Poll: How Often Do You Read a WordPress Plugin’s Changelog Before Updating?

As the debate on whether or not WordPress.org hosted themes should have changelogs continues, one line of thought is that regular users don’t read them. As a long time user of WordPress, I always read a plugin’s changelog before updating.

A good changelog tells me what bugs have been fixed, new features that have been added, and security issues that have been addressed. It also gives me a timeline of changes I can refer to for troubleshooting. Let us know how often you read a WordPress plugin’s changelog before updating by participating in the following poll.

[poll id=”57″]


55 responses to “Poll: How Often Do You Read a WordPress Plugin’s Changelog Before Updating?”

  1. Could do with more options. I don’t “always” read the changelog, as in infallible 100% – sometimes I know from elsewhere what’s in the release, or have other reasons for skipping. “Sometimes” could do with being split into “usually” and “occasionally”, or something of that kind.

  2. About 95% of the changelogs I check before I update stuff. Since I use a similar set of plugins on sites I maintain this is not too much time. And, mostly it gives me a great overview over the maintenance of a plugin, security-wise, feature-wise and if bugs get fixed. Also, having the changelogs on .org plugin pages is a good info base!

    I know, I totally fall in the “power user” group here, but after all, changelogs are important for many reasons: for plugins AND themes! :)

  3. Always. Gives me the best indication of how urgent it is to update (hence security updates should be obvious in the changelog) and also whether new functionality may risk breaking something on the site in question.

    I maintain 100+ sites, usually with the same core plugins, so it’s good to have a system. And bulk management!

  4. I’ve gotten into the habit of reading changelogs on anything so I know if it’s worth the update/upgrade. However, because I develop WordPress themes, it’s even more important that there is no conflicts with plugins (and even WordPress) with my themes.

    I also recommend people should do a backup before they click or install an update. Best to play it safe because you never know what could happen. Murphy’s Law.

  5. I would bet your average user that doesn’t change a theme probably doesn’t need/care for a changelog. However if that user has made a child theme off the parent theme, I would think a changelog would increase in importance since the user has made some kind of modification to the parent, would it not?

  6. Usually. There are some that I trust (shout out David Decker (deckerweb) and many others) and others that I don’t that get a close reading every time and a wait a few days before installing (cough, Yoast). What bothers me are those plugins that don’t list the changelog on wp.org, but put a link to their website as an additional hurdle.

    • Same as Ray, if Yoast comes with an update I wait until I don’t hear anything for a week, otherwise I’ll have to update every day and that gets old very fast.
      As I am managing many different sites for clients too, I usually do a quick read what has changed, so I know whether it is safe or not to update. In case I am not sure, I do some more research or a quick test install to see whether it breaks anything.
      Before developing my own plugins I was not too serious about the changelog, but now I read them every time.

    • Same as @Ray. Though, reading the changelog doesn’t mean your site won’t be scrambled by that update. I really hate that “100% guarantee it works with your version of WP”. From the WP.com support forum looks like the percentage is a lot lot lower..

  7. I have a hard time answering this poll. On my personal site which is backed up with VaultPress and has no revenue streams I just turn on Jetpack Manage auto updates for plugins that I’ve already vetted. I trust those plugins/authors and if something bad were to happen I’d be notified and I’d fix it immediately.

    Previously when I worked with clients directly I’d always have some plugins that I’d turn on automatic updates on and others where I’d read the changelog before doing anything. I guess it comes down to the plugin, the author and their track record for how fast they fix problems.

    The quick answer would be yes I read changelogs when downtime is tied to revenue loss…

  8. There might be two or three plugins whose changelogs I don’t always check (WP Spamshield is one, because 90% of his updates are spam filter tweaks), but other than those I always check the changelog.

    It’s allowed me to start looking for replacement plugins more than once, and avoided trying out plugins that had hidden little treats in them (as in finding a few that were and still are using timthumb fer cryin out loud).

    It’s also allowed me to avoid some conflict that might have caused a client site to misbehave.

