WordPress news recap for July 2018

All updates point to Gutenberg

Welcome to the first monthly WordPress news recap!

My name is Nathan Wrigley, and I’ve been a keen WordPress user for quite a few years. I run a small agency in the north of England called Picture and Word. We only touch projects that are based upon WordPress, but I’ve been known to use Drupal and Magento in the past.

Over the last few years I’ve been making a weekly WordPress podcast called WP Builds, where I drone on about WordPress news and interview people the in wider WordPress community.

WordPress news recaps: A new GoDaddy blog series

In this, the first of my monthly WordPress news updates, I take a look back at what happened in the world of WordPress during July 2018. We focus upon WordPress itself, and more specifically, the impact of the impending Gutenberg Project. Then we move on to look at some recent consolidation in the WordPress ecosystem. We end with a look at WordPress community initiatives and finally a couple of plugin updates that caught my eye this month.

WordPress Core

WordPress 4.9.7 – The past

July’s update to 4.9.7 was classified as a ‘security and maintenance release’. It primarily fixed a strange and longstanding vulnerability which allowed users with the correct permissions to delete files outside of the uploads directory.

This might not sound all that bad, but if you could delete the wp-config.php file, you would be able to re-install WordPress over an existing site, and that’s not good at all. This update fixed this issue and a few other bugs besides. As always keep WordPress updated because it’s just so easy to do it!

WordPress 4.9.8 – The present

The current release of WordPress core sees some new additions that are going to lay the foundations for the much anticipated (and in some cases feared) Gutenberg editor.

Up until now, when you’ve been composing pages and posts in WordPress, you’ve been using the familiar, classic editor. It’s worked perfectly well for years and years, but the WordPress team thought that it was time for a change. A new editor would allow WordPress to have a feature set similar to some other web creation tools out there.

This change has caused many differing opinions in the WordPress space. Some people are worried that the new Gutenberg editor is not needed, and that it’s going to confuse current WordPress users and possibly break sites completely.

In order to mitigate some of those concerns, the 4.9.8 WordPress release starts to prepare users for Gutenberg. A new prompt appears in the dashboard outlining what Gutenberg is and how it can be installed. It also allows users to decline to use Gutenberg if they prefer the ‘classic editor’.

Gutenberg notice in WordPress 4.9.8

The ‘official’ position is that, like it or hate it, Gutenberg is coming and is going to the the default editor when WordPress 5.0 arrives.

Some users simply don’t want Gutenberg to happen, and a plugin has been written which will remove all traces of Gutenberg, ensuring that your site holds on to the old editor. Exciting times!

Related: What WordPress 5.0 means for businesses

The Gutenberg ecosystem

Speaking of Gutenberg, it would appear that some are turning the uncertainty of Gutenberg an opportunity. In the same way that plugins and themes have added premium features to extend WordPress, it looks like there might be significant potential to create add-ons for Gutenberg.

Atomic Blocks theme from Array Themes

The team over at Array Themes have really seized the moment and are investing in a Gutenberg future. A little while ago they released Atomic Blocks, a suite a pre-made blocks designed to extend the options for building pages with Gutenberg, and now they have built the free Atomic Blocks theme. It’s a first look at what Gutenberg might become and it’s all very exciting to see what WordPress might be capable of doing in the near future.

If you want to find out a little bit more about the decisions that went into the design of Gutenberg, check out this podcast with Tammy Lister, the current design lead of the project.

Acquisitions

Google Analytics Dashboard for WordPress

Google Analytics Dashboard for WordPress (GADWP), a plugin installed over 17 million times, was bought by Awesome Motive. You may not have heard of Awesome Motive, but I’m sure that you’ve heard of the products that they have built: OptinMonster, WPForms, and WPBeginner to name a few. It would come as no surprise to see further consolidation in the WordPress plugin and theme space over the coming months.

Related: How to add Google Analytics to WordPress

WooCommerce

Automated tax calculations

If you’re a US-based online retailer then the recent decision by the Supreme Court to widen the reach of Sales Tax for online retailers is something that you ought to pay close attention to.

Related: How to sell WooCommerce to your clients

Luckily, WooCommerce has done a fair amount of hard work to help you. They have managed to get the entire process (for US and Canada merchants) under one simple setting selection. As the article on the WooCommerce website points out, this could save you an awful lot of time!

WordPress community

New WordCamps for 2019

The WordPress Incubator Program aims to make it possible for new WordCamps to spring up in areas in which they might otherwise struggle to take root.

This year there were 104 applications to the program. These were whittled down to just 3 successful locations: Montevideo, Uruguay and Kota Kinabalu (Malaysia). These communities will receive a grant for 100% of the costs of running meetups and WordCamps.

The hope is that by removing the burden of raising sponsorships and financing, the organizers can focus on making the events as memorable as possible,  increasing the chances of further WordCamps and meetups taking place.

Well done to the successful locations, and good luck for the coming year!

WP and UP: Tackling mental health problems

WP&UP launched an initiative to promote the mental health of WordPress professionals. This is a great idea, and one that is sorely needed.

In our line of work, we often work alone and stare at a screen for hours on end. In the short term, this is probably okay, but as time goes on, this can have serious consequences upon our mental health. The problem is that we don’t really have anywhere to turn for support and advice… until now.

Tackling the problem under the four banners of Mental Health, Physical Health, Business Health and Code Health, they are just getting started and are seeking community funding to get the idea off the ground.

Related: How to improve your health and avoid burnout

Notable plugin updates

More UI than anything else…

Elementor, an increasingly popular page builder, added some nice design possibilities in July with what they are calling ‘Filter Effects and Blend Modes’. They are quite hard to describe, but it’s easy to understand the impact that they might have. I’d recommend watching their video:

That’s it for July.

It’s been a busy month, but you can be sure that it’s not as busy as it’s going to get. ‘Gutenberg is coming’ and might be installed on many, many sites by the time that we meet again next month!

If you have any suggestions for what you’d like to see in this monthly update, then please reach out to me and let me know.