WordPress 5.6 update is a major version update. It’s scheduled to be released on Dec. 8, 2020. I’ve written before on how to do a major WordPress update and the importance of waiting, but this update has a few extra changes to be wary of.
Pro Tip: If the holidays are a critical time for your business and your website then don’t update it until the new year.
A Potentially Site-Breaking Change
WordPress is making significant changes to a core technology called jQuery. jQuery is responsible for controlling how information is displayed by the visitor’s browser/device and also how some interactions occur between the visitor’s browser/device and the server. It is used both on the public-facing parts of your site as well as on the admin portion.
The last major WordPress update, version 5.5, made a change to jQuery that caused quite a problem for hundreds of thousands of people. An emergency plugin had to be created to fix affected websites, which now has 200,000+ active installations.
The version 5.6 update expected in early December will make an even more significant change to jQuery. The older your website is, and the more plugins it has, the more likely you are to be affected by this upcoming change.
Don’t Trust, Test & Verify
In addition to the guidance I provided here, there is an extra step you can take to verify that you’ll be OK before doing the update.
Test the jQuery change in advance with this plugin https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-jquery-update-test/. This is what WordPress developers are using to do their own testing.
If your site works with this test it’s likely that the jQuery update won’t break you.
- Install the plugin.
- Set it like the image below: Choose jQuery version 3.5.1, enable jQuery Migrate, and select jQuery UI version 1.12.1.
- View your site as a visitor would. Use an incognito/private browsing window and view your site’s sections and pages. Test your contact and signup forms. If you sell stuff, make a test purchase. Go through your admin settings, too.
- If everything is good, disable and then delete the plugin. If not, disable but don’t delete this plugin. Wait until late December or early January and then update all of your plugins and your theme. Enable this plugin, and try again. If things are still broken, disable the plugin, don’t update WordPress, and get some help.
Automatic Updates to WordPress Core – Scary!
WordPress is also including the option of enabling automatic major updates to WordPress’s core files. This follows on the heels of version 5.5 which allows automatic updates of WordPress plugins.
Both of these are bad ideas, in my opinion. Any update has the potential to break your website, major updates even more so, and automatic updates happen when you’re not paying attention.
It could be days before you figure out that your site is broken or, even worse, down entirely!
Major updates can include new potentially conflicting features and are they most likely to break backward compatibility, as evidenced above with jQuery.
Major version changes require plugin authors to test and make their own updates to ensure continued good performance.
Unfortunately, plugin authors often find bugs after the major updates have been rolled out.
How You Can Protect Yourself
If you can get into the habit of doing updates manually every month this would be far better than relying on automatic updates. At least if something breaks you’ll know about it right away and you can take action. You can either sort it out or restore your site from a backup.
If you do enable any automatic updates then make sure that you have automatic daily backups in place, and that you keep a few weeks of backups available. This can totally save you should an automatic update break your site.
I Can Do This For You
I have WordPress maintenance packages available. I do this kind of work for my clients every month to keep their WordPress sites up to date and running well. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.