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WordPress 5.5 is here! Here’s what you need to know…

I don’t know if anybody else gets excited about WordPress releases, but we for sure do! So it’s finally here, the official release of WordPress 5.5 was released today. This update comes packed with a bunch of new features and improvements. This includes improvements to the block editor, gives you the capability of editing inline images, an improved content preview and a hell of a lot more! To give you an idea of what is in store for you, we’ve listed the five most important features in this update. We hope you enjoy it!

This version goes by the name “Eckstine” in honour of Billy Eckstine.

1. Improvements to the Block Editor

Back when WordPress 5.0 was brought out, it introduced a block-based editing system known by Gutenberg. Since the introduction of this block editor, each and every update has come with improvements to this and this new release is no exception at all. There are quite a few noticeable changes to the UI (User Interface), but this release comes with a block pattern and a new block directory.

Block patterns are quite handy when it comes to more routine elements of your pages or posts. These patterns, which you can find when you add a new block, are ready-made blocks with commonly used settings. Think of two buttons next to each other or a column layout on your page. Block patterns help you quickly set up the layout of a page. And although the number of patterns is limited right now, this number will probably keep growing over time.

The Block Directory

The block directory is a pretty cool feature that can definitely improve your writing experience. This contains WordPress plugins that can add new blocks to your editor and there are quite a new blocks available here!

When you click Add Block, you can use a search field to find the one you want and if there are no results in the block directory, the editor will show other results that might match your search request. This definitely opens up a lot of different possibilities and we’re sure Gutenberg is only going to get better and better as time goes along.

2. Edit Inline Images

The ability to edit inline images is a pretty cool new feature. We know WordPress already has several options to edit images, but what’s different here is that it makes it possible to do this yourself whilst on the page you’re editing. No more going back to the Media Library to just rotate, resize, crop, etc… now you can simply edit it where you are, time saver, right?

Lazy-loading images

Another thing worth mentioning here is that images will be lazy-loaded from default from now on! This means that the images on your page will not be loaded until they come into view which increases the page-load of your site. We usually relied on WP-Rocket to do this, but if the standard lazy-loading works as good then we’ll stick with the WordPress lazy-loading.

3. Improved content previews

Within the block editor, it gives you a pretty good idea of what the page will look like. Nonetheless, the content preview is an awesome feature to safely preview your page before you publish/update your changes. With this release, it comes with an additional device preview which makes it possible to view your content on desktop, tablet and mobile screen sizes. With this, you can ensure your content is responsive, accessible and readable for your visitors. This is something you want to always ensure everything looks right on all devices since a lot of traffic these days comes from mobile devices.

4. Automated Updates for Plugins

Another pretty cool feature is that it now enables you to allow automatic updates for different plugins and themes through the CMS. If this is something you want to do (if you are sure it won’t break things in future) then you have to enable it yourself. You can do this by going to the Admin Dashboard > Plugins and clicking Enable auto-updates

If you want to enable automatic updates for your theme then simply go to Appearance > Themes and click on Enable auto-updates link that you can find under your themes names.

If you are in doubt in whether you should be enabling anything then please keep the following in mind. It is a very good practise to test keep all plugins and your theme up to date. But this should ideally be done on your localhost or a development/staging website. I mean for sure there are going to be plugins that we would enable automatic updates and that will be to our security plugin, caching, Contact Form 7 and SEO Yoast. These type of plugins you can usually update and you won’t notice any difference in terms of visual appearance. We do however always recommend testing when possible and keeping an eye on the changelogs to make sure you understand what exactly you are updating. The last thing you want to do is update a plugin that required PHP 7.4 and you are only using PHP 7.2, with deprecated functions, you may find the odd error on your site which is not exactly great for your visitors.

5. Default XML Sitemaps

With WordPress 5.5, it now generates its own XML sitemaps. This is a file which gives search engines directions of all the content on your website. This helps them discover and index all of your pages and posts which is very important for SEO. With launching any new website, the first thing we do is create the domain on Google Search Console to help it get indexed quicker. Typically, we would use Yoast SEO for this. You might be thinking; are there any conflicts with sites having more than one Site Map? Well, the answer is yes; you should only have one. With the release of Yoast SEO 14.7 though, they automatically disable the default Site Map. However, do note that Yoast’s Site Map is a lot more advanced, and personally; we’re going to stick to using theirs.

The default Sitemap feature will support all post types, taxonomies (categories, tags and custom taxonomies), and author archives. However, it will still be only providing the basic required functionality of XML sitemap protocol.

If you are already using a WordPress SEO plugin that comes with its own XML Sitemaps, then don’t worry, you don’t need to do anything. In fact, the two biggest SEO plugins All in One SEO Pack and Yoast SEO have decided to continue providing their own sitemaps because they offer advanced customisation features to help you get higher rankings and they don’t actually conflict with one another. They have done it in a way that it will only show one XML Site Map even with either of these plugins installed.

Conclusion

Welcome to WordPress 5.5 all!

Within this post, we discussed what we felt were the main highlights of WordPress 5.5. There is in fact a lot more to this update but we hope we gave you more of an insight to the improvements within the block editor, inline image editing, the improvements to the content previews, the ability to automatically update plugins/themes, and the new XML Site Maps that WordPress now offers.

If you have any questions regarding this update or if there is anything you’re excited about, let us know in the comments below.

To download the latest version; click here.

Nathan da Silva - Profile

Posted by: Nathan da Silva

Nathan is the Founder of Silva Web Designs. He is passionate about web development, website design and basically anything digital related. His main expertise is with WordPress, Magento, Shopify as well of many other frameworks. Whether you need responsive design, SEO, speed optimisation or anything else in the world of digital then get in touch. If you would like to work with Nathan, simply drop him an email at [email protected]

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