WordPress 3.3 was released this month, and now the question is: is it time to upgrade your WordPress site? The answer is a mostly unqualified “yes.”
New Features in WordPress 3.3 – aka “Sonny”
WordPress 3.3 adds several new features to the administrative interface — the “Dashboard” — that make life a lot easier, particularly for mobile users. Previous iterations never really scaled on the smaller screens of the iPhone or other smart phones, but this one is supposed to render quite nicely on the smaller display.
Some other key features that I like:
- Drag and drop uploader for all kinds of files — images, PDFs, what-have-you
- Much cleaner file uploading and management process generally, with a single upload button for every file type
- Revised navigation menus with hover expansion — makes it much easier to find what you’re looking for
- Improved co-author controls — that “Warning: [user name] is editing this post” thing only pops up now when someone is actually actively revising the post at that time.
- New Toolbar in the Dashboard combines the admin bar and the admin header into one sleeker strip at the top of the browser display, freeing up real estate and making the whole UI much cleaner in appearance
- Widgets make the journey when you change themes now — very convenient
- Fly-out menus on the sidebar menu in the Dashboard, which is a vast improvement over the drop-down approach we’ve been used to
You can see a full list of the features in the new release here.
Protect Your WordPress Site From Hackers
Of course, the first thing you need to do before you use the built-in automatic WP updater (which, I confess, is so convenient and so much easier than the old by-hand/”scratch” method, although some folks have reported problems with it), is to back up your site thoroughly. Here’s a great post from Kim Castleberry at Just Ask Kim on how to do the backup thing correctly.
Even so, you might want to take some extra precautions. WordPress is a great platform but it’s susceptible to hackers just like any site, and maybe even more so, when you factor in how easy the platform makes website management. Even rank beginners with no coding experience whatsoever can handle a WP site — which is great, don’t get me wrong. But the flip side of that is that a website owner can be lulled into a false sense of security by WP’s ease of use, and neglect to protect the site from unwelcome intrusions.
Tea Silvestre at The Word Chef shares her hacking & WordPress security story here; some of the resources she links to there are the very ones I’d recommend, particularly the WP Security Scan and Secure WordPress plugins. I’d also highly recommend this piece from Adam Warner of WPPro Business, which Tea links to in her piece, that covers security management and database naming, and this follow-up piece Adam did about the WP Security Scan plugin.
Checking Your Plugins Before Upgrading to WordPress 3.3
I can’t overstress the importance of checking your plugins’ compatibility with WP 3.3 before upgrading. A plugin that doesn’t play nicely with the new version can quite easily bring your site to its knees in no time flat.
The best way to do this is bring up your list of active plugins in your WP Dashboard, and click on the “plugin site” link for each. Alternatively, go to the WordPress Plugin directory and search for each one. Check the “Compatible up to” data on the right-hand side under the big “Download” link. If it’s at least updated through WP 3.2, you should be OK. If not, then disable the plugin before upgrading.
When Should You Upgrade?
It’s not a silly question. Do it too early and you might be at the mercy of bugs that haven’t been identified and corrected yet. But by the same token, there’s such a thing as waiting too late to upgrade, too. Don’t delay upgrading too long. It leaves your site open to potential hacking invasions and corruptions.
Give it a week or so after a major release, to give the WP developer community time to suss out needed tweaks and make them. Then, back up your site, and hop to it!