What you need to know.
And how to use it to your advantage.
With WordPress 5.1 came the new Site Health Tool. Are you aware of that, where it is and all the great info that it can provide to you? If not, you are not alone. Many site owners are not aware of this nifty new feature. So let's change that starting now!
Part of the Site Health functionality was to let everyone know that there had been a PHP "bump". This basically means the minimum version of PHP required to run WordPress has been raised. In this case to PHP 5.6.X.
WordPress will noticeably put a message in your dashboard if you are not on the minimal version required to run WordPress version 5.2. You would see a notice in your dashboard noting "PHP Update Required" if you were running anything below PHP 5.6.
If you still see this notice in your dashboard, contact your host about getting up to date. Some hosts make it easier than others. You won't be able to update WordPress until you do.
Speed and Security
As with all upgrades, security hardening is part of this update. Updating your website to the most recent version of PHP will make your site faster and more secure.
While most of us have this "bump" to PHP 5.6 behind us, the current stable version of PHP at this writing is 7.3.8. So you can see that even with 5.6 you are still behind -- and so is your host. Most quality hosts have been offering PHP 7.X for some time and have pushed these updates to their customer's hosting accounts.
This is the first bump of more to come...
... from then the threshold for the PHP notice will increase granularly, with the goal to over time catch up with the actual PHP version progress.WORDPRESS.ORG
The reason for a software bump is you can't look backward forever. It just isn't practical to try and make sure that as you update your software, that it still plays well for those, who for whatever reason, have remained in the past.
My advice? Put your site on a host that keeps up with technology so you don't have to.
WordPress Site Health Tools
WordPress 5.2 now includes two new pages in your dashboard so you can check on common configuration concerns and other elements that go along with having a healthy WordPress website.
These new pages can be found in the left sidebar of your dashboard, under the Tools menu, as Site Health. At the top you'll see your Site Health percentage rating. Below that there will be two tabs. Status and Info.
When you land on the Site Health page you'll get an overview of any detected issues and the overall health of your site. As you can see, my site is only at 75% until I get the noted issues resolved.
WordPress Tests Passed!
On that same page below any detected issues or recommendations you'll also see all the tests that your site passed. Additional details can be found by clicking the down indicator.
WordPress Website Configuration Overview
The second new page gives you "Info" on every variable related to your site. Themes, plugins, media, server, database and much more. This page also gives you the option of copying the information into a text file for you to share with a developer or plugin author if you are seeking help.
Fatal Error Email Notices
WordPress now also includes a new built-in feature that detects when a plugin or theme causes a fatal error on your site, and notifies you with an automated email directing you to check your site for any issues.
If your site appears broken and you can't access your dashboard normally, WordPress now has a special "recovery mode" link that will be provided to you in that email. This lets you safely login to your dashboard and investigate further.
"But I'm Not a Techie!"
All this data can be overwhelming. I get that. Because this information is in your dashboard, that doesn't mean that you are required to investigate everything on your own. You now get a heads up as to what needs to be addressed so you can get some help if needed.
What you do want to do is make a point of visiting this new area from time to time in your WordPress dashboard so that you can nip any issues in the bud. Mark your calendar to remind yourself to check to see if there are notices that need addressing. I have a reminder set to check all my sites once each month. I also check after updating/changing/adding any new plugins or themes.
If you get a fatal error email and are not sure what critical issues or recommendations are required, reach out to your consultant or developer for assistance. The information provided gives them everything they need to know to resolve those issues for you.
After a little investigation, turns out my site had a plugin causing the issues noted. Replaced that problem child and wallah 100%! Whoo-hoo!
At your service,