Hey there and welcome to WordPress Wednesday!
So WordPress 5.5 is just around the corner. This is the second major release for WordPress this year. And there are a number of really cool and exciting features that you’ll get to use with this new update.
So today let’s walk through some of those top features and changes that you can expect when WordPress 5.5 drops on August 11.
Block editor updates
One of the first things you’ll notice in the block editor is some of the new user interface changes. While a lot of the right hand column has stayed the same, there are a couple of other changes that might get your attention.
First, the change block and move block controls have been moved into one section. You have to be careful about where you place your cursor in order to accomplish what you want.
Next, how you insert a block is a little bit different. You still hit the plus icon to add a block, but the modal that appears only lists a few blocks. You can still search for a block there, but to view all of your blocks, you need to hit browse all. From there, a left hand menu will open with a list of all of your blocks to choose from.
Ideally, after updating to 5.5, you might just want to create a draft on your website and simply play around with the editor to get a good feel for it.
One of the most anticipated new features for the block editor is the new block directory. There has been a specific block directory with WordPress plugins for a while, but you’ve had to install them from outside the editor.
With 5.5, you can install blocks right from the editor. To do this, go to add a new block and hit browse all. Then search for a type of block that you don’t have in the search bar. Then simply hit add block on the block you want to add.
Just one note on this, your search results for blocks will only show non-installed blocks if none of your installed blocks match your search. So you might have to adjust your search in order for external blocks to appear.
Also in the new left hand column is a list of block patterns you can use. These are prebuilt groups of blocks that you can add into your posts and pages. These can be a group of buttons or maybe a heading and a couple of paragraph columns or something else.
Once you throw the pattern into your content, you can edit it however you want to make it look the way it needs to. And you can create custom block patterns to use, though you will need to use PHP for that. I’ve put a link to more information about that in the description below.
Inline image editing
Finally, you can also now edit images in your content right in the editor itself. You can scale, resize, crop and rotate your images without leaving the editor. We had the ability to do this in WordPress for a while, but now you can do it quicker and easier and see your results right away.
One of the more talked about non-block editor changes coming in WordPress 5.5 is the ability to turn on auto updates for plugins and themes.
To turn it on for a plugin, navigate to the plugin screen and hit enable auto updates on the right side. For themes, go to the themes page in the admin, select the theme to enable the updates and hit enable auto updates.
I personally won’t be using this feature because there are a lot of potential issues for sites that I talk about more in a post I’ve linked to below. But it’s a neat option to have.
Default XML Sitemaps
Also, a great new feature for SEO is a default sitemap for your website. Previously, you needed a plugin like Yoast SEO or Google XML Sitemaps to generate a sitemap for Google and other search engines.
But you don’t have to do that anymore. Just navigate to yourdomain.com/wp-sitemap.xml. You can then paste that URL into the sitemap field in Google Search Console or in other search engines. It’s a little thing that could make a big difference.
Lazy Loading Images
Another cool feature you’ll get to use is to have your images lazy loaded on your pages. This means that images below the fold or below the screen on page load will not be loaded until the screen scrolls to them.
This can be a massive boost for your page speed. Images, even when compressed properly, are large files that have to be loaded. Waiting to load them until they are needed allows your page to load quicker, which benefits your users and puts you in good standing with search engines.
And the best part is that you don’t have to do anything.
ZIP Plugin and Theme Updates
Finally, you can now upload plugin and theme updates as ZIP files to your website. This one wins the longest time spent in trac award for this release as it was first opened in 2009. Eleven years ago.
Anyway, for a plugin update you want to do by hand and not by the built in updater, you can go Plugins, Add New and Upload Plugin and upload your plugin update ZIP file. And the process is pretty similar for themes.
It’s a small thing, but it’s a nice thing to have.
So there you have it. Those are the cool new things that you can expect with WordPress 5.5. It does kind of seem that since Gutenberg came out in WordPress 5.0, that all of the other releases have seemed a little bit underwhelming. But this is a pretty good update that moves WordPress in a better direction.
But what do you think about WordPress 5.5? What feature are you looking forward to the most? Do you have any concerns? Be sure to leave those down in the comments below.
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But until next time, happy WordPressing!