May Update

The two main topics in this post are the introduction of GDPR and an update on Gutenberg. In addition, I have included minor items on website verification services and site icons.

GDPR

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into effect on May 25th, 2018. Hopefully, you have already assessed what it means for your organisation. With respect to your website, you should minimally have a page which describes how you deal with privacy matters, including cookies and emails. The cookie and forms / emails sections in the privacy page of the Ascot Volunteer Bureau website might give you some typical words, if you need them.

WordPress has had an EU cookie law widget for a number of years. If employed, it will bring up a cookie & privacy policy message when a user first enters the site, similar to what you find on most websites these days. It also includes the ability to specify a link to your privacy page, if you have one. The message appears as a banner at the bottom of the screen.

WordPress 4.9.6, which includes some GDPR functionality, has just been released to WordPress.org users. As usual, WordPress.com users will see it shortly. Versions 4.9.1 through to 4.9.5 over recent months have simply been maintenance releases for bug and security fixes. This release also contains a number of fixes, but its main focus is GDPR.
I get the impression that 4.9.6 introduces the first tranche of GDPR functionality, i.e. there is more to follow. I am not sure that it will be relevant to the WordPress users that I know, but obviously it is up to you to decide whether that is the case. In summary, the facilities include:

  • A privacy policy page template (if you have not already got a privacy page)
  • Facilities to send an email to a user who has requested details of the personal data that you hold about him and / or for said personal data to be removed from your site. This email asks the user to confirm the request(s)
  • The returned email from the client then goes on a to do list which the site administrator will subsequently action. The result will be a zip file which contains the data that you hold for that person on your WordPress site
  • If you allow comments on your site then the name and email address of the commenter will be stored in a cookie. The first time that a person comments he will be asked to opt-in to this process.

It is important to realise that this functionality is limited to the data held on your website. It obviously does not deal with any personal data that you may hold manually or in other systems. This article in Wptavern gives an overview of the proposed functionality in 4.9.6.

Gutenberg Update

Work continues on its development (to be released in WordPress version 5.0) with new test versions appearing roughly once a fortnight. We are currently on version 2.8 of Gutenberg. Much of the recent work deals with quite low-level functionality which is mainly of interest to developers of plug-ins and themes, and not to average users such as ourselves.

Recent changes to the editor
The new features that I would mention at our level include:

  • a pagination block where you wish to split a post or page into multiple pages. A list of pages appears at the bottom and the user clicks on the next page that she wishes to view. This is similar to an online ordering system where the list of possible products is usually split into pages;
  • a spacer block to provide better control of spacing, as the name implies. Precise spacing has always been a tad problematic in WordPress;
  • some reasonable facilities to allow an image to sit alongside text (a facility which I use quite heavily in the present editor). The initial versions of Gutenberg had no facilities in this area;
  • a columns block.  This block was introduced on a trial basis a couple of months ago. It appears as if it is now here to stay
  • and a table of contents in the editor for quick access to sections within a post / page. However, it only operates where you use the heading styles, and it is only useful in larger posts or pages.

In addition, a significant amount of effort has gone into the user interface, prompting discussions which have resulted in some of the changes being discarded, a case of two steps forward and one step back?

The rapid rate of change on the project shows some initial signs of slowing down, but I think that I will stick with my guestimate that it is unlikely to be officially released before late summer or early autumn.

Thoughts on what WordPress 5.0 will mean to existing users
What is of most concern to existing users is the degree of change that may be necessary on their sites to accommodate Gutenberg. I have a clear(ish) idea in my mind how version 5 will operate for WordPress.org users. I am less clear how WordPress.com users may be affected, principally because there is virtually no information on this subject from Automattic, thus far. Anyway, here are my thoughts at this point in time, for what they are worth:

  • The functionality of the present editor (now called the classic editor) will be available, alongside Gutenberg. It is not clear which will be the default editor, or if you will be able to specify which editor you want to be the default. However, the bottom line is that you will be able to continue to use the existing editor. This is obviously good news for those users who do not wish to change. However, I wonder how long this may last, particularly as the plan is that Gutenberg will eventually be implemented in other parts of WordPress.
  • If you open an existing post / page in the Gutenberg editor it will appear as a single classic editor block, and you will be able to use the basic tools of the current editor. So, this is another way to avoid using native Gutenberg features
  • There is then a facility to convert this single classic editor block into multiple native Gutenberg blocks if you want to move your post / page over to pure Gutenberg

Finally, I assume from what I have said above that you will be able to mix and match classic editor and Gutenberg editor-based posts / pages on a site, although I have not seen this spelt out by anybody so far.

Plug-ins and Themes
Wordpress.org users who make use of plug-ins and / or third-party themes will need to ensure that they work with Gutenberg. There is now a Gutenberg Plug-in Compatibility Database which may provide you with the information. It contains about 500 entries at the moment. Otherwise, you will need to check with the authors of the software.

Finding out more
The level of change has arguably not slowed sufficiently yet to warrant investing too much time and effort in getting up to speed with Gutenberg. However, A Tour of the Gutenberg Editor for WordPress by Rachel McCollin is worth a read to give you a flavour of the editor at this stage of its development (May 2018).

If you wish to follow the Gutenberg project slightly more closely I would suggest the following sites: Gutenberg News and Wptavern.

Website verification services

Does it irk you that a set of search results which shows your website, also shows that Norton (or other anti-virus software) does not know if it is safe or not?

Search engines have tools for verifying websites. They can send you a key (which they tend to call meta key content) which you put on your site. The search engine and the anti-virus software can then work out that your site is safe.

Settings > tools > available tools in the WordPress wp-admin section allows you to enter the meta keys for a range of search engines. It also provides links to the tools in these search engines, e.g. Google webmaster tools, where you can find out what you need to do to get a meta key in the first place.

Site icons

A site’s icon appears in various places, most notably alongside the site title in a browser tab or in a list of favourite sites. If you do not have a site icon then the standard WordPress icon will be used, i.e. a white W on a blue background.
If you have a compact logo, or similar image, that you wish to use as your site’s icon then first upload it to the media library. You will find the facility to change the site icon in general settings. For further information, including the size of an icon, see https://en.support.wordpress.com/site-icons/.