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The release of WordPress version 5.0 late in 2018 went pretty smoothly. We didn’t see any major issues moving from 4.9.9 and the company that produces the Divi visual builder tool, Elegant Themes, did a really good job of ensuring their themes and plugins were ready to go from day 1. The move to WordPress 5.1 may not go quite as well.

Scheduled for release (probably) around April time 2019, WordPress version 5.1 will likely see the minimum required version of PHP increase to PHP7. At Suffolk Website Builder, we’ve been running our servers on PHP version 7.2 with FastCGI for a while now, but we have noticed something in the last fortnight (two weeks, not the over-hyped video game) for one of our clients so we thought it may be a good idea to get a short post out there to help others avoid similar issues

We recently took over the hosting of a site for a new client. We moved everything over to our servers and spent time going through the backend and updating all of the plugins that were on the site that stated there were new versions available. We had the site in a test environment before we went live with the move over, and whilst testing we found that the WooCommerce shopping basket was not working properly, it would hang, or you could not complete your purchase. A quick look through the error log revealed an issue with one of the plugins.

Whilst most WordPress plugins are automatically updated, particularly the free plugins that you add through WordPress’s own plugin library, the ones that you purchase elsewhere and have to upload yourself may or may not update automatically. This was true for a WooCommerce shipping plugin that was installed on this client’s site. It was originally purchased through Envato Code Canyon in 2016, we assume with the first year of updates included. When we received the copy of the site files to host, this plugin had not been updated since 2017, there had been 4 updates since then with one extremely important update that updated the plugin to work with PHP7. We had to purchase a new license for the plugin in order to get the update and with that installed, the shopping basket started working again in the test environment, so we were able to push the website live.

What struck us with this example is that if we hadn’t taken over the website’s hosting, it would have kept going as it was and come the release of WordPress 5.1 the shopping basket on the site would have simply stopped working and it may not have been noticed for a period of time, losing vital income for the company.

So, what’s the takeaway from this? Before the release of WordPress 5.1, we would suggest getting your websites moved to a test environment running at least PHP7, higher is better, and ensure all your plugins are supported, you’ve purchased the required licenses for those that don’t auto-update and you’re totally ready for when 5.1 hits us later this year.

We hope you found this useful.