Do You Wonder If the New WordPress Editor Will Break Your Website? The Answer is….Maybe

Editor’s note: WordPress 4.9.5 will arrive next week. As a Valet client, you can look forward to receiving in your admin area a notice of this arrival as soon as it happens. We invite you to try out the new editor plugin that will be offered to you in this or a subsequent release via the admin—but first be sure to read this very informative article by Joe Casabona, who you’ll be hearing from many times in the weeks ahead. Joe is a writer, developer, and instructor (his WordPress teaching videos are among the best you’ll ever see). He really knows the ins and outs of the new WordPress editor and for that reason, we are honored to have him contributing to the Valet blog.


WordPress is getting a brand new editor. Soon. 

But while it is very exciting to see a big evolution of the popular content management system, current WordPress users are justified to have concerns over what this change will mean for them.

One of the most common questions being asked is “Will my website break when I upgrade?”

The short answer is….maybe.

The new editor fundamentally alters how some things work. Your content, as well as compatibility with other plugins, could be affected.

These effects may occur in four very important areas of every WordPress website. I’ve listed them here for you along with the answer to that all-consuming question about whether your website will break.

Issue 1: Current Content

Your current, existing content can be categorized two ways— as content you will:

    1. Leave unedited after the upgrade
    2. Edit after the upgrade

That first category of content is the best. Because unedited content is content you don’t have to touch. And if you don’t have to touch it, nothing will break!

Understand that WordPress isn’t changing how it stores your content, just the editing experience around how you build that content.

So, if you have a 3-year-old post that does really well in search rankings, it will continue to do really well. The reason is nothing will change about that post. In order for a change to take place, you will first have to open it in the new editor.

But let’s say you have content you want to edit after the upgrade. There could possibly be an impact on your content formatting and any code used in the original version.

The new WordPress editor delivers a different experience in that it is primarily driven by “blocks” of content. That means when you open an older post in the new editor, your content will be pushed into blocks that may or may not resemble the original format.

When you open your post for the first time in the new editor, it’s going to be contained in one large block. This is not a bad thing; it can be very convenient for the reason that it allows you to fix small things like typos without having to change the entire format.

Additionally, as part of that initial opening, you will be given the option to convert your post to multiple blocks. If things are going to go haywire on you, this is where it’s most likely to occur.

Pro tip: If you choose to convert content, be mindful of the fact that blocks handle certain elements—images, for instance—slightly differently than does the current (or Classic) editor.

The current beta version of the new WordPress editor that I’m using allows me to keep all of the formatting and content in place when I convert older posts to blocks. However, your own mileage may vary! So it’s important to test, test, and test some more if you’re going to do this.

Issue 2: Content Generated from Plugins

If you’re using a WordPress plugin like Advanced Custom Fields or another plugin that adds options to your editor, you may run into issues regarding the way you create content—as well as how that content displays to visitors.

Unfortunately, resolving these issues is not as easy as it is for resolving issues related to converting existing content.

Your ability to solve plugin issues depends solely on whether the developers of your plugins have the ability to keep up with the changes involving the editor.

While the WordPress Core team is doing everything they can to ease the transition for users and developers alike, it’s ultimately up to the plugin developers to make sure their plugins work with the new code.

Note that many plugins for WordPress add their own admin areas, or have their own settings outside of the editor screen. These will most likely remain unaffected by the change. However, you’ll find it a good idea to check any plugin that specifically displays when you create a new page, post, or custom post type.

Issue 3: Customized Editors and Page Builders

Customized editors and page builders are the third area where you’re likely to run into problems. This is also the area in which potential issues will be the most varied.

The new editor completely changes the way the editing experience in WordPress looks and functions. Consequently, the customized builder-features that depend on the current code structure are the ones that will change the most.

Some tools (Beaver Builder, for example) are being proactive by testing and implementing new-editor compatibility solutions. They’re doing this to ensure that nothing breaks on Day 1 of WordPress 5.0.

Even so, if you’re using a different page builder, such as Divi, you’ll want to check with the developer to see how they are handling the changes.

Perhaps you’re using X Theme or some other theme that changes the editor experience. If so, you may be most at risk. This will be particularly true where your theme is closely tied to the current editing code architecture.

Issue 4: Your Theme

Now we come to the area that has the highest likelihood of breaking.

The new editor will be adding the ability to create new types of content with minimal styling. Your current theme will need to take these new styles into account, using custom styles or code, in order to maintain the current look of your website.

A great example is the cover image on a new post or page. This is a new type of content area. Sadly, themes are not pre-coded to recognize it. If your theme doesn’t have the right settings in place to account for this new content block, your site will look broken.

While the bad news is that your theme runs the highest risk of being affected, the good news is that it’s also the one thing over which you have the greatest control! So be sure to test new content blocks, and style them as needed.

Don’t Be Afraid

Knowing early the areas to identify will make upgrading to the new editor a much smoother transition.

If you follow Valet’s suggestions for testing and you follow the guides in this post, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at just how much of your website will continue working with little to no added effort on your part.

In my next article, I’ll dig deeper into how to test the new editor, what to look for while testing, and I’ll outline a test plan that will let you cover all the bases.