As you may or may not have heard, WordPress 5.0 will be a pretty significant update. The basic editor you currently use for creating and editing posts and pages will be replaced by a new editor codenamed Gutenberg. Gutenberg is a fundamental shift in how WordPress handles content.
Rather than a single content area, Gutenberg presents you with something more like a blank slate. You can then add blocks of content. In Gutenberg, everything is a block. Every paragraph is a block. Every pull quote. Every photo. Shortcodes are going the way of the dinosaurs. Plugin functions you used to insert by shortcodes will now be inserted using blocks.
Blocks work kind of like widgets. You select the kind of block you want to place, plop it on your canvas, and then you can edit it. You can switch a block’s type, so if you originally created something as a paragraph, you can make it a pull quote. If you’ve ever used a drag and drop page editor, this interface should feel pretty comfortable for you. If you haven’t, well, you’re gonna have to get used to it.
That said, you won’t have to get used to it right away. WordPress is building support for the classic editor into WordPress 5.0. With the classic editor installed, your website should function pretty much as it does now, in theory.
So, with such a big change, what should you do to prepare for WordPress 5.0?
Make Some Lists
Make a list of all of the Plugins that you use. You’ll want to note the developer on your list. You may also want to put a little information about what the plugin does or is used for.
Do the same with your Theme or Themes.
For each Plugin and Theme, you should go to the developer’s website and for information about WordPress 5.0 compatibility. The new version has been around for a while, so most developers have already started updating their products for compatibility. Many developers have blog posts about their progression on compatibility. If you can’t find anything on the developer’s website, you probably want to try and contact them directly.
There are a lot of old plugins out there, where developers either no longer exist or developers are no longer updating and supporting plugins. If that’s the case, you probably want to start looking for replacements.
Create a Backup Plan
If you don’t already have a backup system in place, you definitely want to set one up. Automated backups are great and take much of the danger out of updating. We backup our sites nightly automatically, and then manually before any big changes like updates.
Your web host may take care of backups for you. If your site is on WPEngine, for instance, you already have automated backups that go back nightly for 30 days. You can access those backups in your WPEngine Dashboard. From there you can restore from a backup or download a backup.
If your host doesn’t do backups, there are plenty of plugins out there that do a good job. Several free options are available on the WordPress repository.
Check If Your Host Offers Staging
Many hosts, like WPEngine, give you access to a staging site. With some hosts, it’s available as a paid option. A staging site allows you to deploy a copy of your website, so you can do things like update WordPress, update plugins, install new plugins, etc. and test everything before making those changes to your actual website. This is a great way to make sure everything is compatible.
Come Up With a Plan
If your plugin and theme developers are on top of compatibility with the new version, you’ll probably be pretty good to update to the new WordPress version. If they aren’t or you need to find some other options to replace old plugins, you probably want to hold off, at least for a little while. If you are going to update, decide if you want to continue to use the classic editor, or dive right into the new Gutenberg editor.
Make a backup of the site before updating, and download a copy of the backup for a worst-case-scenario.
If you have a staging site, deploy a copy of your website and make all the updates there to test everything. This might be a good option to try out the new editor interface too. Once you’re satisfied everything is working correctly, update your real website and enjoy!