WordPress 5.5: updates & new features

The WordPress Core team is scheduled to release WordPress 5.5 today—the second major WordPress update in 2020. As always, this update includes some exciting features and changes:

Blocks, block patterns, and more

If you’re not yet using the block editor (aka “Gutenberg”), there’s no time like the present to get started. Over and over, we hear clients say they’re nervous about the switch only to realize that it’s so much simpler (and better) once they do.

If you’re still unsure, the Mediavine team recently hosted a session called Going Gutenberg with Lynn Woll during their Summer of Live series. This is a great Gutenberg primer to help you make the switch!

With this WordPress release, there are several new block features:

  • Edit your images right from the post editor rather than opening a pop-up screen.
  • Use and create block patterns to make it easy to insert frequently used block layouts.
  • Easier editing with a refined drag-and-drop tool, multi-block editing, and the ability to duplicate and move blocks.

Device previews

image credit: themeum.com

This update will also include device previews so you can see how your layout and formatting looks across a variety of devices. As mobile device usage continues to climb, this is especially helpful!

Built-in lazy loading

With this update, WordPress will add a loading="lazy" attribute automatically to images, thereby providing support for native lazy-loading, which is now built in to most modern browsers. This addition will help pages load more quickly and reduce server bandwidth without relying on another plugin. While there don’t appear to be any conflicts with plugins that also offer lazy loading, it’s a good idea to disable or test those for any weirdness. 🙂

It’s also important to note that this attribute will only be added to images that have both height and width attributes defined. This prevents layout shifts—where the content “jumps” as things load—because the space is reserved in the layout before the image actually loads.

Enable auto updates for themes and plugins

Keeping plugins and themes up to date is crucial to keeping your site secure. This latest version of WordPress will now allow you to choose which themes and plugins should be updated automatically.

However, while we understand the reasoning behind wanting to help site owners keep themes and plugins updated, we strongly believe the potential consequences of auto-updates outweigh that benefits. As such, we don’t recommend turning these on.

We do, however, continue to recommend a regular practice of manually updating plugins and themes as soon as possible after updates are available, so that you can know immediately whether an incompatibility is causing issues for your site. Old versions of plugins and themes can create security vulnerabilities.

Of course, keeping WordPress updated is also an important part of securing your site. Once it releases, we recommend running a backup and updating to WordPress 5.5 ASAP.

If you notice any weirdness after updating and need help sorting it out, email support@agathongroup.com. We’d be happy to take a look!

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