WordPress 5, is your site ready?

So you may have seen that WordPress 5 has just been released. For those that manage their WordPress sites themselves, you're probably wondering what does this mean to me and what should I do next? Although it looks simple and straightforward to click the update button, there are a few things to think of before updating. Here are Web Engineer's top tips for making your site WordPress 5 ready.

Making your site WordPress 5 ready

As with all updates issued from web platforms like WordPress, what can appear as a simple change to the framework can often have knock-on effects to the other elements that make up your site. So when approaching an update like WordPress 5 we recommend approaching it using the following steps.

Be Prepared

First, start by gathering information on the update, go beyond the information provided by the platform provider and try and gauge a census from the online community on what the update is and what it could affect on your site. With WordPress 5 we have seen various reports that the update is mostly stable with many successful updates.

As so often is the case there has already been a security release announced since the main update, this is common for software vendors and in our experience we tend to wait until the provider has fixed any initial bugs and issued an updated release before we take action.

Searching online may help gain a perspective on how the update has been received, we focus on the customer’s site first, considering which plugins and integrations are present on the site and if they could be affected by the update.

Create a backup

This is our golden rule; whenever performing a site update this is what you should do first. Without a regularly backed-up site, you risk not only losing your site updates but also introducing security risks when out of date patches are all your site has to protect it. If the worst did happen and your site starts showing errors that can’t be fixed, with a back-up you can always revert to a previous version of your site while identifying the issues that caused the error.

With our support framework, our customer’s sites are backed up as a snapshot every day with major backups happening every month. So check when your site was last backed up and if it was some time ago best back up if you don’t want to risk losing any updates you have made.

Having back-ups is your sites get out of jail card, allowing you to quickly bring your site back online in most situations.

Be sure you’re running the latest language

WordPress is built on a programming and scripting language called PHP. For most WordPress users there is no need to learn the mechanics of PHP, think of it as the building blocks that make up the templates, page editors and plugins you use as the site administrator. However, it’s important to consider when the language has a new version available and what that means for your site.

Although Version 7 of PHP has been around since 2015 we have found sites are still using plugins and features that were built in the older 5.6 version. So to be sure you’re ready for WordPress 5 we not only recommend keeping an eye on PHP versions but look at your plugins too, which leads us onto our next tick in the checklist.

Keep an audit of your plugins

Plugins are a well-used and in most parts, a simple way in enabling your site to do more. Want to capture leads, add security, or optimise your site’s content? Most WordPress users will turn to a plugin to sort it out for them. But with every element of your site plugins need managing, as every plugin is built by a separate provider they all have their own own traits and connections to the languages that built them. In our experience, we find some providers don’t keep their plugins as up to date as they should which can result in site compromises.

To make sure site stays running smoothly we recommend creating an audit of your plugins; determine which ones you have on the site, what do they do for you, are they up to date and staying in line with other updates from WordPress and PHP, and importantly for us are they adding value to your users? When undertaking sites built by other developers we sometimes find they have several unused plugins featured. This might not appear a problem at first, but look more closely and you will find they add unnecessary code to your site, slowing it down and potentially creating conflicts with other parts of your site, or worse providing a backdoor into your site for hackers.

If your site happens to use a caching and performance related plugin we recommend a little bit of housekeeping when updates like this come about. Have a look at emptying the cache and minifying all JavaScript on your site, this will keep your site running efficiently and prevent potential conflicts with the new update.

Decide whether to use Classic Editor or Gutenberg Editor

On the new version 5, WordPress has switched to the Gutenberg page editor which we have all had as an option to try for a number of releases. Now although the new Gutenberg editor isn’t quite for everyone, unfortunately out of the box its the only choice you have without installing the classic editor as a plugin. If you are only occasionally issuing page and post updates you can stick to what you know with the classic editor plugin. However, for the purpose of staying up to date with where WordPress is heading, we recommend investing time into a few of the online tutorial videos to help see what the new Gutenberg editor offers.

Create a staging environment

For even straightforward WordPress sites we always recommend creating a staging environment. The benefits are huge; allowing you to test and review code updates, plugins and new features to your site all within a safe environment that doesn’t affect your live site. you can test and experiment way in the background, while your live site stays up and running and serving your customers. And when you’ve tested your changes you can push the changes up to live.

Ask the experts

Keeping your site up to date and running smoothly is all part of our ongoing support packages, and given our 20 years of web experience, we’re happy to take on sites of all frameworks and flavours.

To find out more, go to our ongoing support page, or give us a call on 01392 253304

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