Just shy of two months after the release of 3.7, the newest version of WordPress (3.8) was released today. But is this release more than just a cosmetic update? Keep reading for all the details as well as instructions on how to upgrade your installation.
WordPress 3.8 Features New Dashboard Design
The official announcement of the new version seems to focus more on the updates to the admin dashboard theme than to any significant improvements to the functionality of the world’s most popular CMS.
Aesthetic Changes to the WordPress 3.8 Dashboard
The new dashboard is lauded as “a modern design” that is “fresh, uncluttered” and “embraces clarity and simplicity.”
The design features “superior contrast” to make the dashboard easier to read and use.
Here is a comparison of the new admin dashboard menu and the menu in 3.7 (as taken from another one of my sites).
The new dashboard also gives you the option to use any of the eight different color schemes packaged with the WordPress 3.8 update.
Probably the most significant aesthetic enhancement in 3.8 is the responsiveness of the WordPress backend. The new dashboard design is much more friendly to smaller screens. It used to be quite a process to try managing your WordPress site from a smartphone — one that involved a lot of scrolling and a lot of accidentally tapping on the wrong thing. The WordPress 3.8 dashboard features a collapsible menu and responsive dashboard widgets that resize and move depending on your screen size.
Functional Improvements in WordPress 3.8
Though the majority of the changes in WordPress 3.8 are to the visual presentation of the dashboard, there are also some functional improvements.
Better Widget Management
Thankfully the smart developers behind WordPress realized how tedious it was to work with widgets in previous versions of WordPress. “Drag-drag-drag. Scroll-scroll-scroll,” is how the announcement describes the experience.
Managing widgets is much simpler in WordPress 3.8. Not only is the display of the page improved, but now you can add widgets with zero dragging. Simply click on the type of widget you want and a menu pops up asking which sidebar you want to add it to. Click on the sidebar you want, click “Add Widget,” and WordPress adds the widget to the sidebar for you and opens up the widget settings screen so you can configure it immediately.
WordPress 3.8 Widget Management
Refined Theme Management
Similar to the widget update, theme management is also easier in 3.8. On the themes page, a thumbnail is presented for each theme you have installed. For more information about a particular theme, you simply need to click on the theme thumbnail and an information pop-over window opens. Want to look at other themes’ info? Just use the arrow keys on your keyboard to browse your other themes.
New Default Theme
Packaged with the update is a brand new default theme: Twenty Fourteen.
The new theme actually shares a lot of similarities with the updated dashboard design. At full-width, the primary sidebar is displayed on the left side of the screen, just like the menu in the dashboard, and a black static menu bar across the top.
Like the dashboard, the Twenty Fourteen theme handles smaller screens gracefully.
You can see the theme in action at my Twenty Fourteen demo site.
How to Upgrade to WordPress 3.8
Upgrading WordPress has grown progressively simpler over the years. Before you do any upgrade, though, it’s always recommended that you backup your files and database. It might seem like a needless waste of time, but an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
When you log in to your dashboard, there will probably be a notice at the top advising you that WordPress 3.8 is available.
If the notice doesn’t show up, you can find it through the updates link in the Dashboard submenu.
On the WordPress updates page, click the “Update Now” button, and the WordPress 3.8 update will be installed.
If you need any help with your WordPress site, I’d love to help you. Please contact me. For more articles about WordPress, web design, and web development, click here to follow Avid Netizen on Twitter or click here to sign up for the email list.