WordPress, in its core form, is free. That is something that should excite us but something we sometimes forget. It is almost like we expect it and so, of course, it is free, right? Yet, when you lift up the hood to see what is included in WordPress and think about it, it really is phenomenal when you consider all that we get with WordPress.
Hey, even going back to version 2, it was amazing. This is especially true if you consider that back in the dark ages, we all had to code our sites from scratch or hire someone. Now, even the least technically-minded individual has a chance with the simplicity of WordPress. I’m not saying it is simple, but compared to hand-coding, it is simpler than it used to be in the pre-WordPress days.
Now, it is not unusual for there to be generous strides forward in the development of the WordPress core, but we are seeing some really innovative moves with this 4.8 version that has arrived.
We are going to take a quick tour through those innovations, but first, let’s cover a section on prerequisites, eh?
Prerequisites for a Valuable WordPress Experience
The knowledge of prerequisites is needed, even when it is not the most fun topic. Unfortunately, we sometimes do not realize it until we hit a bump in the road.
The reason it is foremost in my mind is that I HAVE hit that bump. Yes, me. Even though I know better, I am capable of getting so excited that I move forward and I don’t realize that I have not covered all of my bases.
A Hosting Provider that Meets Your Needs
First of all, you need to select web hosting that meets your needs.
What are your needs? Ok, let’s use technology as an example. Your needs are sure to go beyond a simple assessment of technical skill, but let’s use that one to give you an idea of performing your own analysis.
Ask yourself the question of how technology savvy you are. Are you pretty technically-minded and only called a support team once every ten years? If so, score yourself as a ‘10’ on a scale of one to ten.
Or, are you the type that would be content if you were intravenously connected to the support team 24/7 because you need that much help with your technical hosting needs? That is ok. Hey, we all need help somewhere, right? But, if that is the case, score yourself at a one on the scale.
Now, looking at your scale, if you are somewhere near 10, then maybe support is not the most important. For those types of people, things like command-line access is more important (I only know because that is the type of person I am. I would “die” if I did not have command-line access to my servers at all times.)
If you scored closer to the one on that scale, then that 24/7 technical support should be high on your list of requirements. Also, it isn’t enough that there is the support, but you need to have knowledgeable support. The best way to test that out is to actually ask them a few tricky questions and see how they do. Are they friendly? Are they warm? Most importantly, do they truly know what they are talking about and does their advice work? How long do they make you wait? This is just a sampling of the questions you should consider.
A Hosting Provider that is Familiar with WordPress
Ok, I’m being kind, by using “familiar.” You actually want to find a hosting company that would qualify as “rock stars” when it comes to dealing with WordPress.
Keep in mind that the hosting company is not necessarily your personal technology team, but they should be able to handle the basics when it comes to things like WordPress installation (if that isn’t already handled by a handy dandy button in the control panel).
Use a similar process of questioning the team/company to see if they measure up to what your expectations are, in the area of WordPress hosting. If you are not sure, consider some WordPress forums and see what ideas pop there. Also, check out the WordPress articles here on Dragonblogger.com.
Prerequisites on Your Server
For all intensive purposes, this is something handled by your hosting provider. However, even if it is handled by your hosting provider, you will still want to be aware of it so that you can ask the right questions.
This is an area where I think it would be least confusing to send you to Google to search. Why? I am concerned that I could take you on a tangent if I break down every possible scenario when it comes to server requirements.
That said, I do want to give you one morsel since I have run into it. For example, if you PHP is not up to the current version, it is possible that your WordPress will not run as smoothly.
Let’s stop for a moment. It is possible you can skip the rest of this section.
So, if you do not know what PHP is, but your hosting company meets your needs with customer service, simply ask their support team if the PHP version is current. Let them worry about it.
If you are the type, like me, who manages his or her servers, then you probably already know what PHP is and are already Googling, if you haven’t already taken care of it.
Explaining It With a Car Scenario
Let’s say you are planning a trip from New York City to Los Angeles and you are going to road trip it. Let’s say you find a pink 1965 Mustang V8 with no A/C. It looks great. But, can it handle the road trip? Can YOU handle the road trip (with no A/C)? You would probably be better off either upgrading the car (to one with A/C, which I hear is not done easily) or simply going with a vehicle that is closer in age to 2017. Upgrading that car, as “pretty” as it may be, is like doing brain surgery with pencils (thanks to my hubby’s description).
How does this car scenario relate to our topic of PHP? If the server is not ready for WordPress, we don’t blame the WordPress, instead, update PHP (a.k.a. call your hosting provider). In the same way, don’t blame the pink car, just tuck it aside and use one of its younger (much younger!) cousins for the road trip. :)
Enough geekspeak… let’s get to the fun stuff with all of the new things that come with our WordPress 4.8!
WordPress 4.8 and New Features
There are so many new features in WordPress 4.8. For an official list, visit the WordPress 4.8 feature list. Then again, you can stay here, reading this article, and see the same list J
Ok, so it is not entirely about widgets, but there is a lot to discover in the new widgets that are included in this 4.8 version.
