This week WordPress 4.8 “Evans” came out with a few new features that people might get excited about. In the grand scheme of things, they might not seem like huge changes, but for the average person they will make life a bit easier.
First thing’s first: new widgets!
Up until now, the text widget in WordPress could only be styled with the knowledge of HTML and CSS. This made it restrictive for people unless they installed a TinyMCE plugin for extra features. WordPress 4.8 has introduced an updated text widget that allows you to write in Visual or HTML format. In the Visual editor you will have access to text editing such as bold, italic, bulleted lists, numbered lists and links. Hurray!
Other new widgets in WordPress 4.8 include a new image widget, so you can easily insert images into your sidebar without HTML knowledge. There is also a new video widget so you can insert short self-hosted promo vids on your site (but do keep them short so they don’t put too much strain on your site). Additionally, there is now an audio widget for those that like sharing music clips or podcasts in a simple format.
For those of you that use widgets in your sidebars or around your site, you now have more flexibility without the use of plugins. Less plugins = faster site!
Have you ever added a link to WordPress and then edited it later to find additional text breaks the link? Or have you continued your sentence after the link only to have that included in the link? Well now WordPress 4.8 has link improvements to prevent that from happening.
A few notes on updating to WordPress 4.8
Back up your site first
Firstly, make sure you back up your site prior to updating. With any major update like this, there is the potential for teething problems caused by clashes with themes or plugins. Backing up means you can roll back to the previous version if needed, so you can wait for patches and updates to roll out. You should update in the near future, because it will keep your site secure. Naturally you want to make sure that your site is compatible first. I have used UpdraftPlus Premium (affiliate link) for backups over three years now and include it on my clients’ websites. There is also a free version of Updraft Plus that will see you through in most instances. Another option to use is the premium Backup Buddy.
In an ideal setup you will have a staging (test) site, or a backup site installed on your hosting so you can have a duplicate version of your site. You can then test your updates on the staging site for any errors before launching them to your live site.
If you use Genesis, update that first
If you are on the Genesis platform, update your theme prior to updating WordPress. Sometimes Genesis doesn’t automatically let you know if there is an update. If you aren’t seeing up update notification, go to Genesis > Theme Settings and under Updates, check to see if you are set to receive notifications. Again, for security reasons, you should keep your theme updated. This also helps to ensure continued compatibility with WordPress as new features roll out.
Update your plugins one by one
Once you have made sure everything still looks hunky dory, you should then move on to your plugins that need updating. Update them one by one so that you know straight away if one is causing an issue. If it is, you can temporarily disable that plugin until you can roll back the updates. On the WordPress plugin depository you can usually access the previous version of a plugin on its plugin page by clicking on Advanced View and accessing the version you want for download (see images below). Upload the older plugin files via FTP, or from within your cPanel account (something that requires a whole post on its own!)
Once you have finished updating your plugins, give your site a final checkover to check for any problems.
If you have any issues, feel free to contact me with your issue, and I’ll let you know if it’s an easy fix!