The WordPress 3.6 Release Candidate 2 came out yesterday with new HTML5 features in the core. That’s great, but only if your theme also supports them. So, do you need to update your theme now too? And what about the new Genesis 2.0 update right after the final WP 3.6 release in a few days? There are a lot of tutorials popping up to show you how to do the theme updates yourself, but few site owners are qualified to make them. Read on to discover what you need to know about this update, and what’s not in it, plus what you may or may not be missing out on if your theme does not support HTML5 or any of the other new features.
HTML5 Feature Roller Coaster
When work on WordPress 3.6 began, I made a video with all of the new features that were going to be included. Chief among them were the new post formats that would prominently be displayed above the post text editor. Many of them took advantage of the new HTML5 support being added.
Well, that ended up being a step too far for this release, and is what completely derailed the development schedule. Finally, post formats were pulled from the core and relegated to a plugin.
What they left in the core was HTML5 support for audio and video embedding via shortcodes. That’s super! It means that you will no longer need a plugin to play audio and video files on your site. The files can be in your own Media Library or an external source. And, yes, there is a way to input a fallback for other file types.
It also means a push toward adopting .mp4 as the standard for videos too because that is an HTML5 thing, and why Steve Jobs wanted to get rid of Flash. And, there’s a bit of a change to comment forms and search inputs in the HTML5 core too.
What’s the Big Deal
Post formats and multi-media embedding are not the end-all be-all. Here’s what is – microdata, and it’s the main reason folks are pushing hard for HTML5 support in the WordPress core.
Microdata helps Google better index your site via semantic markup. (That’s a phrase you’re going to be hearing a lot more often from now on.) And sites that use Custom Post Types, like real estate and recipe sites, are going to get the best of that right away.
The biggest reason you may want to consider updating your theme to take advantage of HTML5 is for the microdata output for better SEO.
Be careful! There are lots of tutorials already published that give you either an auto-converter or the raw code examples to update your theme yourself. If you don’t know code, and don’t know how to fix your theme if something goes wrong, then don’t take this on. Seek a pro theme designer or developer to do it. (And yes, there is a difference between those two, a big one.)
You may want to check with your theme provider before you upgrade to WordPress 3.6 to find out how it will react, or if they will provide an updated theme, or support if it breaks.
Whatever you do, backup your site first. Make sure you get the whole thing, not just the database. Get this report for help with that.
The folks at Genesis have been all over this HTML5 upgrade to the core of WordPress. They are chomping at the bit to do a final release of Genesis 2.0, which will come out immediately after the public release of WordPress 3.6. See my post on HTML5 and Genesis 2.0 – Get the SEO Edge
If you have a Genesis theme, it’s safe for you to upgrade to Genesis 2.0. None of the HTML5 markup will not be turned on by default. There’s a checkbox to turn it on. Brian Gardner has a whole post on Why You Shouldn’t Fear Upgrading to Genesis 2.0. Read that before you check that box.
You’ll also find a number of resources in that post to upgrade your theme to HTML5 compliance if you want it. And, they already have several HTML5 StudioPress themes available with a whole new batch on the way. On top of that, all current themes for purchase will be updated over time.
THIS is why I love Genesis themes. They keep up with the changes. Want to try one? See the Specials here.
HTML5 Browser Support
Now, before you get all crazy with updating your site with HTML5 goodies, keep in mind that not all browsers will support it, and there may be no graceful fallback for your code.
In other words, what looks like candy on one browser could look like crap on another. See my Tips Tuesday post for the most recent, in-depth report on current browsers and which one will support HTML5 the best. (You might be surprised.)
Steve Jobs started pushing for HTML5 adoption back in 2010. Parts of it have been in common use for the past few years. Google loves it. And now WordPress is finally pushing hard for full adoption, and that’s probably what will be the tipping point. It’s likely you won’t need to update your theme right away. But you will need to update it at some point. Even if you don’t take advantage of all the cool and fun things HTML5 can do, you’ll want the extra SEO perks of microdata.