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. Numerous debates arise, suggesting that once Gutenberg achieves more sophisticated capabilities, several page builders will face challenges in keeping up with competition.
What is the 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 can be seen as WordPress’s take on a “page builder,” so to speak. 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 these elements are called a block. 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”. With each WordPress update, Gutenberg has been continuously evolving. In addition, there are many third-party add-ons available to enhance any missing features. This makes it a great, lightweight, and functional native “page builder”. Gutenberg is a powerful tool that can greatly enhance your website’s loading times by being lightweight and lightning-fast.
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)
So far, Gutenberg has been a valuable tool for creating pages, and it has recently been integrated into the widgets’ area as a new addition to 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.
Although FSE may initially have some limitations, it is a significant step in the right direction for WordPress, as it represents a clear improvement over 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. If you’re interested in diving into the nitty-gritty technical details, you can find all the juicy information directly on the WordPress website. Take a look at the WordPress 5.9 Enhanced lazy-loading performance section for all the juicy details.
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. While there may not be a lot of detailed information on how exactly they intend to address these specific issues, our understanding is that their plan involves implementing additional control settings for each block, alongside enhancing the natural responsiveness of the blocks. If you use other page builders, they have settings based on the device. For example, let’s say you have a 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. More than half of WordPress websites now prefer 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.
We are here to offer our assistance in preparing your site for the new release, whether you need help testing Gutenberg or the latest version of WordPress. Feel confident in exploring all the exciting new features with our support.