Everything You Need to Know Before Updating to WordPress 5.0

Say hello to WordPress 5.0, otherwise known as “Bebo.” Released in early December of last year, the latest WordPress release features major updates to the editor that make publishing content a more seamless experience across your site. Whether you’re a publisher, developer, or small business owner who currently relies on WordPress for your website, you’re probably wondering what this update means for you.

WP5 is a new beast and works differently under the hood. Over the past few months, we’ve updated the majority of our clients’ websites and have learned quite a bit along the way. Based on our experience, here’s our advice for those considering making the switch to WP5.

What’s New With WordPress 5.0?

One of the biggest front-end changes in WP5 is the new Gutenberg editor, which is designed to make publishing content a more seamless experience for those who don’t know how to code. For many users, the old editor could be frustrating to use, and your posts didn’t always end up looking the way you wanted them to. Gutenberg simplifies this process and gives users more control. Now, you can create blocks of content and easily move them around before you publish to see what works best.

From a developer’s standpoint, it’s great that the WordPress 5.0 CSS is using Flex, which makes it easier to design a flexible responsive layout structure without using float or positioning. Although it does lack support on older browsers (Maybe this will finally be the nail in the IE6 coffin!), Flex will be the new standard going forward, so using it is essentially future-proofing the styles. Another benefit of WordPress 5.0 is the portability of the new content blocks. Once you create your own content blocks for use in the new editor, you can easily move that code to any of your other websites.

Key Considerations Before Making the Switch

While it’s beneficial in the long run to update to WP5, we recommend caution before rushing out to do so. Many in the industry feel that the release of WP5 was somewhat premature. Since this major release was quickly followed by a security update—taking us to WP5.0.1—it leads me to believe that this version is not 100% stable yet.

If you do decide that now is the right time to make the update, we recommend taking these steps in order to do so securely:

  1. Sync the staging and live sites so that the effects of the update are visible on a current version of the site. Making sure your pre-production sites match your live site will rule out many simple mistakes and put you on a path to success.
  2. Apply the core update to the staging site. Time how long it takes to update your staging site. Check the plugins that are affected. Updating something that is not public facing will give you confidence when it comes to the real thing.
  3. Conduct a regression test & do a basic QA walkthrough (front-end and admin panel). Even if the update goes fine — it may cause a few minor changes in how things work, for both site visitors and content authors.
  4. Acceptance testing by the client. Whether your client is an internal dept or your top external client — have them walk through and take a look.  No one wants surprises when you deliver the update to the live site.
  5. Retraining on use of the new editor (optional). The editor in WP5 changed just enough that your content editors and authors may need a refresher. It’s not difficult — just new!
  6. Let the update sit for a week or two, just to see if any issues come to light over time. This is just the paranoia check. If you moved through these steps there should be no issues. But before changing anything further, just make sure your site is performing correctly.

Our Wishlist for Future Updates

As we’ve continued to work with WordPress 5.0 across a variety of sites, we’ve noticed some areas for improvement and further customization, including:

  • An increase in the available options on the built-in content blocks. A number of blocks offer some options, but even these are very limiting. For example, we wish the gallery block included the ability to better define the layout, change where each image links to, and choose if the links open in a new tab, etc.
  • Style fixes for responsiveness. A certain number of built-in blocks aren’t responsive out of the box. For instance, the columns tabs are not fully responsive yet, which makes it difficult to ensure they appear properly across all devices.
  • Define new content areas that use blocks. Currently, you only have the option to use the new editor within the main content area. It would be great to be able to define a new section, such as the sidebar, that could also use the new editor and content blocks.
  • Create a library of blocks. Similar to how you can find and use other developers’ plugins from the “Plugin” section, it would be great if there was a blocks library where you could share your blocks with other developers to save time.

Do you need help with your WordPress site? Or perhaps, you just want to share your WP5 experience with us. Either way, get in touch! We’d love to hear from you.