A major update to WordPress was released today. WordPress 5 .0 is here. If you update your own website, there are a few things to be aware of before you hit that "update" button.
Gutenberg is the new default editor and it's very different
The biggest change in WordPress 5 is the introduction of a new default page editor: Gutenberg.
So far the page editor has looked a little like a Word document, and all of the page content was in the one editor section. Things like layouts with multiple columns required shortcodes.
Gutenberg introduces blocks to create page layouts. There are several different kinds of blocks such as paragraph blocks, column blocks and image blocks. When you install WordPress 5, Gutenberg will automatically become your new default editor, and this can cause a few issues for existing websites.
If you have a WordPress website and are not on a maintenance plan, please be extra careful
If you subscribe to our website maintenance plan then we will upgrade your website to the new version once it has been more thoroughly tested. We will also install the current editor into the new software so that nothing will really change for your editing experience while you are still able to benefit from the other new features in WordPress 5.
However, if you apply your own plugin and WordPress updates, you will need to exercise caution, particularly if you have an online store or a custom theme.
Gutenberg has the option of converting existing content to blocks, however this can create layout issues. This is likely to become less of an issue over time as Gutenberg matures and more plugins become fully compatible with it. If you do decide to have a play with Gutenberg, make sure you use the preview button before committing your content changes.
Switch back to the classic editor
If you have an existing website that was built with the classic editor, the safest option is to stick with the classic editor for now.
That way you can still upgrade to WordPress 5 but keep using your existing editor and you are unlikely to have issues with your page layout that way.
When you upgrade to WordPress 5, scroll down to the bottom of the welcome screen and you will see a button that allows you to install the classic editor as a plugin. If you have already navigated away from this screen, go to Plugins > Add New and search for "Classic Editor" and click the "install now" button, then activate the plugin. This will allow you to keep using the classic editor when managing your pages and posts.
In a nutshell
If you update your own website and want to be on the safe side, follow this process for the WordPress 5.0 update.
1. Back up your website so that it can be restored in case something goes wrong with the update (using a backup plugin such as Akeeba Backup which is probably already installed on your website)
2. Update all of your plugins to the latest version
3. Go to Plugins > Add New and search for "classic editor", then install and activate the plugin
4. Update Wordpress to the latest version
5. Test everything looks fine on the frontend of your website.
Over time I am sure Gutenberg will mature and we will likely use it or a similar page builder in future website builds with the aim of making content updates even easier for our clients.