WordPress 5.6: What businesses need to know

Written By Coral Wood
Posted On December 8, 2020

In what has been a rather surreal year for everyone across the globe. It’s safe to say our attention has been pre-occupied. However, whilst we were all setting up our home-based makeshift offices, WordPress has been quietly carrying on uninterrupted. Following the highly anticipated, yet disruptive, PHP 8 update, WordPress is throwing another spanner in the works by issuing a new update of its own. Today, WordPress 5.6 is launching.

Whilst PHP 8 brought a variety of breaking changes and presented headaches to even the most experienced backend developers, it presented a whole host of exciting new features.

Likewise, the WordPress 5.6 update truly delivers when it comes to new features alongside the standard update benefits.

Whether it’s for you, your team, or your developers, here’s what you need to know for your business when it comes to WordPress 5.6.

Why is WordPress 5.6 important?

WordPress 5.6 is the final major release for WordPress websites in 2020. Following the game-changing PHP 8 launch update, the update comes from their core contributors who have been fixing major compatibility issues for some time. After making a call for more testers for the upcoming 5.6 release back in October, it’s now live.

Though it’s not as disruptive as PHP 8, which you’ll need a survival guide to tackle, the latest WordPress update’s most significant changes have been purely developed to support PHP 8’s new features.

But why is that important? Well, because PHP 8 has delivered so many breaking changes and new features, it needs further support from WordPress to run effectively. 

PHP 8 tackles some of its predecessor’s flaws. However, with improvement comes complexity. To increase the speed of the code, PHP 8’s changes meant the code could be easily misinterpreted or accept invalid inputs leading to errors.

This, in particular, is not something we would want to see happening when, for example, a customer encounters a shopping cart throwing errors which they’ll most likely abandon, only to make the same purchase elsewhere.

WordPress 5.6 & PHP 8: what’s the big deal?

Eventually, to keep your website safe and secure, you will inevitably need to update to PHP 8 and WordPress 5.6. Despite the task ahead, this maintenance practice is essential in ensuring your website stays secure. 

However, to ensure your site is as risk-free as possibly could be, you’ll need to get into the depths of your backend to ensure your code isn’t throwing errors following your PHP 8 update alongside installing WordPress 5.6.

Why? Due to its breaking changes, PHP 8 can return errors or ignore outdated code and workflows. For example, buttons might not work the way you intended them to, submitting data might not follow the proper workflows, or worse, leaving your website open to attacks, allowing hackers easy access.

Not convinced that WordPress 5.6 and PHP 8 might deserve your attention? One eye-opening report shows that YOAST ran compatibility tests against their own website. They found that there were half a million PHP warnings on their site that will generate an error in PHP 8. And that’s before they updated to WordPress 5.6.

Download our FREE our PHP 8 Survival Guide >>>

The 6 note-worthy update improvements for developers

For developers, CTOs and CIOs alike, here’s the technical stuff you can look forward to with WordPress 5.6:

  1. Jquery will get an update, finally bringing JavaScript up to date
  2. 10 block editor bug fixes will be issued to prevent nuisance problems when block editing. Examples of these bugs include blocks preventing you from editing blocks, and other troublesome bugs that appeared following the last update
  3. A new default blog theme, the uber-contemporary Twenty Twenty-One, designed specifically for portfolios 
  4. Public beta of full site editing which will come as a welcome change for fans of Gutenberg
  5. Application passwords to improve site security
  6. UI control allowing you to control consent to opt-in to major versions of automatic updates

What next?

WordPress 5.6 has been declared by its core team as a “beta compatible with PHP 8”.  But more reassuringly have also stated:

Any changes made to provide support for PHP 8.0 will be done in a way that maintains backward compatibility for all versions of PHP supported by WordPress (currently to PHP 5.6.20).”

Yoast

Luckily WordPress will remain backwards compatible. This means theme and plugin developers will have time to remove incompatibilities in their products. 

That being said, PHP 8 continues to be the double-edged sword of your business’s site. Whilst you don’t need to tackle PHP 8 before updating to WordPress 5.6, you will have to update your PHP eventually. Our final advice to business owners with WordPress websites? Don’t wait too long, hand it over to your developer team, or get in touch with specialists!

Coral Wood

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