WordPress Update 5/2 Guide

If you’ve been using WordPress for a while, you’re probably very familiar with the fact that the platform releases updates regularly. However, you may not be entirely sure what a new update means for you and your website.

Generally speaking, the goal for WordPress updates is to improve your site. They bring handy new tools, security improvements, and other upgrades to improve user experience. If you want to take a peek at the specifics, you can always access the WordPress changelog.

Alternatively, you can check out handy posts that summarize the latest update for you, such as this one. Below, we’ll provide a complete summary of everything new in WordPress 5.2. Let’s get to it!

What’s New In WordPress 5.2?

Like most WordPress updates, Version 5.2 strives to improve user experience and security. It also takes steps to help reduce the number of errors on your site. Plus, you’ll find a variety of handy features to help make your general WordPress usage or WordPress development tasks more manageable.

Here’s a quick summary of the new features available in WordPress 5.2:

  1. Site Health Check.
  2. PHP error control.
  3. Improved accessibility.
  4. New dashboard icons.
  5. Plugin compatibility checks.
  6. A PHP version bump.
  7. Privacy updates.
  8. A new body tag hook.
  9. JavaScript enhancements.

The rest of this post will dive into more details regarding each of these items. By the time we’re finished, you should have a comprehensive understanding of what WordPress 5.2 has to offer.

How to Update WordPress

Before we dive into the new update, you may want to make sure you’re actually running the latest version of WordPress. You can check by navigating to your WordPress dashboard and looking at the At a Glance widget:

WordPress Dashboard / How to Update WordPress

There you’ll see which version your WordPress site is running. If it’s earlier than version 5.2, You can carry out a one-click update by navigating to the Updates section via the WordPress sidebar.

You should also receive dashboard notifications whenever a new version of WordPress becomes available. You can click on the Update Now link in the notification to upgrade to the latest version as well.

As an aside, note that minor security updates are installed automatically. In other words, you don’t have to do anything at all to upgrade from WordPress 5.2 to WordPress 5.2.1. You’ll only need to run an update for major releases, such as WordPress 5.2, 5.3, and so on.

WordPress 5.2 Update: Everything You Need to Know

Now your site is running the latest version of WordPress, let’s start our tour of version 5.2. Below you’ll find a guide to all the new tools and features now at your disposal.

1. Site Health Check

The Site Health Check feature was first introduced in version 5.1, but the latest update has brought two new pages to the tool to enhance its usefulness. To reach them, navigate to Tools > Site Health in your dashboard:

Site Health Check / Website Health Check / Site Health Check WordPress Feature

The Site Health Status page shows a list of recommendations for improving your site’s performance and security, as well as a list of Passed Tests that shows things you’re doing well. They’re summed up using a percentage at the top of the page. The Site Health Info page is particularly handy for developers, and contains essential debugging information.

2. PHP Error Protection

The ‘White Screen of Death’ (WSoD) is dreaded by WordPress users so much that it has its own nickname. You can now mitigate its impact when upgrading to the latest PHP version with WordPress 5.2’s PHP error protection features.

During the course of a PHP update, WordPress is now able to recognize when an error is occuring, and pause the update so you can access the back end and fix the problem. Your site will go into ’recovery mode’ while you work on finding the offending plugin or theme.

3. General WordPress User Updates

In addition to these two helpful tools, WordPress has included some new features to improve the general user experience as well.

Accessibility

Accessibility has been an important aspect of WordPress as a platform for some time now. With the latest release, several features have been improved to make them more available to those who use screen readers.

These changes include:

  • Replacing the icons in Post Format List Tables with a drop-down selector.
  • Adding markup to the Admin Bar Submenu links.
  • Pre-selecting the currently viewed archive in the Archive Drop-down widget.
  • Creating a new media view with screen-reader-friendly headings.
  • Placing headings in the data tables on the Export Personal Data and Erase Personal Data pages.
  • Moving the Alt Text field to the top of the media modal.

As the platform powers around one-third of the web, keeping WordPress and WordPress sites accessible to all users is key to web accessibility in general. For site owners, this also means reaching a larger audience and potentially a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) boost.

New Dashboard Icons

Dashboard icons (or ‘dashicons’) have been around since WordPress 3.8. These features are largely decorative, but they do add some personality to the back end menu:

WordPress Dashboard Icons

There are 13 new icons available in Version 5.2, as well as 18 that have been updated with corresponding CSS declarations. They include several icons for BuddyPress, three new globe icons, an Instagram icon, several miscellaneous icons, and more.

Plugin Compatibility Checks

Plugin incompatibility is responsible for several types of errors in WordPress, most notably the WSoD. In addition to the PHP error protection feature we mentioned earlier, WordPress 5.2 attempts to prevent these issues with plugin compatibility checks.

If you’ve installed a plugin that’s incompatible with your version of PHP, you won’t be able to activate it. This will help users avoid costly downtime for their sites, and hopefully encourage PHP version updates as well.

4. Developer Updates

While many of the changes included in each WordPress update make using the platform smoother for everyone, there are some relating to advanced users and WordPress professionals. We’ve covered the developer updates for version 5.2 below.

PHP Version Bump

For some time now, there’s been talk of gradually increasing the minimum PHP version required for WordPress users. Version 5.2 has made the first step towards the goal of moving all users to PHP 7 by requiring a minimum PHP version of 5.6.20.

This should reduce the number of compatibility errors with new plugins. Developers should be able to freely use features such as namespaces and anonymous functions without worrying about their users’ PHP version. This should also reduce the number of PHP version-related support requests for plugin developers.

Privacy Updates

WordPress has been encouraging users to pursue General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance for a while now. To make this easier, Version 5.2 has added two new CSS classes, a new theme page template file, and a conditional function to make Privacy Policy page customization easier:

  • .privacy-policy: A body class inserted when the currently rendered page is the Privacy Policy page.
  • .menu-item-privacy-policy: A menu item class to specify the link that points to the Privacy Policy page.
  • privacy-policy.php: Used for rendering the page assigned as the Privacy Policy.
  • is_privacy_policy(): Can be used in conditionals to specify if the current query is for the Privacy Policy page.

For developers, this change makes it easier to incorporate this key page on client websites. Likewise, site owners can rest assured that they’re in line with GDPR’s requirements, and end users can feel secure in their data’s protection.

New Body Tag Hook

A new body tag hook should make it easier for users to add code to the body of a page. Theme developers are expected to start using this hook following the release of WordPress 5.2. You can do so by adding the function immediately inside the <body> tag:

<body <?php body_class(); ?>>

<?php wp_body_open(); ?>

This will enable the theme to support code injection at the beginning of the <body> element.

New JavaScript Configurations

The @wordpress/scripts package now includes the webpack and Babel configurations. This means setting up an ESNext development area is now much easier. Plugin developers now have a standardized method for setting up their plugins too.

In short, developers will no longer have to set up complex tools in order to write modern JavaScript. This should help streamline development.

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