We’re a bit delayed in getting the monthly Greenleaf ONE update out the door, but for good reason. We’ve had several important updates hanging out there that are now starting to roll out, making both CiviCRM and WordPress more feature rich and user friendly. In addition, we are pushing out a long awaited update to the default page builder that greatly enhances the workflow around dynamic content.
So, why the mid-month update then? First, because we’re super excited about the improvements. And, second, because we want you to be aware that they’re coming online in case you notice any changes or experience any issues.
Unlike small updates or new plugins, the latest round involves updating some of the underlying software that powers both WordPress and CiviCRM, namely PHP. In addition, the upgrades to the Yootheme Page Builder represent what is considered a major step up, so we expect there to be some noticeable changes.
Several of these upgrades lay the groundwork for the next major upgrade to CiviCRM, version 5.63, which we’re actively testing. Key to this upgrade will be the realization of SearchKit Tables which will allow you to build complex searches in CiviCRM and map their results directly into the builder. This is a very exciting update as it will allow you to quickly display data that is related in a complex fashion. For example, displaying all donations from individuals belonging to a single household can be tricky. With SearchKit, these sorts of searches are possible. And with CiviCRM 5.63, you will be able to map the results directly into the page builder, thereby easily displaying complex data across your website.
At the same time, we hope to release the much anticipated content filters that allow you to filter WordPress content, including custom post types, based on any combination of standard fields, like the default WordPress taxonomies, and custom fields created in the Advanced Custom Fields plugin.
This is a very exciting time for users of Greenleaf ONE. Its combination of CiviCRM and WordPress into one cohesive software for nonprofit organizations has reached a new level of sophistication and ease of use.
Let’s dive in and review the major new updates that are rolling out now. But please, if you don’t immediately understand everything down below, don’t panic. While the more technical among you will understand much if not all of this, some of you may not be working this deeply on your system. Or perhaps you have just started diving into ONE. But either way, what you can most definitely take away is that we have chosen these tools and are making these updates because they without question provide even greater opportunity for you to maximize your impact and achieve your mission. That’s what we are focused on, and that’s what we’ll continue to focus on. And if you have questions, we are here.
Onward and upward!
Most if not all of these are considered “in progress”, meaning that they’re actively being pushed out to Greenleaf ONE instrances incrementally. If you don’t yet see these changes, that’s because we’ve not yet upgraded your instance of Greenleaf ONE. Sit tight, we’re getting there.
Upgrading to PHP 8
We’ve taken a conservative approach to upgrading sites to PHP 8 or higher. Many sites are currently running PHP 7.4 which, while stable and performant, is no longer receiving security upgrades. Because PHP 8 introduces breaking changes, we are testing each upgrade individually to ensure there are no issues whatsoever. This is a rather lengthy process, however we believe it’s the best approach.
If you see any alerts related to your version of PHP, you may disregard them. We are actively working through the upgrades, which by and large should be transparent to your users.
Page Builder Upgrade: Version 4.0
The latest version of the page builder ships with several very nice performance enhancements, the big one being that you can now set a “parent” source for dynamic content at the section and row level. This means that, for example, if you establish a parent source for your dynamic content within a section, ALL rows and ALL elements within that section will be able to automatically inherit the source. This is really significant from a performance standpoint as 1) it reduce your design legwork and 2) it reduces the number of queries the site has to run.
To make it even more awesome, the latest upgrade also allows these rows and sections to repeat automatically based on the number of items within the source. This means that you can create a complex layout within a section and it will automatically replicate based on the amount of content in the source. Really, this is huge. This allows you to create virtually unlimited layouts and have them automatically build based on your content.
In addition, the update improves upon the already awesome sublayout element, adds new content sources and improves accessibility by present ARIA labels throughout. These updates can all seem very technical, however there is a fantastic introductory blog post that we encourage you to review here.
Finally, the upgrade to Yootheme Pro 4.0 coincides with an update to the Essentials Plugin, to version 2.0. This upgrade is mostly performance related, improving upon the ability to quickly access custom sources and data as well as in refining many of the settings associated with various elements, such as graphs, social icons, etc.
We’ll definitely be putting together a video on this, so stay tuned. We’re actively testing the upgrade across various development sites now.
CiviCRM version 5.61.4
We’re actively upgrading all sites to version 5.61.4. Ordinarily we stay closer to the latest stable version, however due to some bugs introduced in various extensions, as well as our ongoing adoption of PHP8, we’re taking a more conservative approach in performing upgrades. Version 5.61.4 ships with several improvements in SearchKit and FormBuilder, the the big improvement (mapping to saved searches in SearchKit) will not come until the next upgrade of CiviCRM. We estimate this to be within 90 days.
Upgrade to WordPress 6.2
A fairly major upgrade to WordPress is out and we’re currently rolling updates to select installations. While WordPress has historically been very focused on backward compatibility, we tend to adopt new major releases slowly and only after thorough testing.
Again, in this instance, we’ve been conservative in upgrading to WordPress 6.2 but now feel like it’s stable enough. Most of the improvements are performance related or focused on its own block editor, Gutenberg, which we don’t actively support. Don’t expect to notice anything too dramatic on the WordPress side of things.
Improved media manager
For organizations with lots of media or with high media management needs, the WordPress media manager is, how shall we say, a bit of a mess. Fortunately, there are several plugins that allow for greater management and control over media files within WordPress.
We’re rolling out one such media manager that allows you to organize and manage your media files in a much more logical manner. What’s more, this media manager doesn’t just mask the underlying structure in WordPress, it allows you to completely change the structure via its “physical folders” feature. A word of caution though, enabling this feature on sites that already have a lot of images runs the risk breaking image paths. For new sites, this feature makes more sense and not only enables you to organize you media files into a more logical structure, it allows you to present a cleaner, more optimized URL for search engines.
Again, we’ll be putting together a video on using the media manager shortly.
Going PRO with SEO
Greenleaf ONE ships with a newer SEO plugin called WP Meta SEO. It’s a bit more lightweight than many older, more known plugins such as Yoast, Rank Math, etc. In our experience, WP Meta SEO gets the job done in an all-around easier manner without some of the performance issues that we’ve seen with the older, legacy plugins.
For organizations with complex content, multiple custom post types, etc., the pro version is likely to be a big benefit when it comes to managing your organic rankings. Likewise, it supports direct integration into Google Search Console and Google Analytics 4, so accessing your site performance data is fast and easy.
Optimization is a complex topic and it’s only getting more so with the adoption of AI-based tools. This plugin is no silver bullet as search optimization requires much more than just tweaking content. That said, it is one more tool in your toolbox and, if used properly, can help you optimize the content and pages on your website such that they are properly indexed and positioned to be found in organic searches.
Support for native SVG transitions on the page builder
Designers, you’re gonna love this. We’re adding a new extension that adds on-the-fly generation of SVG images between sections in the builder. You’ve got control over responsiveness, colors, layers, shadows, and a lot more. This is a fast, lightweight and native way to dramatically improve your site’s design consistent with your organization’s brand.
Let’s roll these upgrades out!
We’ll follow up in the first week of August with a more comprehensive update, with many of these initiatives falling into the “complete” column. For now, please be on the lookout for these improvements. We’ll be spinning up videos soon enough on many of these which we’ll add to the video library.
As a reminder, you need to register in order to access the video library in the Greenleaf ONE Client Portal. If you have not yet done so, we encourage you to. There you will find a growing set of resources including video tutorials and documentation. Like Greenleaf ONE, there is a lot planned for the client portal, so expect ongoing improvements.
As always, feedback (good or bad) is welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.