WordPress introduces a major update about once or twice every year. The latest update, WordPress 4.5, released April 12, and nicknamed “Coleman Hawkins,” should not be overlooked. OmniStudio has tested the beta release over the last few weeks, and we’re excited because it includes important under-the-hood and content management improvements. If your organization is updating its site (which we strongly recommend), here are some helpful tips and more details about its new features:
Content Management Updates
These advances will make your organization’s content management and WordPress workflows smoother.
Depending on how your website is coded and built, content managers can make changes to a variety of things that were normally reserved for developers: the logo, tagline, colors, widgets, and menus are all in the customizer section. The customizer also displays changes in real time without having to toggle to another browser window or tab to see a preview.
Linking text is easier to do now. In the previous version of WordPress, we had this clunky pop-up window that interrupts work and distracts with too much information.
Now, it is simpler and more user-friendly with a slender inline pop-up.
WordPress now allows you to set your email address as your username, which takes the guesswork out of creating usernames and makes it easier for WP users to remember them.
New shortcuts for creating content for posts. For example, “—” will create a line across the page, “#” on either side of text will format that text as “heading 1.” If enabled, you can use the help icon in the visual editor to see a full list of keyboard shortcuts:
Mobile Responsive Updates
From the customizer section, you can now render responsive previews of your site for mobile, tablet, desktop displays. This is a huge improvement that will be particularly appreciated by those of us who create new landing pages often and need to test them for responsiveness.
While coding improvements might not be as flashy as content management updates, in many ways they are more important. Under-the-hood improvements include things like performance and security. Updating your site shortly after new releases reduces the chances of future issues with both.
Pages now load faster, which means a better user experience. This also makes pages rank better with search engines like Google and Bing (learn more about performance). Image compression is one of the big performance upgrades, and images “now load up to 50% faster with no noticeable quality loss” (learn more from WordPress).
WordPress sites account for more than 25% of all websites worldwide, and the WordPress community has a vested interest in fending off attacks. Not every release deals with security, because they improve security incrementally as issues arise. New launches are usually followed soon after by a “point release” that deals with security and maintenance updates. Version 4.4.2 that came out two months ago is a good example. Look for WP 4.5.1 to come out in the next few months.
Two Concerns with any WordPress Update
- With any new WordPress update, some plugins may be rendered incompatible, while other plugins prepare their code for updates and have no problems at all. Incompatible or unsupported plugins can cause problems with site functionality.
- WordPress updates come with bugs of their own, and sometimes the new releases do not play nice with certain website templates.
Alleviating Concerns When Updating WP
To alleviate concerns with updating your WordPress site, we recommend all of the following:
- Install new WordPress updates—don’t wait too long, because versions become outdated, and therefore unsupported;
- Try new WP releases on a development/staging site before you move to a live/production site;
- Test out the new WP features and see if the update plays nice with your template and plugins;
- Update WordPress, and then update all your plugins. Methodically ensure everything is compatible;
- Very important: have your developer back up your WordPress site before installing WP 4.5.
If you need help updating your site and plugins, or learning more about WordPress 4.5, please reach out to us and we will get back to you shortly.