Last week, the latest version of WordPress was released, bringing with it increased security, better text formatting and menus in the Customizer (read more about the new features here from our friends at WinningWP). Now we’re looking forward to getting all our customers’ sites up-to-date with the minimum hassle so they can benefit from these long awaited improvements.

WordPress 4.3 or ‘Billie’ as it’s been christened (after jazz singer Billie Holiday) is the eighth new WordPress release this year and the 13th since 2011. And while it brings with it some great new features, it’s also important for WordPress users to tread carefully when upgrading their sites as there could be compatibility issues with everything from hosting to plugins.

That said, however, if you have a WordPress support subscription like ours, we’ll have everything in hand and take all potential issues into account so the transition to WordPress 4.3 should be a smooth one.

So what’s the new release all about and how are we dealing with it?

The new features

The highlight of WordPress 4.3 is without a doubt the new, improved approach to passwords. Now, when new users are added or when the password of an existing user profile is edited, WordPress automatically generates a strong password for that user, which users can either keep or choose their own. (If they do choose their own, a strength meter will inform them if the password they are setting is strong or weak, and if it’s weak, they will have to check a box to confirm the use of a weak password.)

Also, WordPress will no longer send passwords via email (something that really should have been changed a long time ago) Instead, users will get a password reset link via email which will expire after 24 hours, in line with the industry standard. It looks like this is already having a positive effect as Pippin Williamson of Pippin’s Plugins tweeted:

On top of better passwords, the new version of WordPress also supports a number of new formatting shortcuts that eliminate the need to use a mouse to change text styles. This will only be relevant to you if you write inside the WordPress editor, but we know many people do so it’s a valuable development.

Plus, favicons can now be controlled from within the core, comments are turned off by default on everything but posts and pages and site menus can be managed via the Customizer, meaning users can create and preview changes before the update shows to site visitors, which is a huge time saver.

How we roll out the update for our customers

Unless there’s a serious security hole patched by the release, we normally start updating our customers’ sites a week or two after the new version is released – and WordPress 4.3 will be no different.

The reason we don’t update sites immediately after a new release is that we often see one or two minor releases from WordPress or theme and plugin developers shortly after a major release. So waiting a while usually means we have fewer problems and makes the transition smoother.

To make sure the process is as smooth as possible, even though the update itself only takes a few minutes, we also check each site was recently backed up and that themes and plugins are updated first to reduce the risk of compatibility problems. Finally, we test all the critical functions of the site with the new version of WordPress (for an e-commerce store, for example, that would be the checkout but for a blog, it might be the email signup or advertising widgets).

Overall, the process of updating all our sites will take a few days, depending on what problems we have to fix along the way. But as we keep all our sites well maintained, we usually have very few. It’s just how we roll ;-)