This past week our hosted websites were updated to PHP version 7.2 and the latest WordPress version 5.1, a successful and seamless transition that keeps our clientele website platforms up-to-date. A couple older websites (i.e. 7 years old) running outdated plugins were updated with up-to-date plugins for compatibility.
A key role in the management of our client websites is updating software it runs on to ensure all parts of it are running smoothly and functioning as they should. Software will always have new versions that include new features, as well as bug fixes from previous released versions, and the old versions will cease to be supported one day in which anything run on that version will eventually need to be updated to a newer version.
December 2018 was when support ended for PHP versions 5.6 and 7.0, which have been running since their release in August 2014 and December 2015 respectively. Naturally, most websites were running on these older versions without a need for updating their PHP version for a few years. However, now that these versions are no longer supported, it’s time to update to a new version that is actively in support. Although our host, Siteground, stays on top of these updates pretty well and has already defaulted to version 7.1, we’ve gone ahead and manually updated our client hosted websites to version 7.2 and checked each one of them comprehensively for compatibility, ensuring no bugs came up. PHP version 7.2 will be supported until November 2020 (see PHP’s Wikipedia Version History: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PHP).
The latest WordPress version, as of the date of this article, is WordPress 5.1. Thanks to Sitegrounds auto-updates, WordPress versions on our clients websites are automatically updated almost immediately after they’re released.
December 2018 was also another big month for WordPress users, as it was the month that the very anticipated, major release of WordPress version 5.0 came out with the new Gutenberg Editor. We are happy that all of our websites (ones we built from scratch) were transitioned to this major release successfully and without a hitch. We have to give it to the WordPress Core Developers themselves, as I know that required hours and hours of coding and testing to bring this new Editor experience into WordPress.
However, as with any new major software release, software packages added onto the WordPress core – plugins and themes – will need to be compatible with its new features (this also includes the PHP version the website runs on). This boils down to just how they were coded. While looking for new themes or plugins to use on your WordPress website, be sure to check out if they’re compatible with both the most up-to-date version of WordPress as well as the new PHP versions mentioned above.
Learn more about WordPress and view its Release History including which versions are still in support: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WordPress
Why does it matter if a website is running on an unsupported software version when it seems to be running fine at the moment?
An unsupported version means that any problems or bugs reported on that version will not be fixed at its core. Depending on how your website is built, it may be able to run on unsupported versions for some time, however, when one bug comes up due to the outdated code, it won’t have any chance of being fixed and, therefore, will provide plenty of headaches due to broken code. Also, all websites are composed of a combination of languages and when one is outdated and is throwing errors, it just makes the whole foundation of a website that much more complicated considering all of the other “working parts” of it need to somehow still work together.
Although it’s important to update to supported versions, we don’t necessarily recommend updating major version updates as soon as they’re released, at least until the website is fully tested to be compatible with the new version. This is why there’s often multiple versions supported at one time, so the newer version can run, be tested, and be polished before it’s used by a majority of users as well as give time for developers to update any plugins, themes, or additional coding on their websites for compatibility with the new software version.
Learn more about PHP and view its Release History including which versions are still in support: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PHP