PHP is an integral part of all WordPress sites. It’s the basic script that makes them tick. PHP 7 is an important upgrade to this already powerful language, an improvement that promises a host of performance tweaks. If you are still having doubts about PHP7, I highly recommend giving it a shot. In this article I will explain why PHP is important, give a gist of its awesome features and then guide you through the migration. Let’s dive in!

What is PHP?

PHP is a programming language that helps create websites. It is a server side language i.e. it is the language that browsers use to connect with servers to load web pages. Many websites use PHP, but WordPress was actually built on it. Every WordPress site uses it. The reason behind this symbiosis is the fact that PHP is an open-source language just like WordPress. This is the reason why it is important to upgrade to have a well performing site.

Why PHP7?

PHP7 is a big leap over its previous versions. You might be thinking of all the hard work put into developing your WordPress site, and now asking to redo some of it might be painful. But, the effort out then is just the reason why you should put some now. Few points that stand out are:

• It has great performance. Twice faster than its previous version.
• More freedom over type declarations.
• Improved error handling.

Steps to upgrade to PHP7

Step 1: Check your website for compatibility issues

One of the biggest issues that webmasters face before upgrading to PHP7 is that many web hosts still don’t support it. Worse still, they won’t allow you to update if you’re using a shared plan. Finally you are left with two options, either upgrade your plan to something more user friendly, such as a better web hosting service or switch to dedicated servers. The first one is will save you money so let’s see about it.

Before updating to PHP 7, it is important to check if all your site’s components are compatible with this update. Many new versions of themes and plugins are known to be compatible with PHP 7.

The approach we recommend for testing the website’s compatibility with PHP7 is by setting up a local environment. This way, you can make a copy of your website and test it’s compatibility without affecting your live website. There are many methods to set up a local environment. Our personal favorite is using MAMP. It is available for both Windows and Mac.

Once you are done installing it, follow these steps to test your site on a local environment:
• Take a full backup of your website. Take the help of a plugin such as UpdrafPlus.
• Create a local WordPress site using MAMP and PHP 7. It is set as the default option for any site you set up with the service.
• Install UpdraftPlus on this local site.
• Restore the backup of your site that you took in step 1 to this local environment using UpdraftPlus.
• Now check your website for compatibility issues.

This is the best way you to go about testing to see if your site is PHP 7 ready. Having a local testing environment ready can help you the next time you feel like making any major update to your site.

Speed Test:

Perform a speed test to see how much upgrading your site actually benefits you. It varies from site to site. A normal site will have a 1.5 to 3 second cached page load time. The un-cached load times will be about 3.5 to 4.5 seconds. Un-cached times are known to provide a truer performance rating. You will be impressed by how PHP7 shaves time. Pingdom is one of the few tools available for measurement for PHP7 vs. PHP5 performance.

Step 2: Fix Any Errors on Your Site

This step is for people who found some errors while testing the themes and plugins. Now, you have two options – the first is to simply update these unsupported elements in case they have new versions. Then, test again and check if the errors still exist. Some plugins may still be in the beta stages.

The other alternative, in case there is no update, is to change the offending themes and plugins. You can look for elements with similar functionalities and design as the older ones would have been selected with specific reasons in mind. WordPress has a huge database. So it wouldn’t be difficult to match make unless you were using a very specific plugin. As for themes, a quick Google search will help you find good alternatives for specific niches.

Step 3: Move Your Site to a Web Host.

Now that your site is free of any compatibility issues, it’s time to make the big leap. Yes! Im talking about moving your website to the new host that you have selected in step 1.

I know I make moving our WordPress site to a new host sound like a tall order. It is. But it doesn’t have to be. If you need help, many modern web hosts offer free migrations or tools for customers. It’s another factor you can look for while choosing web hosting options. For technically strong people, you can always migrate your site manually, if you don’t mind taking an extra few steps. The process may take a while though. But the end result should make you grin end to end.

Wrap up

PHP 7 isn’t merely an upgrade from PHP 5, it’s a giant leap forward in terms of performance and technology. If your site is one of the majority WordPress sites that use PHP to run their applications, you are missing out on something big by ignoring this great update.

You are lucky to be a WordPress user as all it takes is just three simple steps and some technical brain stuff to upgrade your website to PHP7 and reap the rewards.

About the author:

Catherrine Garcia is a passionate blogger and a freelance Web Developer wpcodingdev. She along with her group of freelance developers, are experts of creating Websites on CMS.