How to upgrade anything, part 5 of 6: Test, test, test!

Chances are, there’s something you’re settling for right now. Something that annoys you periodically but you haven’t gotten around to dealing with it yet. We’ll tackle that problem in bite-sized steps in this 6-part series on upgrading:

So when I say “upgrading,” you can think of software, hardware, services, or pretty much anything. I’ll be using my experience updgrading this very blog as an example, but you can substitute your specific technological annoyance.

You’re done. Now what?

Yep, the first three posts in this series covered preparation, the fourth talked about what you need to do during the upgrade process, and now your upgrade is complete. You can walk away satisfied, right?

Wait, not so fast.

If you made it through the upgrade and got to the “success” page or dialog box or whatever, that’s fantastic. And you can totally breathe a sigh of relief, and allow yourself to celebrate.

You bet I celebrated after my successful upgrade from WordPress 2.6 to 2.8. I’d done all the prep work. I was a bit obsessive about backing up and making sure I had copies of every post, every piece of HTML, and every image on the entire blog in multiple places.

And when I hit the button to begin the upgrade process, my heart was beating a tad too fast. Terrifying scenarios of crashing blogs danced through my head. I imagined my panicked IM to my tech-expert friend: “Um, are you still awake? Because my entire online empire just vanished.

(Yes, I did wait until late on a Saturday night to actually do the upgrade. It was a conscious choice that I made to help me meet my fears where they were, and create my own safety during the process.)

Turns out there were no panicked IMs, no flashing error messages. The whole thing happened in about 15 minutes, nothing crashed, and everything looked normal post-upgrade. I celebrated by going straight to bed and sleeping like a baby all night.

Bonus tip for WordPress upgrades:

Download my free 10-step WordPress Update Checklist for tips on pre- and post-update maintenance tasks that will keep your site in tip-top condition, or join my Peace of Mind Program to have me take care of all your WordPress updates for you.

As long as you are using any version of WordPress that’s 2.7 or later, you can upgrade your installation from within your dashboard with one click (well, really it’s two clicks). Here’s my tutorial if you’d like to see how easy it is.

So, seriously. Congratulations on your upgrade. Have a piece of chocolate… on The Good China. I’ll wait.

Are you back? Good.

Because now we get to the first post-upgrade to-do item:

Test everything.

I waited until Sunday morning to do most of my testing, once I’d had a good night’s sleep and the euphoria of not destroying the website had settled into a buzz of contentment that I now had the nifty 2.8 dashboard to play with.

Depending on what you’re upgrading and how serious an overhaul it is, you may be able to do a few quick tests immediately post-upgrade, or you may need to check a bunch of stuff.

Just for fun, here’s a reminder of what can happen if you overlook this testing phase:

Come on nwod! Our prices are wol, wol, wol!

This is a photo I took at a car dealership near where I live. In fact, this sight inspired this whole 6-part series. It just blossomed from a marketing blooper into the masterpiece you’re reading now. And in case you’re wondering, it is not physically possible for the letters to line up correctly to spell SALE no matter which direction you’re coming from to approach the dealership.

Nope, someone went out there and propped up four letters to let everyone know there was a big ELAS going on. Oops. (To their credit, the letters got fixed within a day or so… I drove past later that week and sighed with relief.)

I don’t know what was going on in their head when they did it. It doesn’t matter.

What matters is that no one bothered to go look at the marketing message from across the street… or even out front, just to see what potential customers would see as they were driving by.

So this is a lesson that can be applied to upgrading, but it’s also a piece of marketing advice. Probably another whole post there, about testing your own purchase process, signing up for your own email newsletter, and doing a drive-by analysis of your own website.

But for now, let’s talk about what you can test post-upgrade.

Post-upgrade testing

For software, you probably want to do things like:

  • Launch the program.
  • Launch the program in multiple ways (from a desktop shortcut, from your Dock if you have a Mac, by clicking a document instead of the program icon, by opening an email attachment).
  • Save a test file (and make sure you can reopen it, that you know where it’s being saved, and that it saves with the correct extension and name).
  • Make sure you can still find and do all the things you already knew how to do in the previous version (this can be annoying if menu items have been moved around, and you want to find out where your favorite feature went before you need it).
  • Give yourself permission to try some of the fancy new features (that’s part of why you upgraded in the first place, right? Have some fun with it!).

For my WordPress upgrade, I did a whole lot of surfing this site, making sure old links worked, searching for nonexistent pages to see if the correct error message came up, scrolling to make sure the sidebars still had all the right stuff, and the like. I explored the new navigation menus, made sure I knew exactly where to click to do my most frequent actions (like, say, writing a post or editing the sidebar), and bounced back and forth between my dashboard and the home page countless times.

It was kind of fun because it was such a relief to see everything working correctly. And for the same reason, it wasn’t too time-consuming. Of course, if I’d found errors and formatting glitches and gremlins, I might have been seriously bummed, but I had my handy log of everything I did during the upgrade (see Part 4) and I had my myriad backup files (see Part 2) in case anything was wonky.

And nothing seriously went wrong. And all the prep work I’d done was seriously worth it. And now my little corner of the blogosphere is fully up-to-date.

Goodness, I see an alert at the top of my WordPress dashboard that tells me the latest and greatest WordPress (2.8.2) is available. I’m going to go hit the one-click upgrade button and revel in the fact that the days of difficult WP upgrades are (hopefully) over.

Previously in this series: Part 4: Documenting

Next in this series: Part 6: Postmortem