WordPress 5.5

  • Post category:News
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Major news! WordPress 5.5 is here. Below we will try to summarise what is important and why many site owners should be excited about it.

Improvements to Gutenberg

As it is often happens with WordPress, the new version includes even more capable Gutenberg block editor.

For the first time users of Gutenberg are able to access the block directory – a collection of WordPress plugins that provide building blocks for web pages. It is similar to WordPress plugin directory but has much more specific focus. For example, if you want to embed Google Maps into a web page, you can just use Gutenberg Map Block for Google Maps by WebFactory.

Another significant enhancement is support for mobile and tablet previews for content. In the past you could only preview desktop version. This is a very useful feature that can simplify and speed up creation process for advanced web page designs that adapt itself to the visitor’s device.

Inline Image Editor

The standard Image block that comes with Gutenberg now allows you to make small changes to images. This is a great usability enhancement for anyone who writes blog articles.

For main content it is still recommended to use professional graphic editors such as Adobe Photoshop or online alternatives such as Canva.

Lazy-loading for Images

WordPress now supports image lazy-loading by default. To large extend this is achieved by utilising a new HTML loading attribute for img tags.

This is a brand new feature and not all web browsers support it yet. For example, Chrome supports it since 2019, Android supports it since April 2020, but Safari (MacBooks, iPhones, iPads) doesn’t.

For websites where loading time in all browsers is important, it is still recommended to use JavaScript-based solutions implemented via plugins such as WP Rocket Lazy Load and NextGEN Gallery.

Automated updates for plugins

As WordPress market share grows, more and more hackers turn their attention to WordPress plugins and themes. In recent news WP File Manager plugin installed on about 700,000 websites was found vulnerable to hackers. As a result all those websites were put at risk.

Forcing automatic updates is one of ways to help WordPress community to deal with vulnerabilities and minimise impact of such hacks.

However if a plugin is updated automatically, there is a very serious risk that something will not go well and website functionality will become broken. This is one reason why hiring a web agency is a sensible solution – letting professionals taking care of updates for a small monthly fee.

XML sitemaps

A feature that was missing from WordPress for long time – XML sitemaps. Every search engine likes to be fed with the list of your website pages. XML sitemap is a special file on your web host that provide a machine-readable index of website pages. This is the first and the most trivial SEO enhancement any seriour website owner implement when they launch a website.

At Blue Star London we are keen user of All in One SEO plugin and its premium version. However if you don’t want to use any of SEO plugins, getting XML sitemaps generated by WordPress is better than creating them manually or just ignoring the subject completely.

Compatibility with Themes and Plugins

Besides all nice user-focused changes, WordPress 5.5 contains one major change that already made it into news. WordPress 5.5 doesn’t include jQuery Migrate library any longer.

Reportedly at least 50,000 websites were broken by this change. Actual number is likely to be into millions. Internet and Web evolved over last 10 years. And jQuery – one of the most popular web libraries – evolved as well. WordPress was stuck with a very old version of jQuery because the core team didn’t want to break compability with existing themes and plugins.

Fortunately time has time to start migration to modern age of web development. This means leaving legacy themes and plugins in the past.

If your website is using a theme or a plugin that hasn’t been updated in the last 6 months, it is very likely that WordPress 5.5 will cause problems.

At Blue Star London we have experience troubleshooting such kind of problems and can assist with upgrade or recommend alternative plugins. Feel free to contact us to discuss your concerns. If you sign up to one of our care plans we might be able to tacle this upgrade task for you as a welcome bonus.