It’s already been 3 years
If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you’ve seen the notice in WPEngine that PHP8.0 will be EOL soon and you’ll need to upgrade to PHP8.2 (Not sure why they skipped 8.1) or the Google gods blessed us with your presence.
A new PHP version is released every year and comes with 3 years security updates, it’s hard to believe it’s already nearing the end of 2023 and PHP8.0 was released back in November of 2020. This might seem quick but a yearly release cycle is not unusual and is good for making progress and for a language to not fall behind. Technology is progressing at a crazy rate still and we all need to try and keep up.
What do I do now?
If you have a developer or agency looking after your site, it would be best to let them know and get some idea on the cost to upgrade your WordPress site. Depending on how old your site is there might not be much to do and is mostly making sure your plugins and theme are compatible. (Psst shameless plugin, we also help clients with WordPress PHP version upgrades so hit us up if you need a hand)
Set up a staging site
If you are on WPEngine or another managed service you’ll likely be able to set up a staging site your self. You can start by restoring or replicating the production/live/master site over to the staging or development site. Once this is completed you can configure the staging version for the new PHP version and see if the site still works.
If your hosting is with another provider possibly using cPanel or other control panel look around for any WordPress tools like the WP Toolkit in cPanel. This will make your life a bit easier in making a copy of your site to test with. Talk to your host or developer if you need help here, there might be a small cost in getting this set up but you won’t need it long only for the upgrade testing.
Find where to change the PHP version while not changing it for the production (if possible) and test!
So if you get this far and your site is working, that’s great! Make sure to thoroughly test the site though by going through different public page and also the admin for general tasks. If it’s an e-commerce store test an order and if possible integrations too.
My site has crashed
This is likely to occur with PHP upgrades and can normally be solved by updating your plugins and theme. Check if you still have access to the admin, sometimes this will work while the public site doesn’t. This will let you update as per normal through the plugins/theme area.
No admin access? You’ll need to get access to the files through the control panel is normally the easiest but might need to be through FTP or SSH/SFTP.
Navigate to your plugins folder (/wp-content/plugins) and disable a plugin by renaming it. I typically rename it with a “.disabled” at the end of the folder so I know which ones I’ve done. After disabling each plugin check the site until it works.
If it wasn’t a plugin it might be the theme, again go to the theme folder and disable the theme you think is active. The site will get a bit upset but the admin will allow you to set a new active theme in the “Appearance” section.
Site still broken, nothing works, I’m about to throw the computer out the window? This is when you probably need a bit of help, reach out to your agency/developer or someone like us that can assist in getting your site up and running or even do the upgrade for you.
At this point it will likely save time/money and the stress of not having a working website.
My plugin/theme is not compatible
Sometimes themes or plugins are abandoned and they will not get updates, in this case it’s best to find a replacement plugin that can fulfill the functionality required. This is easier said than done sometimes so understand what your site needs and if it’s a developer doing this give them as much information as possible, don’t just ask them to replace it as it’s nearly impossible to know the exact requirements and why the original plugin was selected out of the ones available at the time.
But it’s the theme that isn’t working, what do I do? Make sure you’re running the latest version or check with the developers of the theme what PHP/WordPress versions are supported. Worst case you’ll need to get a new theme and in this case try to pick something that appears to have good support.
There will be cases were the theme has been customised, this requires a developer to investigate and guide you on the next best steps. Sometimes this will just be a small/quick fix but work out the cost of fixing something vs getting a new up to date theme (+ install/config).
My site is good now, cya
Excellent, I guess if you got this far your site is already working or you’ve hand balled the fix. Don’t get too comfy though, with yearly releases and constant WP updates put in a plan to get your site maintained regularly, including updating the PHP version. The PHP update is quite often missed when doing updates and it’s great to see WordPress warn users about this too in the admin area, keep on top of this and you’ll likely have a faster site and not have to do a mad scramble when you’re forced to update.
Hope this helped someone, as always reach out if you’ve got questions or need help. As developers at heart we love helping our clients with anything WordPress especially the coding and hosting bits.