upgrading to php 7.2If you’ve been working in  your WordPress dashboard recently (and I know you all have been), you might have seen red alerts and notices about upgrading to PHP 7.2 by the end of 2018. Upgrade, schmupgrade, amiright? Nope, not this time. Upgrading to PHP 7.2 is a must-do. Read on for why.

What is PHP, anyway?

PHP is the code that WordPress websites are built on, and its acronym origin story is actually entertaining: In the beginning it meant Personal Home Page Tools, but now stands for PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor, according to WhatIs.com. Personally, I think the original name made more sense. If you have a WordPress home page, your site starts and ends with PHP code.

Why do I need to update it?

Because the PHP your site is running may be dying, quite literally. And dead, unsupported software is like Swiss cheese for malware, hacks, link hijacking and worse. WordPress sites on PHP 5.6 run about half as fast as sites running PHP 7.2. And come Dec. 31, 2018, PHP 5.6 will enter End of Support. This is a tech term that literally means, “we’re not going to support that code anymore.” It get slapped on code languages when updates are so substantial, and patch such significant holes that running (and supporting) the former version becomes counterintuitive.

A faster site? Sweet!

While upgrading may be a pain you didn’t plan for this month, the good news is that if you’re in the need-to-do-it boat (i.e. if your site is running PHP 5.6 still), your WordPress site will enjoy significant speed improvements. According to my preferred host, WPEngine, most sites in testing “experienced up to 40% faster page speed, as well as greater memory efficiency, upon upgrade.” WPEngine feels so strongly about it that they’ll force upgrade or boot sites off of their server who don’t comply by March 2019.

Get serious about upgrading to PHP 7.2 today

Not sure which version of PHP your site is running right now? Ask your developer, ask your hosting company, or look in your hosting control panel. If it’s PHP 5.6 – act now, do not delay. If your WordPress site is running PHP 7 but not yet PHP 7.2, you have some time, but you need a plan. Reach out if you need help, don’t wait until it’s too late.

WordPress Gutenberg

No, we’re not talking about centuries-old printing presses but the WordPress Gutenberg changes are being heralded as being as important. Gutenberg, the new WordPress page editing format, is coming, and it promises to live up to its name. It’s different than TinyMCE, the WP editor we’re all used to. We break down the differences here.

The goal of Gutenberg

WordPress is the most flexible web publishing  platform ever, and developer skill for it is plentiful.

However, that flexibility comes at a price. To make the most out of content layout and styling, at least basic familiarity with the rudiments of code (HTML and CSS) is required. This is an inherent limitation of TinyMCE, the name of the current WordPress content editor.

Gutenberg is attempting to address that exact issue:  to allow publishers and editors with no code familiarity to create more sophisticated layouts and styling for their content.

“It’s great that so many people think WordPress is the best way to get their ideas on the web, and it’s easy to unlock the power of WordPress if you know how to write code — but not everyone does. And now, you won’t need to.” —Project Gutenberg

Gutenberg groups content into different types of blocks which can be controlled and styled independently, relative to other content. It gives users a level of granular control previously unavailable, but still presents a unified experience. That means, at least in theory, that you won’t need special formatting elements (such as widgets and embeds) to get your content to look “just right.”

Further reading

WordPress 5.0 changed the way we update support websites, but with a lot more creative possibilities. More than just a milestone release, Gutenberg (the name of the new 5.0 version of WordPress) represents major multiple shifts, rather than just updates. And it now ships with new WordPress installs, so all new sites come with it built-in.

So what’s different in WordPress 5.0?

TinyMCE is a free-to-use “what you see is what you get” (WYSIWYG) HTML content editor. Although used by other web platforms like Joomla, Drupal, Blogger, it is best known as the long-time content editor for WordPress. As the current version of WordPress, TinyMCE’s output is highly integrated into various WordPress functions, making it a key component of the whole platform.

Getting to know blocks

TinyMCE, the current WordPress editor is an open text window. It’s always been a wonderful blank canvas for writing, but when it comes to building posts and pages with images, multimedia, etc., it is not always intuitive. Here are the current features of the current WordPress editor:

  • Media library/HTML for images, multimedia and approved files.
  • Pasted links for embeds.
  • Shortcodes for specialized assets from plugins.
  • Featured images for the image at the top of a post or page.
  • Excerpts for subheads.
  • Widgets for content on the side of a page.

Instead, with Gutenberg, you create blocks for your content. Do you need to display a paragraph of text?  Create a block for it! Do you want to show your latest Twitter post? There’s a block for that, too. You get the picture.

Your theme can even include custom blocks authored just for you, and made available in Gutenberg, whenever you need it. Right now, Gutenberg already has a large number of different types of blocks and 30+ embeds.

Further reading

Here are some great references about WordPress 5.0 and Gutenberg. Dig in!