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With almost one-third of the blogging market cornered, WordPress really is a powerhouse when it comes to setting up your corner of the cyber world. So it's no wonder that whenever WordPress gets ready for a major update release, the blogging world starts buzzing and people scramble to get their sites ready. WordPress 5.0 is slated to be released later this year. Here's a look at some of the changes WordPress has announced will be coming with this major update as well as some steps you should take to safeguard your site before jumping onboard and hitting that update button.

How to Get Your Site Prepared for WordPress 5.0

Some of the Changes Coming with WordPress 5.0

First, and likely the biggest change to hit this content management system, is the new Gutenberg interface. And oh man is it fun! The Gutenberg editor will turn WordPress into a drag-and-drop editor, meaning that there will be a block for each piece of your content: headings, paragraphs, quotes, images, etc. This new editor will take over the current WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor and promises to be much easier. You'll be able to create rich content quickly. And, instead of needing to learn HTML or shortcodes, everything will be done through these blocks. No more coding!

The editor will endeavour to create a new page and post building experience that makes writing rich posts effortless, and has “blocks” to make it easy what today might take shortcodes, custom HTML, or “mystery meat” embed discovery. (WordPress)

This also means no more struggling trying to make your posts look good – just drag and drop the pieces and you will be able to see the changes right then and there… no more saving and previewing your posts between changes to see how they are turning out. And I do love a good drag-and-drop interface to rearrange my content. All in all, the Gutenberg editor makes writing content more intuitive and less time-consuming. Gutenberg will do for blogging what Scrivener did for word processors!!

But, as I said, you don't want to simply wait for the update button to show up on your dashboard and click it. This will be a major update. That means the entire framework your website or blog is currently built on will be broken down and rewritten basically from scratch. Blindly clicking on the update button will likely break your site. So, before you update, here are some steps to take so you can make the upgrade smoother.

1. Test out the WordPress 5.0 Plugin

You might notice that the release schedule for WordPress 5.0 isn't exactly set in stone. That's because they are still testing, writing, and accepting feedback. This also means that their support forums are active and questions are being answered quickly. Even if you choose not to test out the plugin, it's still a good idea to bookmark the support forum so you can find answers quickly when you do upgrade. If you do choose to test out the plugin, it will give you a bit of a headstart on some of the many changes coming to WordPress (which you can turn off by deactivating the plugin). The best way to test out the plugin is to create a test site, either on a new domain or as a subdomain to your main site. Create a duplicate of your current site and install the plugin so you can experiment and play without affecting your main site.

2. Download the Gutenberg Editor Handbook

One of the things developers love about WordPress is how complete and easy to follow their documentation is. So it's really not a surprise that WordPress has put together documentation for the upcoming Gutenberg Editor. Check out their support documents and keep it somewhere close so you can reference it as needed.

3. Don't get Hijacked!

There's nothing worse than being caught by surprise with a new technology you have to learn fast. If you're not quite ready to make the switch over to Gutenberg, download the Classic Editor. This will make sure that even if Gutenberg sneaks up on you, you will be able to switch back to the editor you're used to so you can make the transition more on your own time.

4. Continue to Update your Existing Plugins and Themes

Free plugins are not always the best at keeping up to date with major updates to the core WordPress platform. So it's always best to keep these plugins updated so you'll know right away if any of them will have compatibility issues with the system. Of course, before and after updating any plugins, make sure you perform a backup of your site to stay safe. For any of your plugins (free or paid), make sure you start communicating with the plugins' developers and ask about their plans for updating to be compatible with the new Core system. If you don't receive an answer, start looking for alternatives so you don't lose functionality when it's time for upgrades.

5. Check your Theme

Beautiful, unique themes are wonderful for helping you stand out, but like plugins, they may not be updated quickly to support the new system. Popular themes are almost always the first to be updated to be compatible with changes to the core system. If you have a theme you love and don't want to change, start writing to your theme's developer to inquire about their plans or timelines for updating that theme to work with WordPress 5.0. If you don't receive an answer, it may be time to start looking at a new theme or plan on switching to one of the included Core themes once the update comes.

6. Did I Mention Backups?

I know I said to back up your site before and after every update, but it still deserved its own paragraph. Backup your site. This is especially important if you don't already have a regular backup routine. Do not rely on your hosts with their weekly backups. They're fine for basic backups to your content and settings. But when we are talking about being prepared for a major upgrade like this, it's better to backup before and after every step of the way.

  • Backup before you update a plugin, so if the update breaks you can go back to the pre-updated version
  • Backup after you update a plugin so if something else breaks you can restore to a point when the updated plugin worked.

7. Not Sure how to do Some of These Things? Take a Course!!

If you're feeling unsure about how to do some of these steps, or if you'd like a bit more information on how to get ready for Gutenberg, why not take a course? Hope Hanson-Baker over at The Purple Teacup has a free mini course specifically on how to get ready for Gutenberg.

Change can be scary, we all know that. But it doesn't have to derail you. Follow these steps and you'll be much more prepared for WordPress 5.0 when it gets here.

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