  9. I teach my students that adding a plugin is a serious decision with long-term consequences. I teach them several ways to evaluate if the developer is serious and reliable. A good change log is one very revealing indicator.

  10. I voted “always” but if I had to guess I’d say the majority of folks don’t. I have no data to base that on but I think most WordPress users are either content publishers or small business operators (or both) and probably don’t pay attention to such things. I could be wrong of course. :)

  11. People coming here are more hardcore. The average person does not read a changelog more or less update logs even on their computer. This is not a guess, its fact. I have produced software for 35 years and this has not changed. From Video Games to Applications to Web code. The average person only reads anything if they see new features they cant figure out or are required to read because of changes they cant figure out. Thats end users, not hardcore. Even developers dont read. Does anyone think when a PHP version comes along or mySQL, Apache, Linux, Windows on and on update or new release occurs developers read all about it? 1 in 10,000 maybe.

    Developers tend to be read on demand.

    Same as users and thats even the case when they just load something up. Someone using MS Word learns “as the go”. Game players seldom read the manuals they just jump right in. Then if they need to they open the book.

    If for example WordPress did not apparently have security issue after security issue but instead they tended never happen even less of us would read. Industry has known this now forever, thats why contextual help systems exist.

  12. I always read the changelog before running the update so that I know what is the different from previous version. I also would like to see standardized changelog to use by all the plugin creaters, and I wish the changelog should come with date.

  13. I ALWAYS read plugin changelogs, but I’m a site developer with clients. I’d been burned by breakage after plugin and theme updates, so I now have guinea pig test sites on which I test udpates before updating anything on a production site. One time even a core update cause some breakage, but except for that one time, core has been solid. I wish I could say the same for plugins, which are a total minefield.

  14. I’m using InfiniteWP to batch update lots of sites with one click, BUT it always put a link to the changelog, which I carefully read, for every plugin with available updates. Very handy.

    Themes should include always a changelog too. You never know where the next failure point will be.

    • I was using InfiniteWP as well, but it became pathetically unstable so I had to trash it. I was one of the original beta users, and I’m wondering if a fresh install would be more stable. However, it had security issues, and if it does again, it’s a door into every site you’re managing with it. So I’m not sure I trust it or anything like it anymore.

      • I have similar experience with infiniteWP. Its good solution and do all necessary jobs – manage, update, backup … but somehow it some kind of magic for me how it works, backups and restores sometimes disappear without any error, just it delete files and datas ;)
        Its fast and managing many websites is easy, but I m really not sure about security and stable of this.
        Did not tested managewp longer period, so can not say if that service is more stable and secure.

  15. I got burned on a plugin once that changed its css (and I had mods made based on that css) from one version to another and since that moment on, I’ve been reading every single changelog :) from every single plugin or theme for that matter.

  16. i voted ALWAYS
    i hate updates….like: Never change a running system
    i had many trouble long time ago, after i updated a CRMSoftware and it wasnt compatible with the theme….sure, was my own fold….but thats the perfect example to check all sides: WORDPRESS % PLUGIN & Theme for compatibility

  17. I have a feeling the results are going to be a little skewed. I’d imagine the majority in the WordPress community look at the changelogs whereas end users do not. I think a poll like this on a site like Mashable or Engadget could reveal some super interesting results.

    A 2 part poll:

    Do you look at changelogs before updating?
    Are you in the WordPress community or does your website simply run on WordPress?

  18. Depends on the plugin. I’d always read the notes for a plugin that has more impact on the site – because my hosting is so terrible that auto-updating sometimes fails and breaks a plugin.
    Meanwhile, I’m not a member of the “community” but where do I sign up?! Do we get badges? Cake?

  19. If there’s a changelog I’ll read it. If a changelog isn’t supplied then I may hesitate in using that Plugin/Theme in favour of another similar Plugin/Theme that the devs have been proactive to include a changelog in.

    A Changelog included in a Plugin/Theme indicates the developer is being transparent, and has a higher level of work.

    Backup 1st, update, test, retest, and Leave Feedback…. until the next round of updates… and lately it’s been crazy :/


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