WordPress 5.0: update or not?

WordPress 5.0 is coming. Despite major concerns by longtime contributors (here, here, here…), mainly about the unreadiness of the new editor being merged into core, December 6th it’ll see the light of day.

This is no surprise, although the latest delays and the previous launch plan predicted a January launch.

Having a brand new WordPress editor for WordCamp US seems to have been always the plan, despite all the Gutenberg issues still open. The release date has only been communicated to the community 3 days ahead.

Some will find a lack of respect for the community, having to deal with a possibly problematic change in a time of great turmoil, some are even out of the office to join WCUS (oh, the irony). Given this short notice, what’s the safest way to go?

Before updating to WordPress 5.0, ask yourself:

  • Do I need it?
  • Is it safe to update?
  • Does my site work with Gutenberg?
  • What’s the alternative?

Do I need WordPress 5.0?

If you’re not using Gutenberg plugin yet and have no content built with it, if you’re not planning to create content with it immediately, there is probably no compelling reason for you to update. Just wait.

WordPress 5.0 is not as stable as it should to be launched. There are still a lot of critical issues the development team has, somehow, disregarded.

Let’s hope the new year can bring some clearance to the current state of the project. Don’t update before new releases, probably in January.

Is this the right time to update?

In the peak of the holiday season, one of the busiest times of the year? Absolutely not. Especially if you’re managing a store or a critical website.

In January there’ll be new releases that will possibly make WordPress more stable and correct some of the bugs and issues people are already facing with the new editor and plugin compatibility.

Does my site work with Gutenberg?

WordPress 5.0 features a new editor, codename Gutenberg. Gutenberg is a radical departure to the way we create and edit content in WordPress. It is a paradigm shift, based on the manipulation of blocks of content. Built with modern technology, mainly React, a JavaScript library for building user interfaces open-sourced by Facebook.

The new WordPress block editor

Though it presents itself as an improvement to the editing experience, giving authors more options to design their content, not all plugins are ready for it.

Despite the hard work that many developers have had in recent months to make their plugins and themes compatible, the truth is that Gutenberg’s constant iterations have made it humanly impossible to anticipate all contingencies. The 3 days heads-up is just the last drop to make the cup overflow.

If your site is running plugins that integrate with the editing experience, make sure to test if they’re ready for the new editor.

Some major plugins, like Yoast, have been preparing for the inevitable. And even they are against this rushed release. Advanced Custom Fields, another popular plugin, with over 1 million installs, has also raised concerns about the decision.  

What’s the alternative?

If you want to stick with WordPress, the best option right now might be not upgrading to version 5.0. Security patches are released frequently, not only for the newest version.

If you feel confident about upgrading but still want to maintain the old editor, there are several plugins that bring it back and can give you extra control:

If you’re definitely fed up with WordPress, there’s also a pre-Gutenberg fork, “a modified and enhanced version of WordPress (without Gutenberg) that serves the business website market”, called ClassicPress. It’s still a beta version, based on WordPress 4.9.8, and includes a migration plugin to easy the task of moving your content to a new platform.

Of course there are also other open source alternatives to WordPress, in the CMS market, like Drupal, October, Ghost, or the static department, like Jekyll or Statamic.

Whatever you choose to do…

Remember to always make backups of your sites. There are simple and more complex solutions for that.

You can also test stuff with a local version. Software like Local by Flywheel or DesktopServer make this a breeze.

If your hosting server has staging options, use it. Even Softaculous, a popular apps installer bundled with cPanel, now has staging. Make use of it. 

(The Admiral “It’s a trap!” Ackbar illustration was snatched somewhere. Unfortunately, I was not able to credit the author.)

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