WordPress 5.3 is almost here.
Slated to be released to the wild on Nov. 12, testing has already begun for this latest version of WordPress. Currently, Beta 3 for 5.3 was released on Monday, and the new version has been available for testing since Sept. 23.
The latest update to WordPress is nowhere near as dramatic as 5.0 around this time last year. But there are some changes, enhancements and other updates to the CMS. On the whole, I think it’ll be another step in the right direction.
So with a little over a month to go, let’s take a look at what’s coming with the latest version of WordPress.
Do note that there’s still time for some of these items to change; however, no new features will be added. I’ll update this post as changes are made.
WordPress 5.3 Preview
Small design changes
The first thing you’re probably going to notice with the update to 5.3 is a bit of a small change to the design.
Don’t worry, it’s nothing too crazy. Everything is still laid out the same, and you’ll be able to find your way about the admin area the same as you are today.
But there are a few tweaks that you’ll probably notice. The big one is a change to the button styles. No longer will they look raised, but they’ll be a bit more flat. Also, grey buttons now have a blue outline with blue text to help you be able to see them better.
That also brings up another change: a lot more lines. You’ll see darker edges around input fields. And there are more lines around clickable areas in the dashboard widgets, posts lists and the like. It’s actually one of the first things I saw when I installed the beta version.
Finally, there are a few other small design tweaks, such as rounded corners for checkboxes and changes to the notifications that appear at the top of the page.
Most of this helps alleviate accessibility concerns, which the Accessibility team with WordPress is doing a great job of trying to fix. And it should help you be able to know what to click and where to click.
It’s a small thing, but I’m kind of starting to like it.
Next, we’re going to get a whole host of updates to the Gutenberg editor with this next version. There are 12 updates to Gutenberg that will be included.
If you haven’t been using the Gutenberg plugin on your website, you’re going to notice a number of changes. First, you’ll see a lot more subtle animations when you’re doing anything in the editor. It’s not really distracting.
Next, the editor uses “snackbar” notifications to tell you if a post is updated. So you’ll need to look in the lower left corner of the screen instead of the top to know when a post has completed publishing or saving.
Also, you’re going to be able to group blocks together. This can help you create dynamic and cool page layouts (obviously depends on your theme as well). And a number of blocks received upgrades, including a better table block editing experience.
Finally, the speed of the editor saw significant improvement. The Gutenberg team reports that they’ve shaved off 1.5 seconds of load time for a post with 1000 blocks and 36,000 words from 5.2 to 5.3.
A new default theme
As with any last major release for the year for WordPress, 5.3 will ship with a brand new default theme. And I have to say I’m pretty happy with it, even if I’ll likely never use it.
The Twenty Twenty theme is based off of “Chaplin”, and honestly, I find it to be a much better version of the Twenty Nineteen theme from last year.
I like the ability to have a screen-filling featured image for posts and pages. And I like the styling of . I think there are good examples here for other themes (mine included) to follow with their styling.
I will say, I’m still not a big fan of the fonts. That’s probably the first thing I would change if I were using it on a site I was running.
I’ll have a more detailed review and walkthrough next week, but suffice to say it’ll be a pretty good default theme that folks will likely want to use.
Finally, there are a few other relatively small changes that might excite developers and some website owners and be meh to others.
- Better media uploads — Sometimes you’ve got to upload large files to your website, but sometimes that can cause issues with your website. With 5.3, WordPress will save the progress of the image upload in case something breaks, making it all much smoother for you.
- Site health report — The biggest change you’ll see here is what you won’t see anymore. The page will no longer show your site’s score as a percentage. Instead, it will show words like “good” and “should be improved” to tell you how your website’s health is doing.
- “In the code” changes — As for things you probably won’t see, there are a few changes coming here. First, WordPress will do a better job of shooing away search engines when you have the “Discourage search engines from indexing this website” option selected. Also, there’s increased support for the upcoming PHP 7.4 release. And there’s a better and quicker way to get the date and time in code.
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How to test out WordPress 5.3 ahead of release day
Like I said earlier, WordPress 5.3 is still in the testing phase. That means you won’t see it pop up if you go to the “Updates” page in your WordPress website dashboard.
But you can still test drive it to see how it works and how it might fit with your website. You’ll need to download and activate the “WordPress Beta Tester” plugin, which I talked about earlier this year. Just one note before you go too far down that path: make sure that you don’t test it on a live site. Beta and even release candidate versions could still have some bugs that might break your site. So do your testing on a test site and wait until the official release to update your live website.
But I’m curious about your thoughts about the upcoming WordPress 5.3 release? What feature are you the most excited or most nervous for?