Before we start, let me say that for those of you who depended on widgets that allowed you to insert code into your sidebar, life just got easier! Plugins like WP PHP plugin, even though it has not been updated for two years, have helped some of us to do things in WordPress that were not possible before this. But, now, your problems are solved (even the two-year wait) because it is “in there” when it comes to WordPress 4.8. And, you know what else? You don’t have to be a coder to use it!
Previously, we either had to use an HTML or PHP widget to add code that would trigger an image in our WordPress sidebar. Then, there were some plugins that would allow limited functionality in that department, even the image insertion itself.
But, there were two problems with that:
- We were dependent on that plugin, even if it was free.
- In some cases, we needed to be coders to understand what to do. Add to that the accidental process of turning the plugin off and then seeing the messy code on our site because we turned off the “code” widget that was feeding it!
Well, cross off those two problems because now you can add the image without knowing code. It is as simple as adding an image to your blog post.
Think of the possibilities! You can add your headshot or even a recent event. Make it pop up there as if it is automatic! (And, without pulling your hair out doing it!)
Using this image widget, you can upload an image or you can add it from your media library in WordPress. For most of you, that is a process with which you are already familiar. That is the functionality allowing you to add the things like links, captions, and other WordPress functionality. Be sure to check out the video, above, to see how this will simplify your life!
Video is super popular these days. It has always been popular, but it is accessible for non-professional, non-videographers, to join in on the fun.
This means that you need a place to put it. And, why not utilize the accessibility that the WordPress 4.8 version offers you!
While it is still advisable to load your video from a video site like YouTube or Vimeo, you have the ability to do it from your own site. Just keep in mind that if you are low on space, with your hosting plan, that YouTube (and others) may still be the best option. Even when size-reduced, videos use needed hosting space.
Similar to the Image Widget, the Video Widget allows you to upload a video or load it from your WordPress media library.
Just like video, audio is also gaining in popularity.
Oh, we always had music, but now we have this popular activity called podcasting!
It used to be a chore to find a place to properly host podcasts (yes, there are differences, but I’ll spare you for the moment). Whether you are doing it the “proper” way or not, you can throw that podcast up on your site with an ease that was not available in earlier versions of WordPress.
Again, you can add it through the upload process or the media library. And, you can embed audio from another (external) source. These options allow you a flexibility that frees you up to do what you do best, whether that is the podcast itself, writing your next blog post, or another activity that defines the spectacular you.
Rich Text Widget
As we mentioned at the beginning of this section, adding rich text used to require another plugin. Ok, so we were talking about images. But, the same thing goes here. Now, you can have rich text without having to code it into another plugin.
Isn’t this something that you have been waiting for for a while? It is like having a mini post capability right there with the widgets!
And, this may help you in other areas, such as the quantity of plugins you need.
If you had to add a bunch of plugins to get the functionality that you wanted, namely rich text, you can now do it with this improved WordPress functionality. If you are able to turn off a couple of plugins as a result, it means that you may be coming closer to your goal of a faster loading website. No promises, but a step in the right direction helps, eh?
With this new text widget, you have the basics that are available in your post functionality (when in the “Visual” tab). This includes bold, italic, lists, and links.
Are you a code geek? You can still add HTML manually. J
Have you ever been frustrated when updating a link in your WordPress blog posts?
Some of us coders solve it with manual editing. They edit links in the “Text” tab instead of the “Visual” tab in WordPress and use raw HTML code.
But, how is that fair for all of the non-coders out there? Quite frankly, it doesn’t seem fair.
Well, now life is fair. At least when it comes to those pesky links. Now WordPress has introduced “link boundaries” into the mix. This should solve the issue of added text ending up outside of the link, or linked as text (which obviously is not the link).
WordPress streamlines the process by adding this boundary to each of the links, allowing that editing process to focus on what it is supposed to focus.. the link.
Nearby WordPress Events Dashboard Widget
How many of you already participate in the WordPress community activities, whether online or offline group meetings?
Now, you can find out about these Meetups right within your WordPress installation!
This feature may not be for everyone, but for those who desire to participate in WordPress community activities, this makes life so much simpler!
Now, you don’t have to put sticky notes reminding yourself to check to see when the next meetup is occurring. It is right there, inside your WordPress dashboard!
And, you know what else? It automatically geolocates (with the correct settings and permission). That means that you don’t have to look through a list of possibilities, but can see what is happening right near you! How convenient is that?!
The Rest of the Added Features
Here is a listing of some of the other features that WordPress 4.8 includes (especially of interest to developers):
- More Accessible Admin Panel Headings;
- Removal of Core Support for WMV and WMA Files;
- Multisite Updates;
- Media Widgets API; and
- Customizer Width Variable.
Ok, so what did we say in this article? Or, more importantly, what are the key points?
It boils down to two points. The first is to ensure that you are ready for all of this wonderfulness that WordPress 4.8 offers you. For example, hosting, prerequisites, handled by your hosting provider, etc.
In other words, do not take the museum piece car to use as your comfy road trip vehicle.
Secondly, check out all the cool stuff that you get with the free WordPress 4.8 software! And, for that, all you need to do is scroll up and check out the feature list and explanations ;)