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WordPress 5.0: How to Prepare and What to Expect

WordPress 5.0 is the long awaited major update to WordPress and it adds a suite of changes designed to improve functionality, efficiency and ease of use for first-time web builders and professional developers alike. This article will run you through some of the most pertinent changes, as well as how to adequately prepare for a major update. If you’ve already updated, read on as we discuss some of our favourite plugins developed for the new release.

How to Prepare for WordPress 5.0:

  1. Backup: As this is a major update, expect the best, but prepare for the worst. Use something like BackupBuddy, another backup plugin, or even backup manually via your server hosting panel.
  2. Update WordPress: Updating to the newest version is just like updating to an incremental change. Simply go to the Updates tab and start the process as prompted. If after reading this blog you still aren’t sure whether 5.0 is right for you just yet, fear not. WordPress will continue to provide security auto-updates for versions 3.7 and above, but as the latest plugins developed for 5.0 are rolled out, you may find yourself itching to upgrade.
  3. Update your plugins: This is just like usual, but be aware that many plugins may not have yet adapted to 5.0. Updating your plugins ensures the best possible security for your site. Updating Wordfence (and installing it if you haven’t already!) or any other security plugin is always of utmost concern.
  4. Update your themes: Once again, this is like usual, but there’s a twist with this update. With WordPress 5.0 comes the Gutenberg editor (discussed below), which transforms the way pages are built with WordPress. Ensure your current theme has been updated to work with WordPress 5.0 before updating as this can cause major site layout and functionality problems if not properly addressed.
  5. Check site functionality: Plugins that put short codes in your pages and posts may no longer work, so do a quick check of a few pages and posts after updating to ensure there’s no glitches.
  6. If you run into problems: If you currently use Page Builder plugins or rely heavily on plugins when creating pages and posts, you may run into compatibility issues. We discuss this later on in this post. You’ll need to either temporarily disable Gutenberg with the official WordPress plugin below or disable some of your current plugins.

It’s recommended to take extra precautions when updating a large-traffic site or eCommerce for 5.0. WordPress 5.0 drastically changes how pages are laid out, and on eCommerce sites, where there’s likely a whole bunch of plugins working together, compatibility issues can bring revenue to a halt. So, if you are intending to upgrade a large site or eCommerce site, we recommend starting a non-listed staging site with a backup of your existing data. From there, play around with the new update and plugins, spending some hours beta-testing the site before putting it live. With Christmas around the corner, many e-Commerce sites are holding it out until the New Year before updating to 5.0.

Gutenberg Editor:

This is potentially the most anticipated part of the WordPress update. If you can’t stand the existing WordPress editor, Gutenberg should be a breath of fresh air. What’s Gutenberg, you ask? It’s basically the codeword for the new editor, but we doubt anyone will be calling it that once everyone gets used to it. It’s been designed to mimic some of the features that bloggers enjoy using on platforms like Medium and Ghost. Instead of adding text, media, aligning, and adjusting their properties, the Gutenberg editor allows you to move around content seamlessly and change properties of individual ‘blocks’. Think of it like LEGO, but without the pain you get from stepping on one early in the morning.

For a better idea of Gutenberg’s capabilities and to see it in action, watch the video above. Note that this video is dealing with the demo version from a few months ago, which is more or less the same as what appears in WordPress 5.0.

It adds capabilities and a block user interface like many existing page builder plugins do, but on first impressions, seems to do a much better job than any plugin can. You won’t have to worry about plugins slowing down your site and the continued development of WordPress ensures great new features are always on the horizon. Further, Gutenberg has absolutely changed the game in terms of site design. Gutenberg won’t just be focussed on posts and page building; building your own themes is now a whole lot easier thanks to the block interface and we fully expect to see more truly unique WordPress sites in the coming years.

Afraid of change? Fear not, WordPress has launched a classic editor plugin to retain the standard editing mode for those proficient in the pre-Gutenberg editor. If you currently use plugins when creating new posts or pages, it’s recommended you use the WordPress Classic Editor plugin to minimise compatibility issues, at least until they’re updated to work with Gutenberg.

Expect New Plugins, Themes & Updates:

With every WordPress update, you can expect the community to start tinkering with it as soon as it’s released, and even beforehand (the benefits of open source!). There’s a number of new themes and plugins out, as well as a steady stream of updates for existing plugins. In fact, the new default theme, TwentyNineteen, has been made to accommodate the Gutenberg block system perfectly. As we’ve mentioned, creating new themes with the Gutenberg blocks is friendlier to amateurs, so we fully expect more themes to come out of the woodwork. Sorting the good ones from the bad will likely be the hard part.

Feeling experimental? Try some of the new plugins for Gutenberg. We’ve mentioned the WordPress classic editor plugin above, but it does more than just revert to the Classic / Visual editor. It allows you to select the default editor for users, allows users to change editors, and sets the default post editor as the one first used to ensure blog posts have consistent formatting between authors. Some of our favourite plugins to tinker with include:

  • WooCommerce Gutenberg blocks: WooCommerce is one of the most widely used WordPress shop plugins, and for good reason. This extension allows you to show a featured product or set of products in your blog post. Instead of linking to your shop page and potentially losing traffic, readers can see the product you’re discussing on the same page, and even add it to their cart. This extension requires the WooCommerce plugin.
  • Advanced Gutenberg: As the name suggests, this plugin adds a whole suite of extra features to the Gutenberg blocks. Add Google Maps, Testimonials and have greater optimisation over your image and video blocks. We suggest adding this after you’ve tried your hand at Gutenberg. Advanced Gutenberg adds the kind of features we expect to be officially added to Gutenberg later on.

advanced gutenberg

Have you tried 5.0 yet? What do you think of the Gutenberg editor? Tell us about your favourite features, plugins and themes in the comments below. If you’re having trouble with the new update, don’t hesitate to give us a bell. PN Digital provide complete WordPress site management services and our team will ensure the migration to 5.0 goes seamlessly.