Will WordPress 5.9 break your website?

A client asked me yesterday whether their website will break when WordPress 5.9 is released on January 25th, 2022, and Gutenberg Full Site Editing is rolled out as part of WordPress core.

In this video, I’ll explain how your WordPress website should carry on running fine when WordPress 5.9 is released, and also explain the three different categories of Themes we’ll see in 2022.

Please note that WordPress 5.9 was originally slated to be released in Dec 21, but was pushed back one month.

The 3 different categories of WordPress Theme we’ll see in 2022

We’ll be in a transition stage in 2022. There will be differences in how WordPress Themes approach and integrate Gutenberg Full Site Editing.

Below I explain the three different categories of Themes we’ll likely see.

1) Classic or ‘Old Skool’ WordPress Themes

Old Skool Themes will turn off Gutenberg’s Full Site Editing Functionality.

Initially, I expect the majority of existing Themes will fall into this category. My guess is that certain Themes, including the Divi theme, the Hello Theme (from Elementor), and Avada Theme will hold off turning on FSE for as long as possible – possibly forever. If your site is running one of these Themes you probably won’t notice any big changes when WordPress 5.9 is released. You’ll see be able to use the WordPress customizer, and the old WordPress menu system, and things will carry on much as they did before.

2) Hybrid WordPress Themes

Hybrid Themes will offer you the old way of doing things, but also give you the ability to use Full Site Editing if you so wish.

I expect Themes like Astra, Blocksy, Kadence, and our own 18tags Theme, to fall into this category. My prediction is that they won’t switch on Full Site editing Functionality until the later part of 2022 at the earliest. If your website is running one of these Themes, your website will continue to work as normal, and you probably won’t notice any big difference when WordPress 5.9 is released.

3) 100% Powered FSE Themes

100% FSE Themes will be 100% FSE from the start and built 100% for Gutenberg.

The main difference for you if you use one of these Themes is that you won’t see the WordPress customizer or the old WordPress menu system. Your whole website will be built with the Gutenberg Block Editor. The themes that fall into this category will be Tove, Clove, and the 2022 default WordPress Theme.

If you want to learn more about Gutenberg Full Site Editing check out my WordPress Gutenberg Full Site Editing for Beginners article.


17 responses to “Will WordPress 5.9 break your website?”

  1. How will themes like storefront (and my extension SF pro) handle it?

    1. Jamie Marsland Avatar
      Jamie Marsland

      They’ll carry on as normal πŸ™‚

  2. In which category falls WooCmmerce Storefront? Hybrid I guess?
    Egbert Jan, NL, speldorado.com

    1. Jamie Marsland Avatar
      Jamie Marsland

      Yup my guess would be hybrid

    2. Jamie Marsland Avatar
      Jamie Marsland

      I’ve just read a reply to a question from WooCommerce and it seems that Storefront will remain a classic theme.

  3. The new widget blocks functionality totally trashed my clients woocommerce store. Activating itself with the update. Lots of the legacy widgets throwing errors. None of them displaying. Fatal error on the front end.
    It took me 5 hours to fix. With a shop you can not just revert to a backup as you would lose orders.
    I installed the Classic Widgets plugin to switch back to the old widget system. Just like using Classic editor. I thought that will be problem solved. Wrong.
    The reason it took so long to repair the site was that when Classic Widgets was turned on, the site had forgotten the location of all of the widgets. I had to go to the Internet Wayback machine to see what widgets went where. I then had to drag and drop them all back into the correct sidebars, footers etc. As the site is also multi-lingual and each language has it’s own set of widgets this was a major task.
    Not at all a smooth update.

    1. Jamie Marsland Avatar
      Jamie Marsland

      Crikey, that sounds terrible ☹️ But thanks for sharing Mark, hopefully that will help some-one else πŸ‘

  4. I’m using Avada and getting updated to 5.9 has caused some issues. The admin panel is so slow. Woocommerce is stuck on step 5 of 6 setup. I am unable to update products as well.

    1. Jamie Marsland Avatar
      Jamie Marsland

      Hi, thanks for letting me know – my guess is that it’s caused by another plugin (conflicting) or some issue with Avada and 5.9 (although i’d be surprised by that)

  5. Nope. it broke my site.

    1. Jamie Marsland Avatar
      Jamie Marsland

      What happened Nick?

  6. WordPress 5.9 broke the Customizer on two sites so far. Running child themes of Hestia and Septera. The Customizer will not load up and stays blank thanks to lots of JavaScript errors. Switching browsers makes no difference. Had to revert back to 5.8.3 in order to get the Customizer back.

    I’m no fan of the Customizer, but this is the only place to edit most of the theme options.

    1. Jamie Marsland Avatar
      Jamie Marsland

      Thanks for sharing John – I’m guessing it’s a Theme issue (ie. conflict with 5.9 somewhere)

  7. I’m using Astra theme, BeaverBuilder for creating pages, and Classic editor for creating posts (with Gutenberg disabled). Today I updated to WP 5.9. The admin button to update WP hung part way through, so I had to do a manual update using FTP.

    Following the update, most things seem to be working ok, but when I try to visit the Appearance -> Customize page, I get this error:
    “There has been a critical error on this website. Please check your site admin email inbox for instructions. Learn more about troubleshooting WordPress.”
    However, I have not received an email with the instructions.

    I plan to wait a day or two to see if WP provides a fix for this problem. If they don’t, I will revert back to an older WP version.

    Like Mark says, not at all a smooth update.

  8. Hi Jamie,
    I started following you on your YouTube channel. Thanks for being so straight-to-the-point and precise in your videos.

    I was wondering if you could help me with this issue I have:

    1- I have an installation of WP5.9 on a subfolder as a test for a whole new version of the main site (i.e. main site is installed in http://www.domainname.com and the test installation is in http://www.domainname.com/2022). I don’t know if it’s the right thing to do but it always worked fine for me. So there are two different installations with two different db tables.
    2- WP installation in the subfolder was ok; I installed Gutenberg plugin and activated the TT1block theme
    3- When I try to access the FSE I get this response in the inspector:
    Mixed Content: The page at ‘https://www.domainname.com/2022/wp-admin/themes.php?page=gutenberg-edit-site’ was loaded over HTTPS, but requested an insecure resource ‘http://www.domainname.com/2022/?_wp-find-template=true’. This request has been blocked; the content must be served over HTTPS.

    By all means it shows a blank page instead of letting me view the editor.

    I tried to modify the .htaccess file (within the 2022 subfolder) in every way I know, I even installed an SSL plugin, I followed your instructions doing a blank theme which I uploaded and activated with no problems but none of this worked to view the Editor.

    Do you think you would like to give me a hint about this?
    Thanks anyway,
    have a good time.

    ps: I installed WP 5.9 and started using the fse with no problems at all on another domain (this time working in the main folder), so I think the problem is just SSL-related.

  9. Enrico Natoli Avatar
    Enrico Natoli

    I am sorry!
    Found the solution right after writing you!
    It worked only AFTER I made a page and then set it as the homepage in the general settings instead of having a list of articles.

    Sorry about requesting your help for nothing!
    Take care,

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