After several delays, WordPress 5.0 rolled out to the public on 06 December 2018. As WordPress is the underlying core to most of the websites I create, I had been using a WordPress 5.0 like environment for several months before the public release. Basically, the environment was WordPress 4.9.8 with the Gutenberg plugin added. With WordPress 5.0.3 now installed on all client websites (except for one that has an incompatible theme installed), I am happy to report that the websites are running smoothly. At first, I was unsure about the path WordPress was taking but now that I see their roadmap, I am anxious and happy for the future of WordPress. With the dust settled, it is time to prepare for more WordPress changes.
Design with Gutenberg
Currently, 29% of installations run on WordPress 5.0. But there are more WordPress changes coming. Some changes are carefully planned while others are held up by third party applications. WordPress 5.1 (due February 2019) and 5.2 (due in 2019) will focus on adding Gutenberg block support to the entire website. This will enable the creation of website elements such as headers, footers, and navigation systems directly in Gutenberg.
PHP 5 End-of-Life
Another change is the end-of-life support for PHP versions 5.6 and earlier. As the core software of WordPress is written in PHP, WordPress recommends PHP version 7.1 or higher. These newer versions of PHP add additional security and run faster. 23% of WordPress installations run on PHP 7.1 or higher.
To help with upcoming changes, WordPress is working on a Site Health Check plugin that will test a website and warn owners that items need updating.
PHP Versions Must Match
Theme and plugin authors will soon be required to add a minimum PHP version in their software. WordPress will start displaying warning messages that the required PHP version does not match the installed version. Sometime in late 2019 (around the time 5.2 rolls out), WordPress will refuse to update plugins and themes if the PHP versions do not match. This will prevent websites from breaking and displaying the ‘white screen of death’.
Some web hosting companies allow website owners to choose the PHP version to use with their WordPress installation. Others use the least common denominator approach. They keep running older versions for customers still using components written specifically for older PHP.
The Way Forward
With WordPress 5.0 installed, I will be testing the newer features of versions 5.1 and 5.2 on my testing servers so that I can mitigate any issues found on my client’s websites. I will also test using PHP version 7.3. One of the benefits of operating a testing server is that I can test a website without impacting the live version. When the testing version is operating correctly, I migrate the testing version to the live website. As a website owner, you should prepare for more WordPress changes.
Are you ready for more WordPress changes?
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