Avoid problems with WooCommerce 3.0 updates

At the time of writing, Woocommerce 3.0 hasn’t been released to the public, so hopefully you’re reading this before upgrading. Like all major plugins, WooCommerce is upgraded regularly, with major and minor fixes. What was originally planned as WooCommerce 2.7 has now been renamed WooCommerce 3.0 and has been delayed until April 4th, to allow theme and plugin developers time to ensure their products are compatible. With good reason, it seems.

Updates are part of daily life for WordPress users, nothing to get too excited about, and they usually go through with the minimum of fuss. However, with the impending WooCommerce 3.0 update there may well be trouble ahead for some users, and it’s worth knowing about it in advance.

trouble ahead

Let’s start with the WooCommerce announcement.

Woocommerce posted an announcement on 13th March in their development blog about the coming update. It says; “We’re re-versioning WooCommerce 2.7 as WooCommerce 3.0.0, and releasing this on 4th April 2017. We found a critical bug in the way the system handles timestamps, which wasn’t caught sooner, and have had numerous requests from third-party extension developers for more testing time, due to the scale of changes in this release.”

For many readers that will sound pretty harmless; standard upgrade-speak. Then I spotted a comment about Avada, which made me wonder. Avada is one of the most popular themes on the market, Envato’s top seller, to be more precise. I visited the theme’s support website and found the warning “The New WooCommerce 2.7 Is Only Compatible With Avada 5.1.” and, below that, “WooCommerce has held back their 2.7 release and are making it into 3.0 to be released on April 4th.” Avada 5.1+ is still compatible with the current live version of WooCommerce.”

Translation

What this means is that all versions of the top-selling WordPress theme Avada prior to the current V5.1 will be incompatible with WooCommerce 3.0. If you update WooCommerce but don’t have V5.1 of Avada (or newer) your shop will quite probably break. We’ll call that an ‘Oops’ then.

This doesn’t only relate to Avada. The WooCommerce 3.0 update is something that is likely to hit every WordPress theme with Woocommerce compatability built in, in addition to WooCommerce extensions and plugins. Developers will need to check that their themes and plugins are compatible with the new WooCoomerce release and, if not, release an update more or less immediately. You can be sure that some themes will be updated, with revised versions available before WooCommerce releases 3.0, but many won’t. You can bet on that. The same quite obviously applies to WooCommerce plugins.

And the point is?

The point is simple and, hopefully, transparent. If your website uses WooCommerce and you update to WooCommerce 3.0 but your theme and WooCommerce plugins haven’t been updated to be compatible, there will inevitably be tears. So, don’t just cross your fingers, saying ‘I’ve never had a problem updating WooCommerce’ and hope for the best.

When and how to update?

First things first, take back control of your website and ensure that your plugins aren’t set to auto-update. You need to be able to choose when to update. Once WooCommerce 3.0 is available and the nag screens start telling you to update it, check to see if your theme has been updated too. Then check any associated plugins and see if they have been updated too. Then check your favourite WooCommerce blog and see what problems, if any, have been reported. Maybe check the WooCommerce Facebook groups and see what issues other users have had. When updates are available for everything, take a full backup of your site and database and put it somewhere safe. A restorable backup, so that if something goes wrong you can revert your site to its pre-update state. Use something like Backupbuddy. And then get on with updating everything.

What’s it all about anyway?

It seems to be a major update with a few twists thrown in for good measure. The detail doesn’t really matter to anybody other than developers, but it appears the potential problems are caused by the discovery of a critical bug in how WooCommerce handles timestamps. Since 2.7 was released in beta form there have been additional changes made to what will become WooCommerce 3.0 so beware of a plugin or theme that states it is 2.7 compatible. It needs to be compatible with 3.0. And you need a trustworthy backup plugin. Just in case.