Updated: November 2019
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“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” We couldn’t agree more. But we know, the WordPress world breaks on a recurring basis. That’s the price of an open-source community. Things become obsolete or incompatible.
Looking into our crystal ball we predict some near term WordPress trends and how they affect sites. Presently, here’s our status:
A common blog has 170 posts and 21 pages. And 32 active plugins (the WordPress average is 25).
There was technical bumpiness (total panic!?) during past core updates. Many major themes formerly used homepage widgets for customization. Upon WordPress new customizer addition, widgets moved without prediction. These errant themes became non-complaint and had to change their code to match new WordPress standards.
The new standards make things more bulletproof. But actually nuked everyone using old standards forcing emergency compliance. We recovered from that heart attack. WordPress makes changes now by adding a Customizer for CSS code normally stored in a child theme. Child themes are considered obsolete – but there is no documentation saying this is so.
We recommend using Simple CSS plugin to safely add customized code to your CSS. It won’t be overwritten by theme or core updates.
Presently, custom CSS is stored in the Theme Customizer > Additional CSS. This is fragile if the theme is changed. The way around this is to transfer the code to a nice plugin called “Simple CSS.” It acts in the same way, but is protected from theme changes. It also doesn’t cause an extra call like a child theme plugin. It’s faster loading. But CSS code isn’t always compatible in every way when themes are changed.
We don’t use child themes on new sites any more.
On the horizon looms the Gutenberg WordPress changes. We’ll get nuked again. But there are workarounds as stopgaps to get us into safe territory and through the learning curves. Gutenberg has already proved and predicted not being compliant with over 8,000 plugins in the WordPress plugin directory. Is there a published list? No.
Are paid plugins better for Gutenberg compatibility? No. 15 percent of those are predicted by Gutenberg developers to fail.
In the past, WordPress maintained backwards compatibility with legacy themes and plugins. This will not be the case with version 5.0 forward.
Gutenberg introduces unknown and unforeseen problems. They claim presently they will force the interface over the top of the traditional editor. It’s a god-like power play.
Don’t fear. Plugins are already created to defeat Gutenberg when automatic update occurs. Postponing Gutenberg hassles is a strategy improving the return on investment for existing sites. We’re talking increasing shelf-life or longevity. We can make changes when we’re ready instead of having them shoved down our throats.
The life span of a typical website is 3 years.
One can’t know for certain but some of your favorite plugins may fail. Authors may chose to repair them or we may have to find substitutes. There are 55,000 plugins in the repository so we’re not worried about fixing it. We’re only worried about “breakage events.” We assume it won’t be plugins with active ongoing version updates. But we don’t know. No one knows. Just because a plugin is stale or abandoned by it’s author doesn’t indicate potential failure.
“Gutenberg has three planned stages. The first, aimed for inclusion in WordPress 5.0, focuses on the post editing experience and the implementation of blocks. This initial phase focuses on a content-first approach. …
These foundational elements will pave the way for stages two and three, planned for the next year, to go beyond the post into page templates and ultimately, full site customization.” – Source
The goal of Gutenberg is to become a site builder (full site customization) and replace all page builder plugins. Fortunately, we didn’t go down the path of page-builder-plugin temptation. But millions of sites will ultimately be affected. Why is WordPress doing this? Do they want to destroy page builder plugins? No. They want to destroy WIX, Weebly, SquareSpace, and any other CMS competitor. Matt Mullenweg said authors and users of page builder plugins are collateral damage.
So here are our strategic recommendations:
1. Install a preemptive-strike plugin against Gutenberg. This is a precautionary safety measure and stopgap. It will add a years time to adapt your site.
There are presently 3 to 4 plugins to do this, but the one we recommend is:
Oddly, it includes Font Awesome. We don’t like that. But that’s life. Do a staging area test of the impact on your theme and site.
Another plugin alternative is:
2. Install the Simple CSS plugin and transfer the code in Additional CSS to it.
3. Twenty-nineteen theme deserves investigation for potential as a theme replacement for long term reliability and longevity. It is built for the Gutenberg editor. This theme is fast loading because the authors stripped it of features and external font requests.
The goal is future-proofing your site and improving the return on investment.
Now the bad news, we recommend a complete rebuild of your existing site. It can be planned for. We expect planning a switch in 2020 would be prudent. It’s gonna cost (again). Start budgeting now. Your site will then have a 3 to 6 year life (ROI) from that version. One never know exactly since the WordPress market is dynamic (chaotic).