On July 20, WordPress released their second major update for 2021, WordPress 5.8. This update represents a big step toward using Gutenberg and blocks for full-site editing!
Here’s what you need to know:
Full-site editing is exactly what it sounds like: the ability to edit any part of your site using the blocks tools you already use to edit posts. Once it’s fully rolled out, it will be incredibly easy for bloggers to edit and customize their theme without having to mess with hooks or the
While full-site editing isn’t yet available by default, WordPress 5.8 does include…
The widget editor has been given a makeover! By default, WordPress now uses blocks to edit the widget area on the dashboard or in the customizer.
It’s important to note that this update can be disabled by theme creators who aren’t yet ready to support it. Those dashboards will revert to the traditional widget editor until the theme has been updated.
Similarly, a template editor has been added to the post editor. This feature allows theme creators to create block-based templates for common posts and pages using blocks like Post Title, Post Content, and Post Date. As you can see, blocks will eventually give site owners incredible control over the layout of their site without needing to add or update custom PHP code at the theme level. However, most themes are not yet ready for this, so this option is considered opt-in for now.
To opt in, you’ll need to add this line to your
add_theme_support( 'block-templates' );
While WordPress continues to work toward this full-site editing, they’ve rolled out several Gutenberg updates within WordPress 5.8, including:
New blocks and patterns
In addition to new blocks to help you customize your pages and posts, you will now see suggested block patterns and have access to the Block Pattern Directory (which is similar to the Plugin Directory). This is another stepping stone to full-site editing, giving you many more customization options without the need for custom coding.
Style & colorize images
This is a fun one! You can now add duotone filters right from the post editor. These filters don’t change the actual images but instead apply settings through your site’s CSS (which means the original image will still show up in RSS feeds and other places that link directly to the image). But this is a fun way to stylize your images right from the WordPress dashboard.
Improved post outline
The Outline / List View tool will now show nested blocks. Even more helpfully, it will stay open on the left side of your screen, making it easier for you to jump from section to section within the post editor.
Embed PDFs with the File block
Using the File block, you can now (finally!) embed PDFs within your posts or pages, right from the dashboard and without any special coding.
Add WebP image support
WebP images “provide superior lossless and lossy compression for images on the web”1 and can help improve performance. Up to this point, site owners had to use a tool like ShortPixel or Imagify to update and insert WebP images; however, with WordPress 5.8, you’ll be able to upload WebP images just as you do PNGs and JPGs now. Keep in mind that while most browsers now support WebP images, out-of-date browsers may not display them correctly.
Dropping support for Internet Explorer 11
WordPress 5.8 will no longer include support for Internet Explorer 11. This is unlikely to impact many users but will improve WordPress performance with the removal of IE 11-specific code.
Additional information in the Site Health interface
In addition to the default information (PHP version, WordPress version, etc.), developers will now be able to add additional plugin- or theme-specific interfaces to the Site Health screen. Only time will tell how developers will use this space, but it has the potential to become a powerful tool for understanding what’s happening “under the hood” of your site.
How to prepare
Most sites won’t automatically update to WordPress 5.8, but the specific behavior depends on when your site was “born” (that is, which WordPress version you first used with your site) and whether you have made any configuration adjustments. You can read more in our Hosting help center article or, if you want more technical information, directly from WordPress.
Keeping WordPress updated is a critical part of your site security, so it’s not something you should put off!
In addition, each new update brings WordPress closer to full compatibility with PHP 8. We’re not yet recommending that you update your server to PHP 8, but keeping WordPress updated will make that easier when the time comes.
P.S. Remember, always backup your site before starting an update!
With 10 years of experience as a professional blogger—and as a former Agathon hosting client herself—Mandi’s passionate about the good work Agathon does and sharing that message with more people.
- A new image format for the web | Google Developers