WordPress 5.1 upgrades previous versions by improving both the speed and security of websites. In addition, this newest version also improves even further on the new Gutenberg block editor that was released in version 5.0.
A Quick Guide to WordPress 5.1 and 5.1.1
One of the primary changes from WP 5.0.3 to 5.1 is that WordPress now sends alerts to site administrators if they are running outdated versions of PHP.
The newest PHP version is 7.1.26, released in January 2019. Older versions may have potential speed and security issues. WP 5.1 also alerts admins if one of their plugins requires a version of PHP that is incompatible with the site and will forbid the installation of the plugin if that is so.
Another feature of Version 5.1 is improved editor performance. WordPress has sped up its new block editor and made the overall interface feel smoother and more responsive. WordPress states that they will continue to improve the editor even more in the future.
Version 5.1.1 adds some security patches to 5.1.
Many of the enhancements found in 5.1 are related to new and better developer tools.
- Multisite metadata
- Updated Cron API
- Other miscellaneous improvements
Many website administrators may not feel that they need access to those tools, but your developers will welcome the upgrades.
Tips for Updating to WordPress 5.0 and Beyond
If you have not yet made the switch to WordPress 5.0 or 5.1, then here are a few practical things you need to know before you do.
We found that most of our clients’ websites needed additional updates and adjustments after we updated them to WordPress 5.0. If you are updating WordPress on your own, you may find this information useful.
- WooCommerce sites have issues with 5.0. You need to make sure you have updated to the newest version 5.0.2 which addresses the “missing” orders on the “view all orders” screen.
- If you use a page builder such as Elementor, then you need to install the Classic Editor plugin and make it the default editor. This will keep WordPress from migrating your pages and posts from Elementor to Gutenberg. The Classic Editor will have WordPress support until 2022.
- You must check all installed plugins to make sure that they are updated and that the updates are compatible with your WordPress version. Most are compatible with 5.0 but not necessarily 5.1. This can cause headaches for WooCommerce sites which must have 5.0.2 installed.
- The premium plugins on your site may not be eligible for automatic updates. You may need to renew your license in order to make it compatible with the new WordPress releases.
- Some plugins will have to be replaced with others. This may mean redesigning a landing page or other parts of your website (such as contact forms).
- If you are using an older PHP version, you may find that you need to update to a newer one for optimal performance. Coincidentally, PHP 7.3 was also released on December 6 and WordPress 5.0 contains compatibility fixes for the new PHP version.
- Even after installing the Classic Editor, you may find that Elementor or other page builders “look” different. In order to integrate their toolbars with the new WordPress layout, many of them had to rearrange their drag and drop menu. You may need to relearn where things are located.
Improvements on the Gutenberg Block Editor
If you’ve already made the switch to Elementor or another page builder, then Gutenberg won’t seem strange to you. For those who use the standard WordPress editor, you are used to using an interface that looks more like Word or Google Docs. Gutenberg looks (and acts) nothing like the classic interface. Instead, the new editor makes use of content blocks, arranged visually rather than using shortcodes or HTML.
For the non-programmer, this is good news. You will be able to insert columns, social media feeds, formatting, and even microdata WITHOUT having to know how to code. The result should be visually appealing pages and better SEO, which should mean better ranking and higher conversions.
You will even be able to save the blocks and use them as templates across the website. This can save time and make it easier to maintain a consistent look for your brand.
The Cons of Gutenberg
Even though Gutenberg has potential, there are a couple of hurdles that you will face right after you make the switch.
1. You will need to relearn WordPress
Almost everyone knows how to use a word processing program, so the current WordPress interface is pretty easy to navigate. If you take a look at the new editor (you can play with Gutenberg here), you notice that while the basics seem pretty self-explanatory, the full functionality will take some time to learn.
2. Not all themes and plugins work with Gutenberg
Eventually, if they want to stay in business, theme and plugin developers will need to update their products to be Gutenberg compatible. However, you may find that there are parts of your website that don’t work correctly after you update to WordPress 5.0 or higher. You may need to find new plugin options or temporarily install the WordPress Classic plugin.
What is the WordPress Classic Plugin?
The word on the street is that eventually, everyone will need to switch to the new editor but in the meantime, you can install the Classic Plugin. This “turns off” Gutenberg and allows you to use the old interface. It’s true that WordPress will offer a plugin that will allow you to use WordPress 5.0 without Gutenberg.
Keep in mind that future 3rd party plugins and theme updates will be Gutenberg compatible, meaning they may not work with the Classic Plugin. If you choose NOT to update your plugins so you can continue to use Classic, then over time you will run security risks and support will lapse.
So, the bottom line is that eventually, everyone WILL have to make a switch.
Gutenberg and Elementor
How does Gutenberg work with Elementor? That is a good question! Here is what it says on the Elementor website:
Our team has been keeping a close eye on the Gutenberg project. We are looking into different methods to integrate and extend Gutenberg in Elementor.
We are glad WordPress is also making progress with the Gutenberg project. This brings an important functionality to millions of users, and new challenges for theme and plugin developers.We believe that Elementor’s unique vision of design is just in its early stages, and there is a lot of room for innovation. We will find the best path to work alongside the new editor, and keep leading the field of WordPress design.
What Does All of This Mean for You?
The bottom line is that if you do not currently use a page builder, then you will need to install one. Either you can use Gutenberg or you can switch your site over to another, like Elementor, that has more functionality. If you watched the Thrive video, you may have remarked on the fact that Gutenberg does far less than other page builders and is still evolving.
When should you update WordPress?
WordPress 5.0 was one of the most dynamic WordPress updates in a long time. When making such a large shift, bugs will show up, even with the best testing and planning. Each subsequent release since 5.0 has sought to improve performance and security. It is important to update to the newest WordPress version 5.1 or higher to prevent security issues. You should also update your plugins as new releases are made so that you aren’t exposed to vulnerabilities.
Effect Web Agency builds and maintains WordPress websites for clients in a variety of industries. If you have questions about WordPress 5.1 and whether or not you should update, contact Effect and learn more about the implications for your site.