The New WordPress Update Will Crash A Lot Of Websites; Don’t Let Yours Be Among Them.

WordPress is famous, among other things, for it’s simple update. But next week’s WordPress 5.7 update will be an ordeal for many site owners, causing fear, stress and frustration as many sites simply stop working as expected.

wordpress logo

Not to worry! I’ve been testing the coming update and – while I’m certain there’ll be widespread hair-pulling as a result – it is possible to have a smooth update, reap the benefits of the new features and get on with running your business.

What’s the problem with WordPress 5.7?

March 9th 2021. That’s the date of the first major WordPress release of 2021, version 5.7. WordPress releases come often – 28 releases in 2020 – so you might not pass much notice. But this release is a big deal, containing a change that will impact many plugins, themes and older code.

Here’s why: WordPress has been using an old version of some javascript libraries for a long time. These libraries are now getting a big update. Many plugins, themes and customisations written for those old libraries will not be updated in time, so things are going to break.

What can happen to my site?

It depends on what plugins and themes you’re using. Some parts of your site might no longer display as you want. Some things may stop working as expected.

There’s often some fear of a WordPress update. When updating WordPress, you’ll usually just take a backup, click on Install and wait with a grimace, hoping that your screen doesn’t just go blank or that warning lights start flashing on your monitor!

This update requires a little more preparation…

A not-too-technical background

JQuery is a popular collection of functions for javascript (a programming/scripting language) used by about 73% of all websites. It’s also a part of WordPress.

For years WP has relied on an older version of this library; the current version of jQuery is jQuery version 1.12, from 2016! Now it’s time for an update. The update will move from jquery version 1 to version 3, a relatively big jump.

As you can imagine, jQuery has evolved in that time; some code is no longer a part of the library and some new code has entered.

You need to update

You know by now that all software needs regular updates to fix problems, patch security leaks and take advantage of new features and new technology.

The jQuery update is a big deal and not taken lightly by WP developers. It’s been an ongoing discussion in the WordPress community for over four years! This latest update is the final step of their 3.step plan.

The 3-step plan is

  1. WordPress 5.5: Remove the old jQuery Migrate 1.x script. (August 2020) This script fills in the gaps for features that have been removed in the jQuery library.
  2. WordPress 5.6: Update to the latest jQuery, jQuery UI, and jQuery Migrate scripts. (December 2020)
  3. WordPress 5.7: Remove this new jQuery Migrate script. (March 2021) Without the script, the problems of outdated code will be revealed.

Since there are 58,000 official WordPress plugins and many more unofficial ones, it’s hard to predict the full effects of a cor eupdate like this one.

Most people of course will do nothing and take a wait-and-see approach. After all, nothing much goes wrong when it comes to WordPress updates! But every now and then something gets a bit more complicated.

For example, in August 2020, WordPress 5.5 removed the jQuery Migrate script as the first step in this larger migration. This caused problems on many sites using plugins dependent upon older versions of jQuery. This next update will have a similar impact.

infographic wordpress jquery update plan by wordpressforgood

The most popular and reliable plugins are already prepared for the change. But as always, some plugin authors aren’t very active and their code won’t be updated in time. It’s even more complicated if your site code has been customised in some way. If your code relies on outdated parts of the jQuery library, there’ll be problems.

What can you do to avoid problems?

Well, there are a few approaches you can take.

Option 1

The simplest way to ensure a smooth update is to have a trusted professional take care of it for you; they’ll test your current site to see if there are any likely problems and then let you know what work needs to be done. They can also handle the update itself to ensure a seamless transisiton to the new WordPress goodness. Be aware that if your designer does not seem to know much about this, you should find someone else who does; it’s a technical problem and needs tedhnial knowledge to get past it.

But I understand you may not have that luxury. If you want to do it yourself, be prepared to dig into some technical stuff.

Option 2

The technical option. Read the very detailed and technical jQuery doc here:

https://jquery.com/upgrade-guide/3.0/2

This is not for the faint-hearted; if technical details put you off, stay away from this one.

Option 3 – probably your best option

Use this plugin to test your site:

To use this plugin, install and activate it then go to Tools, Test jQuery updates. there you can disable jQuery and flip through your site to see if anything’s now not working. This mimics what will happen with the 5.7 update.

If you hit some problems then proceed as you usually do when you need some technical help; call your developer or take the DIY route.

Be very careful, though, not to test this on the live version of your site. A good hosting company will provide you with what’s called a “staging” version of your site; this is a copy of the live site that you can use to test things before going live.

(If you need a top-rated, carbon-neutral host then look no fiurther than a2 hosting, who we use to host all our sites.)

Conclusion

Updates are a necessary but sometimes thorny fact of running your online business. Occasionally, things are bound to get technical beyond your abilities and those times can really test your inner Stoic. The March 9th update may be one such occasion and it’s approaching; you need to accept that and be prepared.

That said, we will get past this and move on as always. A year from now this will have been just another little bump on the road to building your business.

If you think you’ll have problems with the update or if you do have problems after the update contact us or let me know in the comments and someone will take a look for you.

What’s your approach to this WordPress update: are you burying your head with fingers crossed or are you being proactive?

Sources

https://make.wordpress.org/core/2020/11/05/updating-core-jquery-to-version-3-part-2/

https://wptavern.com/major-jquery-changes-on-the-way-for-wordpress-5-5-and-beyond

https://theeventscalendar.com/blog/wordpress/how-to-prepare-for-the-wordpress-update-to-jquery/

https://www.a2hosting.com/blog/jquery-conflicts-fix-wordpress-5-5/

https://css-tricks.com/wordpress-5-7-big-ol-jquery-update/

https://wordpress.org/plugins/enable-jquery-migrate-helper/

https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-jquery-update-test/

https://jquery.com/upgrade-guide/3.0/

https://github.com/jquery/jquery-migrate

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