WordPress 5.2 was released on 7th May 2019, and includes some exciting new features to help keep your website well supported and running optimally.
What’s in WordPress 5.2?
WordPress 5.2 is a ‘minor’ update to WordPress, but it still contains some great new features, particularly around website health and performance optimisation:
Site Health Check
You now have access to a ‘Site Health Check’, which provides a breakdown of your website and hosting environment, outlining any areas where you could improve, along with an overall score. Much like Google’s PageSpeed insights or a typical SEO report, the idea isn’t necessarily to get 100%, but you should aim for a score that is as realistically high as possible. In addition to providing an on-screen status report, if you click the ‘Info’ link at the top, you will get a full diagnostic report which you can send to a developer or web host in order to help diagnose issues. Just click ‘Copy site info to clipboard’ and then paste the info into an email or support website.
PHP Error Protection
Another new feature that will be really handy for both developers and WordPress users themselves is the new ‘PHP error protection’. Previously, if you updated a plugin and it resulted in a PHP error, your entire website could be replaced with a ‘white screen of death’. Once this happened, you’d need to connect to the website via FTP and manually remove the plugin that caused the issue. With WordPress 5.2, this is a much more controlled process, and WordPress will automatically send a message to the WordPress admin email address detailing the problem, along with a link to the new ‘Recovery Mode’. This will let you login and disable the incompatible plugin, and bring your website back online.
Gutenberg Block Customisation
There is also a really helpful update for the Gutenberg editor – if you are still using the Classic Editor then this won’t affect you, but for anyone using Gutenberg this should be a welcome improvement. Prior to WordPress 5.2, all the Gutenberg ‘blocks’ were clustered together in large groups, and each time you wanted to add a new block you’d need to scroll through the list of groups, and then scroll through all the available blocks within the group you need. Now, you can click the ‘triple-dot’ menu and access the new ‘Block Manager’ – this enables you to disable any blocks (or entire groups) that you don’t need, which then hides them from the editor interface and makes adding blocks much quicker. If you ever need to put them back, just go back in to Block Manager and tick the ones you want to restore.
PHP Version Bump
Finally, there is also a change in the minimum PHP version that WordPress supports – it now requires PHP 5.6 or above. These days most websites are running at least PHP 5.6, but some older websites are running versions that are older than this. If you want to check which version you are running, you can do so on the new ‘Site Health Check’ within WordPress. If you are running any version of PHP prior to 5.6 then contact your host and ask them if they can upgrade you to PHP 7.2 or PHP 7.3.
Is it Worth Upgrading to WordPress 5.2?
Is it worth upgrading right away? If you’re running any of the current version of WordPress 5 (including 5.0, 5.1 and 5.11) then you should be fine to upgrade, as this is only a minor version change. However, there is always a small chance that something could go wrong, so if in doubt check with your developer or web host first. If you’re running WordPress 4.9 or prior however, it’s definitely worth taking a backup before you upgrade, as the move to WordPress version 5 is a pretty big jump, and may introduce compatibility problems. It also introduces the new Gutenberg editing interface, so that’s something to bear mind before you upgrade.