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Daniel Shaw · WordPress Developer Wellington, New Zealand

How to avoid WordPress 5.0 breaking your website

Earlier this year I wrote a quick overview for how to easily protect your website against potential issues caused by WordPress 5.0's new block-based editor.

In March I picked out four straight-forward options to help guide preparation for the next major WordPress release. It's now months later and WordPress 5.0 is finally about to become available—that'll be December 7, here in New Zealand—so is that advice still relevant?

Here's the original list of options:

  • Never update to WordPress 5.0.
  • Install the Classic Editor plugin to retain the existing editor after you update.
  • Start using the editor now—via the Gutenberg plugin—but accept a hefty maintenance schedule.
  • Consider whether your goals can be met with a different CMS.

Now that the new editor is included in WordPress' core software, I'm recommending two simple steps:

  1. Install the Classic Editor plugin now.
  2. Don't update to WordPress 5.0 immediately.

Install the Classic Editor plugin now

Why is this important?

This will ensure your site will retain the familiar pre-5.0 editor, regardless of when you choose to update.

Besides a change in appearance and workflow, the new editor uses a different underlying technology. The result of this change may see many existing plugins and themes that depend on the old way of doing things crippled in some fashion.

How do I install the Classic Editor plugin?

It's very simple and requires no configuration (since version 0.0.4). As follows:

  1. From your WordPress dashboard go to Plugins > Add New, and you'll see Classic Editor as one of the default options (if you don't see it, try the keyword search tool).
  2. Click the Install Now button.
  3. Once installed the button label will update to say "Activate"; click this to activate the plugin.
  4. You're done!

The plugin does offer a couple of minor configuration options, you'll find these under the Settings > Writing tab (look for "Default editor for all users" and "Allow users to switch editors").

You can find more about the Classic Editor plugin at the WordPress plugin repository.

Don't update to WordPress 5.0 immediately

Many developers recommend avoiding the update until at least some time in January 2019. This isn't an approach unique to the latest version of WordPress, and it's always been a great idea to wait a bit to see if any major issues crop up in the days after a release. However, this becomes imperative for an update that fundamentally alters how content is composed and is utilised by 3rd-party plugins and themes.

Why is this important?

Despite WordPress 5.0 being declared fit for release it's very clearly not. It's difficult to guess the extent of major and minor bugs that will continue to appear following the 5.0 release, but luckily there's no need to: just wait and see.

The broader WordPress eco-system is also currently in trouble by association. For a “great” and sobering read about one of the most popular WordPress plugins, see The Night Before Gutenberg.

When will it be safe to update?

There's been a rapid rate of development with regards to the new editor and this will continue after the 5.0 release, with minor point releases slated for every two weeks.

So, there's two things to consider before updating:

  1. Any major bugs have been patched in the weeks after the initial 5.0 release.
  2. You've tested 5.0 against your site in a test environment (i.e not on your live website).