November 17, 2017
The relentless march of WordPress improvements carries on. Yesterday (16th November 2017) we were greeted with the good news that those awfully nice WordPress people have an update for us: 4.9 “Tipton”, no less. Tipton is named after jazz musician and band leader Billy Tipton.
The increase in number from 4.8.x to 4.9 indicates that this is a pretty important release, introducing major new functionality rather than addressing bugs or blocking security holes. The general thrust seems that the reason for applying this upgrade is to get the improvements and new features.
As it is a somewhat major upgrade, it won’t happen automatically. That’s because it needs close supervision just in case the upgrade breaks anything. Especially on sites with lots of plugins or older themes, it pays to be on hand to deal with any issues that arise and to have a roll-back scheme in place in case, to use a technical term, it all goes pear-shaped.
There are lots of “under the hood” enhancements that are strictly geeky in their appeal and that’s not a bad thing - happy geeks make better, cooler websites. (Read the WordPress announcement here)
Here are six things that might excite everyday users who rely on a WordPress site to get their message out:
Draft and Schedule Site Design Customizations
WordPress previously allowed you to create posts and pages ahead of time and schedule them to be released at a later date. Now you can alter your site’s design and schedule those changes to go live at the time you please. Fantastic, if you’re doing a seasonal promotion and need an image change to coincide with a new message.
Collaborate with Design Preview Links
I haven’t tried this one out, but it looks to be another winner. Our practice, when making changes to the design, is to set up a hidden mirror site so that any alterations don’t affect the production site until they’ve got the go ahead. WordPress 4.9 gives you a preview link you can send to colleagues and customers so that you can collect and integrate feedback before you schedule the changes to go live.
Design Locking Guards Your Changes
Useful in a multi-designer situation. WordPress 4.9’s design lock feature (similar to post locking) secures your draft design so that no one can make changes to it or erase all your hard work.
A Prompt to Protect Your Work
Just like when you attempt to navigate away from a post or a page without having saved your work, WordPress 4.9 will ask whether you’d like to save the changes you’ve just made to your draft design.
New Gallery Widget
Does what it says - add a gallery using this widget.
Press a Button, Add Media
This allows you to embed images, video and audio into a widget along with your text with a simple “Add Media” button. Gone are the days of having to nip into the media library, copy the media URL, go back to the widget and insert the appropriate html manually, pasting in the link. Personally, I think this one has been a little too long coming. Now that it’s here, it’s very welcome!
Should I Update to WordPress 4.9 now?
Probably: it seems to be worthwhile. The nature of site admins is to be cautious. I’m rolling this out gradually over the sites I oversee. I haven’t encountered any issues yet with this update breaking anything. If I do, then I will report back.
Updating is sensible. Having a completely up to date site doesn’t mean that a determined cracker won’t be able to gain access. It does mean that it’s that much more difficult to hack and hopefully less vulnerable to automated assaults.
Hackers looking for “low hanging fruit” are more likely to look elsewhere among the myriads of poorly maintained sites out on the web.
Keep safe out there!