Who moved my cheese? WordPress gets a facelift with version 3.8

WordPress 3.8 was released last week. This latest update introduces significant usability improvements for WordPress users. I wanted to tell you about some of them before you hit that update button.

A quick note about the rapid release cycle

“Wait, another release? Didn’t 3.7 just come out?”

It’s true, the previous update (WordPress 3.7) was only released on October 24, less than two months ago. It may seem excessive to release another major update so soon, but WordPress president and co-founder Matt Mullenweg explains the rapid release cycle as part of WordPress’ mission “to get improvements in the hands of our community as soon as possible.”

That community is currently made up of 20.9% of the websites on the internet. That’s a lot of websites using WordPress, and a big responsibility for the developers.

As each new version of WordPress improves on the security, performance, and functionality of previous versions, the rapid release cycle shows that the people behind WordPress take this responsibility seriously.

So, let’s have a look at what’s new.

Admin dashboard has a new look

The first thing you will notice after the update is the redesigned admin dashboard. The folks at WordPress call it “the most beautiful update yet”. Personally, I agree.

The default colour scheme is bold and dark. It’s a major departure from the lighter colour scheme of the dashboard in previous versions.

WordPress 3.8 Default Dashboard

The new default scheme matches the colours of the WordPress.org website. If you prefer something different there are seven other schemes to choose from in your user profile.

WordPress 3.8 Admin Colour Schemes

(I personally like the “Coffee” scheme, mostly because I really like coffee).

Pro tip: If you want even more colours, check out the “Admin Color Schemes” plugin.

The font on the dashboard has also changed. The new design has switched from Arial to Open Sans, a more modern Google font that’s more readable, especially on small screen devices.

Speaking of small screen devices, the admin dashboard is fully responsive now. That means the layout and menus adapt to whatever screen size you are viewing it on, whether mobile, tablet, or desktop. This makes it far easier to manage your site using whatever device you happen to have in front of you. I just used my iPod Touch to run some plugin updates, and it was quick and easy.

WordPress 3.8 Responsive Dashboard

Improved Widgets dashboard

If your website uses Widgets, you will now find a cleaned up Widgets dashboard, with more space for managing active widgets.

WordPress 3.8 WIdgets Dashboard

The process for adding widgets has also been simplified. Available widgets can be added to the desired section by clicking the widget and making a selection from a drop down menu.

WordPress 3.8 Add Widget Dropdown

Again, the focus here is making the site easier to manage using any device, but if you prefer using the old drag and drop method, that still works too.

Other changes you should know about

A couple of other changes introduced in version 3.7 are worth highlighting as well.

  • Smarter password strength indicatorWhen creating a password (or changing an existing one), the strength meter now enforces a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols.WordPress 3.7 Strong Password Indicator

    This is an important update. One of the biggest threats to website security – on any platform, not just WordPress – is brute force login attempts. A brute force login is basically an attempt to access a website by using weak username and password combinations, often using automated software that tries hundreds or even thousands of combinations at once. The improved password strength indicator is an important step towards improving the security of your WordPress website.

    Pro tip: Use StrongPasswordGenerator.com to get a secure password, then store it somewhere safe so you can copy and paste it when you need it. Even better, use a service like 1Password so you don’t have to try and remember all your passwords.

    For added security, install the “Limit Login Attempts” plugin to block access after too many failed attempts.

  • Automatic security and maintenance updatesAfter a major release like WordPress 3.8, one or two maintenance updates are usually necessary to fix bugs and patch security holes. These are important updates, but do not warrant another major release. In an effort to make these maintenance updates as unobtrusive as possible, most WordPress installations will now run the updates automatically.

A lot more changes have happened “under the hood” in both 3.7 and 3.8 that improve the security, performance, and functionality of WordPress. I’ll spare you the nerd talk, but if you’re curious to read the details, all the changes are documented here and here.

Ready to update?

We strongly recommend that all our WordPress clients – and anyone else who runs a WordPress website – update to the latest version. But remember to back up all your website files and database first! In my experience, the update will run with no major problems – most of the time. But there is always a risk that an older theme or an unsupported plugin might cause a conflict and break the site. When that happens, having that back up on hand will save you a lot of time, and headaches!

As always, we are happy to update your WordPress site for you. Just give us a call to talk about options.

If you have any other questions about WordPress 3.8, or WordPress in general, send me an email at rob@skunkworks.ca.

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