This update was a big one. Not as big as 5.0 back in December, but still… It’s the kind of update that could cause your website to run into some pretty major issues if you or your developer weren’t paying attention.
We’re talking about the recent WordPress update to version 5.2. If you are one of the millions of people who run their website on the WordPress platform (nearly a third of all websites on the internet are built on WordPress), then you might want to go take a look and make sure everything is working properly. This is especially true if your site is set to auto-upgrade to new versions.
WordPress has been making some pretty significant changes and updates to their platform recently. All of them are intended to make it easier for the average user to add content to their sites while at the same time increasing security and stability. There are some significant upgrades for developers as well.
Back in December of 2018, WordPress released version 5.0. It was a massive revamp of their editor (that’s the part where you put your content in and make it look nice and organized). You may have noticed that things look and act, a bit different when you log in to make changes to your site.
Gone is the classic WordPress editor replaced the new block editor. Don’t worry though, WordPress has promised to support their classic editor until 2021, but it is no longer the default setting.
One of the features that make WordPress so versatile is Plugins…little add-on pieces of functionality that allow your website to perform specific tasks. Plugins are built on the same PHP base code as WordPress and can be created by any developer with a good idea.
This is great because it expands the functionality of WordPress to an almost infinite degree. It can also leave your site vulnerable to hackers and viruses depending on the skill of the developer and how diligent they are with keeping their Plugin updates.
If the developer who created any of the Plugins you are using on your website doesn’t update their code to coincide with the updates WordPress pushed out, your site could be vulnerable. Basically, outdated versions of PHP are not healthy for your site and WordPress is trying to address this.
Following the release of version 5.0, WordPress introduced a new Site Health functionality in version 5.1. Sounds great…right? Who doesn’t want their website to be healthy? The thing is, if you or your developer weren’t prepared, it could cause some headaches going forward.
The Site Heath function in the 5.1 update, was to notify site administrators if any new Plugins they are trying to install will not work with the version of PHP their site is built on. If the Plugin you were trying to install is incompatible, WordPress will not allow you to install it.
As inconvenient as it might seem, WordPress is actually working to increase the security and stability of their platform. It’s kind of like road work. Everything slows down and everyone gets frustrated, but when its all done, traffic moves more smoothly and there’s less wear and tear on your vehicle.
Then came the 5.2 update. Along with tools to help developers debug their code, some accessibility updates and new dashboard icons came plugin compatibility checks.
WordPress will now automatically determine if your site’s version of PHP is compatible with your installed plugins. If any of your plugins require a higher version of PHP than your site currently uses, WordPress will not allow you to activate it to prevent potential compatibility errors.
As of WordPress 5.2, their minimum supported PHP version is 5.6.20. If your site is built on any version below 5.6.20 and you are running any plugins that are out of date or built using depreciated features of an older version of PHP, your site could lose valuable functionality and even be vulnerable to a security breach unless it and your plugins are properly updated.
An update like this really underscores the importance of site maintenance. If you haven’t checked your website in a few months, especially after this most recent update, you should probably go and do that right now.