WordPress 5.9: What to expect in this big update?
WordPress 5.9 is scheduled to be released on January 25th, 2022 after a short delay, and it brings some powerful enhancements. WordPress has been focusing on improving Gutenberg to produce the next big thing. Many argue that once Gutenberg reached more complex functionality, numerous page builders will have trouble competing.
What is Gutenberg or Block editor? If you are new to WordPress, web development, or web administration. It was first introduced in 2018 with the release of WordPress 5.0. Gutenberg is WordPress’s attend at a “page builder” if you will. You can do similar things as you would with a page builder. Create a row with multiple columns, add different content on each column, etc. Each of those elements, is called blocks. Hence, the name “Block Editor” (think of it as if you were building with Legos).
While the first release of Gutenberg lacked a lot of features, many WordPress users stayed with their traditional page builders and the now “classic editor”. Gutenberg has evolved increasingly with every WordPress update. Add to it, the many third-party add-ons that have been created to improve lacking functions, and you got yourself a good, light, and functional native “page builder”. Gutenberg is light, fast, and can improve page speed loading times significantly.
Back to WordPress 5.9. – As we mentioned, WordPress has been focusing on improving Gutenberg and this update is not short of that. Here are 3 things that every WordPress user should look forward to. Whether you are a developer, designer, or just an admin.
Full Site Editing (FSE)
Up until now, Gutenberg was able to aid you in page creation and was also recently added to the widgets’ area as part of WordPress 5.8. But was still lacking the ability to create your own header. You had to rely on whatever header options the theme provided. Well, that will no longer be an issue, as long as the theme supports it. These themes that support the block editor are called “block themes” and are a bit different from your traditional WordPress theme. We won’t elaborate on this post the difference between both, but will talk about it in a separate post in the future.
In WordPress 5.9 and with the usage of the Twenty Twenty-Two theme at the moment. You are able to design the header of your site. You could have different headers on different pages, or the same header across all pages. That kind of header building functionality, you would only see on “website builders” rather than page builders. Such as Visual Composer, Elementor, and Divi, but now it will be included natively. Although, many block focus themes, such as Blocksy, Ocean WP, and Kadence themes, to name a few, already offer this type of functionality.
FSE is new and will have limitations in the beginning but is a step on the right direction for WordPress, and it’s improvement of the block editor. Expect more block themes in the upcoming year as FSE evolves.
Enhanced Lazy Loading Performance
Another feature that is coming and that it will help websites improve the page speed test results is, enhanced lazy loading. WordPress added lazy loading to the images in version 5.5 and to iframes in version 5.7. That was a great addition, but it also brought another problem. When running a page speed test, the “Largest Contentful Paint” (LCP) and “First Contentful Paint” results increased. That’s because any image above the fold (top one-third of the web page) should not be lazy loaded. According to Google, it delays the page from loading completely, therefore increasing page load time.
WordPress is looking to fix that with this release. As reported by WordPress, based on a test they ran on 50 popular themes, they saw an LCP improvement and up to 30% faster page load. That is a huge improvement. We won’t get into much of the technical details but if you do want those juice details, you can check them out directly on the WordPress website (WordPress 5.9 Enhanced lazy-loading performance).
Blocks + Intrinsic Web Design
“One of the biggest points of friction for pattern and theme builders are the lack of responsive tools available at a block level. This needs to be solved in a way that doesn’t disproportionately increase interface complexity”.
According to WordPress, that’s why this improvement is needed. Most responsive frameworks flow naturally as you see them on smaller devices or as you shrink your browser window. Gutenberg has been having some issues in this area. Although there is not much more info as to how they expect to solve these issues specifically, our understanding is that they plan to add more control settings to each block as well as improve the natural block responsiveness. If you use other page builders, they have settings based on the device. For example, let’s say you have block that on desktop you want to add a large padding, but on tablet and mobile that padding needs to be smaller. You will now have the option to do so. We assume from WordPress’s preliminary road map info, this is what they are looking to achieve. As of the writing of this post, we have tested the latest beta version (5.9-beta4-52432), and we are yet to see any different settings on each block. We will continue testing the beta version and update this post as needed.
As you can see, WordPress wants to compete with other page builders out there. They are trying to build a more attractive and easier to use WordPress for everyday users. This type of competition is good for the end user. We will start to see other established page builders enhance their tools in order to improve performance. With over 50% of WordPress websites now using Gutenberg over the classic editor. We decided to start embracing it on recent projects, and the difference it makes in page speed over traditional page builders is staggering. The future of WordPress is looking bright, and we certainly look forward to what WordPress 6 will bring.
If you need any assistance testing Gutenberg or the latest version of WordPress on your site, we can help you get ready for the new release.