As developers, major version changes to a CMS are always exciting - and stressful. With major version changes, we are introduced to new functions and abilities that we may not have had in the past. However, we may also run into breaking changes. So what can we expect from WordPress 5.0?
As an agency that manages 110+ WordPress installs, this type of change can be very stressful. WordPress 5.0 is causing so much drama because WordPress is introducing Gutenberg as an integration and not a plugin.
The announcement of this integration has created some disruption in the WordPress community. Below, I will describe what exactly Gutenberg is, how it is a huge change for WordPress and its users, and some things to look for before upgrading to WordPress 5.0.
First off, what is Gutenberg?
Gutenberg originally started its life as a free plugin developed by the WordPress core contributors. It was introduced by Matt Mullenweg at WordCamp Europe 2017 and since it was released as a separate plugin install, it has been revolutionary for WordPress. The development team is using ReactJS to build Gutenberg and allow it to operate quickly and efficiently in the WordPress backend. The interface will allow a user to completely build a page layout without having code knowledge that fits their needs. This gives users great control over how their site will look, feel, and how they want it.
Here's a quick look at the difference between the classic editor and Gutenberg
Image from https://css-tricks.com
Basically, Gutenberg allows users to build content with different "blocks" which you can drop where you want and edit individually, from text type and size to background color and more.
Ryan, this sounds amazing! what’s the big deal?
Well, the biggest concern of this plugin came when WordPress announced they will be integrating Gutenberg into the core of WordPress and replacing TinyMCE, the WYSIWYG interface we are all familiar with inside WordPress, which has been a part of WordPress for 10 years. When this news broke, the WordPress development community split. One side says this is a great and much-needed change, while the other side says that this will be the “nail in the coffin” for WordPress, and it will never be the same.
I will admit when I heard the news, my blood pressure immediately spiked, and I started thinking of all the compatibility problems we may encounter with our client’s sites.
Another reason I was so concerned was with the amount of plugins WordPress sites use and if there were going to be any compatibility issues. To say the least, I did lose a few nights of sleep thanks to WordPress 5.0.
A full year has almost passed since the big announcement, and the release date of WordPress 5.0 looms. In this time, I have gotten a chance to install the Gutenberg plugin on our internal dev site, and I am surprised at how well it integrates with WordPress and how much work the developers of our core plugins have put into making sure everything works. There are still a few compatibility issues, but we have reported those to their respective developers, and they are working hard making sure everything works before the release of WordPress 5.0. While I have breathed a sigh of relief, there is still a lot of work to do to prepare for the release.
What is there to prepare for?
Before you just install WordPress 5.0 and run with it, you need to check with your theme developer to make sure it will be compatible with Gutenberg. I can say that VIEO’s core theme is compatible with Gutenberg, but that does not always hold true for other themes.
Once you check with your theme’s developer, you need to take an audit of your installed plugins and make sure they are compatible. This may seem like a lot of work, but trust me - it is worth it. You do not want your site to go down just because you updated the core. If there are any that are not compatible, try reaching out to the developer to see if they plan on making it compatible. If all else fails, try and find a replacement for that specific plugin.
Finally, before updating to WordPress 5.0, or any update for that matter, make sure you backup your site so if anything breaks you can easily restore. Your server host may provide you with this functionality, but if not, there are numerous plugins that will do this for you.
Great! I’ve done an audit and a backup. What now?
While you wait for the release, I recommend you start becoming familiar with Gutenberg and the new interface. There are a lot of websites that have released “How-tos” and “Introductions” for Gutenberg. The two best articles I have found are listed below:
If you have a “staging” environment for your website, I recommend you go ahead and install the Gutenberg plugin on this environment so you can start getting used to it and testing for incompatible themes and plugins. As of writing this, do not install the plugin on a live site because it may break your site. Only install the plugin in a “staging” or “local” copy of your site. Once WordPress 5.0 has been released, I recommend also installing the update on a “staging” or “local” copy of your site so you can fully test everything.
While the news of Gutenberg being integrated into the core of WordPress was not welcomed with open arms, I hope that it brings a new side to WordPress and its development community. Here at VIEO, we have already started planning and learning all we can about Gutenberg so we can adapt quickly and give our clients the best possible solutions. We already have a few special things in the pipeline for our framework that will make the most of Gutenberg and WordPress 5.0. We look forward to the future of WordPress and where this new road may take us!
Oh, and by the way - if you've looked through this prep list and think you could use some help, give us a shout!