How to be Prepared for WordPress 5.0 and Gutenberg

WordPress 5.0 with Gutenberg is Coming Soon! It is a MAJOR update. There will be many changes to the current WordPress capabilities, some of which will be very apparent. Others will effect functionality and won’t be as apparent to the user.

The main change has already been brought to your attention. You may have seen a new notice on your WordPress dashboard. A new editor, Gutenberg, is mentioned, which they’d like you to try out as a plugin. This editor is the primary change that most people will notice on their WordPress back end. Gutenberg is a block-based post editor. It will become the new default editor for WordPress (no plug-in necessary), and it will be here soon!

What to Expect

A Different Look

While all of the menu items will remain the same, editing and creating posts and pages will have a new look. This is due to the Gutenberg editor. All other features will “look” the same.

Gutenberg

Gutenberg is more of a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor than the previous editor. It features drag and drop capabilities with “blocks” that define a particular functionality. It allows for a few of the capabilities you see in some of the current WordPress builders (such as Divi Builder), including parallax features, full width images, and flexible features for individual blocks. You can think of blocks as modules or elements that are for a specific purpose. A text block is used to write a paragraph, and a list block to write a list of items.

Theme Updates

After a two year wait, we will finally see a new default theme, Twenty Nineteen. It, plus all of the other default themes (Twenty Ten through Twenty Seventeen), will be updated to support the Gutenberg editor. The following are specific to Twenty Nineteen and may differ with other themes.

  • Theme color options – You can choose the color via slider not hex. This is only an issue if you are using Twenty Nineteen. You cannot define the exact color of the header text without css, instead you will use a slide to choose the color. This is a change from the other default themes, which allow for more color options or a hex value. Some hex values can be modified in the blocks.
  • Featured Images – The featured image is now a full-screen image that resides as a background to your site name, logo, menu and page / post title.
  • Responsiveness – You can continue to view your site from the theme customizer in desktop, tablet and mobile modes, however there are not any separate settings for each mode without modifying css.
  • Navigation – An additional navigation area has been added in the footer.

PHP Update

WordPress will now officially support PHP 7.3. If you are currently using a PHP version older than 7.1, you will probably need to upgrade very soon. PHP 5.6 is near end of life, meaning that it will probably no longer be supported by WordPress. You will need to check with your hosting provider to ensure that they support PHP 7.1 or later. This also means that some older plugins and themes may not function properly.

Shortcodes

Contrary to original rumors, you can still use shortcodes in WordPress 5.0. You can use your plugins and builder themes without worrying about the shortcodes working.

Aria Compatibility

Simple Aria labels can be saved in posts and pages. Aria labels are used for assistive technology. Aria text / labels are what the screen readers will read so that the user will understand what an object is used for. For example you are showing the following:

6 + 4 = 10

An aria-label might read ’6 plus 4 equals 10’.

A Distinct Learning Curve

While the attempt has been made to make Gutenberg user friendly, it is not entirely intuitive. Expect it to take a little time to get used to the new features and format.

 

How to Prepare

  1. Ensure you are using PHP version 7.1 or later. Many hosts offer changing your PHP version with the click of a button.
  2. Prior to upgrading to WordPress 5.0, backup your WordPress site. Do this now and at regular intervals if your site is set to automatically update.
  3. Once updated, we recommend checking your “themes” tab to make sure you only have your active theme and its child theme available. You should remove unused themes to reduce the space used and increase speed.
  4. Expect some functionality issues as plugins play catch-up. You will want to make sure you have the most current versions, and also make sure the plugins are going to continue to work with the new WordPress and PHP versions.
  5. Don’t toss your current builder… at least not yet. Gutenberg is in its infancy. Expect it to gain many more features and capabilities in the coming months! Until then, use your current builder, or if you want to go back to the old way, you can get a plugin that lets you use the old editor.

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