There are at least three major releases of WordPress per year where users can expect new features and major bug fixes about every four months. While this is great for users, some companies, plugin, and theme developers are struggling to keep up.
We recently received the following email from a reader concerned with WordPress’ release strategy:
As the pace of WordPress releases grows, plugin and theme developers have to constantly update their products. This is leading to a real and growing problem among WordPress site owners and companies like mine that handle website maintenance and updating.
This pace is leading to an almost daily need to fix problems, caused by these updates. Plugin updates tend to break things, even though we primarily use professional, paid plugins for the idea of support and generally better quality products.
I get that it’s important to patch security issues, but we’re also seeing a lot of new functionality, moving plugins into core, and other changes. These cause theme developers to push out updates with great frequency and they make mistakes.
I’m worried that the pace of core updates is driving the larger ecosystem toward failure. Everyone is scrambling to keep things patched, then new conflicts arise and things break down. The person on the end ‘companies maintaining their sites, responsibly, or services like mine’ face a constant flow of updates, then testing, then trying to fix things that have broken.
Matt Mullenweg, Co-founder of the WordPress open source software project, specifically addressed this issue during the Q&A session of the 2015 State of the Word at WordCamp US. Mika Epstein, who voluntarily reviews and approves plugins for the WordPress plugin directory, voiced the concerns shared by developers who are struggling to keep up.
Mullenweg answered the question by saying improvements can be made to the plugin directory so that users can share the burden in the testing process. He also said that the speed of WordPress development will increase instead of decrease. Meanwhile, the development team will continue to release three major versions per year.
He then describes a future where developers may be able to lessen their support burden by using the REST API that’s slated for WordPress 4.5. He also cites how large webhosting companies, such as Bluehost, have automatically upgraded most of the WordPress sites on their network to the latest stable version. Mullenweg ends his response by apologizing to those who feel WordPress is moving too fast but says its worked so far.
How Do You Keep Up With WordPress?
While we do a great job of keeping users and developers informed, plugin and theme authors should subscribe to the Make Plugins and Make Themes sites respectively. Anyone involved with maintaining WordPress sites should subscribe to the Make Core site where important information related to core is published.
We know that the release strategy isn’t going to change so whether you’re a developer or someone in charge of maintaining sites, how are you keeping up with WordPress?
I feel that these releases are starting to get so fast that random things start slipping through that aren’t even all that necessary – like removing the “View Page” button from page edit screens. Who was complaining about that?
Because that button was removed, I got about 20 extra support requests with people wondering where that button went. I had to re-film tutorial videos which now say to click the permalink instead of the “View Page” button.
This is only one small example of random changes made to core that don’t seem necessary – and the rate of updates makes it hard to catch all these little things and protest them in time.
I’m not sure if slowing them down is the solution – but it is creating a hectic, “put out fires all day” feeling every time a new update comes out for sure.