A major 2018 update for WordPress is due to land tomorrow and with it, the new editor Gutenberg.
Whilst many are looking forward to getting to use the new editor which deploys a block building system seen in many a page builder plugin such as Divi, many are frustrated by the development progress and the short 3 day notice period given by the WordPress team. The new Gutenburg editor marks a major departure from the TinyMCE editor which both WordPress developers and users have grown accustomed to.
WordPress 5.0 is to pushed out on Thursday 6th December as announced at the beginning of the week, giving the WordPress community and developers just 3 days notice to ready themselves and their websites should they choose to update. Security updates are applied automatically to a WordPress website, but major updates such as version 5 are not. So, the website will need a specific instruction of the website administrator to update to version 5. For those that use managed hosting solutions, the decision to update may will be out of their hands. It will be up to the host on weather or not to update immediately, potentially breaking a website should something go awry.
It seems the December 6th release date has been chosen so the new version of WordPress rolls out the day before the WordCamp conference hosted in the United States. This has led to many conference attendees, many of which are WordPress developers frustrated that they might be overwhelmed with technical assistance requests from their clients whilst essentially being away travelling to the conference. There is also other issues such as the accessibility of the new editor as well as a large number of other open technical issues surrounding the new editor and the WordPress Core itself. Another factor is that December is the holiday season for many around the world. Is rolling out a new update with the potential to break an existing WordPress website just a wise move to make in December, especially of that website has an e-commerce element to it in the run up to Christmas?
For developers, there is also the issue of the apparent lack of documentation for developing website using Gutenburg. Gutenburg uses ReactJS as it’s main language to construct, customise and utilise content blocks. Some developers will be faced with another learning curve of programming in React, other than WordPress’s native language of PHP. Also, the PHP language itself is due to release an update, version 7.3. So, WordPress will need to conform to that PHP standard going forwards too.
In short, many contributors to WordPress think the development of WordPress 5.0 has been rushed with milestones and releases dates for beta versions and release candidates missed over the past several months. There is genuine concern that there is too many accessibility issues and open technical issues with the new WordPress version.
I have taken the view not to update our client websites until January 2019. The original fallback date for the release of version 5 was January 22nd. Hopefully, the development team at WordPress will have rolled out further updates between now and January to make the new editor more stable and plugin developers such as WooCommerce and Advanced Custom Fields (ACF). Both WooCommerce and ACF have over a million installations so they can have the time to make sure that their plugins play nicely with Gutenburg and vice-versa. As far as ACF is concerned neither Gutenburg or themselves are ready yet. By postponing the update, this will ensure that the existing websites will not suffer any downtime as a result of a technical hitch from the new update and any plugins are fully compatible with WordPress 5. With WordPress 5.0.1 are being worked on, postponing updating until January seems a sensible option.
Even the CEO at Yoast, a popular WordPress SEO plugin suggested if you can postpone the update, postpone it.