which will save some of that headache we mentioned at the beginning.

Not Considering SEO Friendly Settings

Joomla is difficult enough when it comes to Search Engine Optimization, so don’t make it even harder by not using the appropriate SEO settings. Search Engine RankingsIf the SEO friendly settings were in place from the previous version, be sure to match them during the upgrade.

While it is a very good thing to get your website running on the newest version of Joomla, you do not want to do it at the expense of tanking your current Google rank.

Make sure you set up your search engine friendly links the exact same way as the previous site or you will have a TON of broken links.  You will want to check those settings in the Global Configuration of your site and check to see if you are using a 3rd party SEF extension like sh404sef, JoomSEF, MijoSEF, etc.  If so, you will want to take the time to make sure that is set up exactly the same, including installing any additional plugins.

Not Removing the Old Site from the Server

The main reason people upgrade their site is that having the older version of Joomla can make you vulnerable.  If you leave the old copy on your server, then you haven’t removed the threat.  Someone can hack in through the old version and gain access to your database and FTP files, which means they can completely ruin your day. 

For all the hacked websites I have seen over the years, the hacker doesn’t usually login to your Joomla site. Instead, they mess directly with the database and files, so don’t leave them the foothold by leaving the old site up.

You should have the full website backup of the old site you made at the beginning of this process.  Save that on your computer and/or somewhere remote like Dropbox.  Then delete all the old files and database from your hosting.

What’s New With Joomla 5

Joomla 5 was created with the following improvements in mind: 

Performance: Quicker page loading speeds. This can improve user engagement and SEO rankings.  Speaking of SEO, Joomla 5 has improved their structured data (schema) capabilities with an easy-to-use plugin, This can improve your website’s visibility in search engines by making it easier to get “rich snippets.” Joomla 5 also allows you to utilize AVIF images, a next-gen image format that compresses images without losing quality. 

Security: Improved defense against hackers and threats. Joomla 5 includes support for PHP 8.2 and is compatible with MySQL 8.0.11+. Joomla 5 also emphasizes codebase cleanup and optimizations. This version of Joomla also utilizes “Passkey,” which enables passwordless authentication to access your site more reliably and conveniently. 

Customization: Better design capabilities for experienced web developers and novices alike. Joomla 5 has a “dark mode” that will automatically turn on if your device is in dark mode. If you prefer dark interfaces on your devices, you’ll enjoy this capability. The newest Joomla has a larger font selection for more customization options. 

There are a number of other new things Joomla 5 brings to the table. For a full list of Joomla 5 improvements, check out this link

Get the Joomla Upgrade Done Right

Now that you are convinced that you should upgrade your Joomla website, the next question is how to go about it. It really isn’t a DIY project, nor do you just call up Joomla and say, “Hey, can you bump me up to the latest version?” It requires someone with the technical chops to handle the project. Depending on how many versions behind you are and the upgrades that those versions provide, you may have a simple project or a complex one.

There are some people that try to do it on their own, but we advise against that unless you have a strong technical background involving website development and, particularly, website development with Joomla websites. Things can go wrong.

If you have a web development company that you have worked with in the past and had a good relationship; that’s a good place to start. Get a quote on the project from them as well as an estimate on when they can complete the project.

JoomlaMasters is a division of WordwrightWeb specializing in Joomla upgrades and migrations!

Also, since you are already here, you can give us a call at (910) 452-6345 or fill out our contact form and we will be more than happy to discuss the project with you and provide an estimate. After all, we are the Joomla Masters!

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