WordPress 5.5 Released: New Block Features, XML Sitemap, Lazy Loading Images, and More

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WordPress 5.5 early look

Note: This article was originally published on July 23, 2020, based on the then-current beta version. The information has been updated to match the final release on August 11, 2020.

As you all might know, WordPress 5.5 has been released. According to the news section of WordPress.org, August 11 was the release date for the stable version. We have already seen a list of new features that the core developer team will add to the new release from the announcement.

In today’s article, we are going to have a look at the features that have been added to the latest version of WordPress.

First and foremost, WordPress 5.5 brings many features, improvements, and bug fixes to the block editor. A considerable number of versions of the Gutenberg plugin has been merged into the core. Those changes affect both the functionalities and the UI, improving the editor’s accessibility/usability and the editing experience in general.

Also, we want to add that a couple of expected features with WordPress 5.4 were delayed; they have now been added into the Core with the release of WordPress 5.5 (such as Native Lazy Loading on images and Navigation block).

What’s New in WordPress 5.5?

WordPress 5.5 brings multiple new features to the table. From block editor added features & improvements to built-in lazy loading for images, many new features will be added to the new release. Below we have added a few notable feature list descriptions that you can expect to see in the next release.

Block Editor Features and Improvements

Multiple new features and improvements are listed to be added with the WordPress 5.5 release. Such as

  • Inline image editing – Crop, rotate and zoom photos inline right from image blocks.
wordpress 5.5 early look inline image
  • Block patterns – Building elaborate pages can be a breeze with new block patterns. Several are included by default.
  • Device previews – See how your content will look to users on many different screen sizes.
  • Discover, install, and insert third-party blocks from your editor using the new block directory. Just search for the name of the slider that you want to add, and the discovery feature will search it from the blocks listings.
WordPress 5.5 early look block search and install
  • With WordPress 5.5 update you should experience a better, smoother editing experience with the followings:
    • Refined drag-and-drop
    • Block movers that you can see and grab
    • Parent block selection
    • Contextual focus highlights
    • Multi-select formatting which will let you change a bunch of blocks at once 
    • Ability to copy and relocate blocks easily
  • An expanded design toolset for themes.
  • Now add backgrounds and gradients to more kinds of blocks, like groups, columns, media & text.
WordPress 5.5 early look color settings
  • Support for more types of measurements. Choose ems, rems, percentages, vh, vw, and more. Adjust the line heights for your texts, etc.

Other than the mentioned features for blocks editors, WordPress 5.5 has also brought more than 1,500 useful improvements to the block editor experience.

XML Sitemaps

XML Sitemaps are now included in WordPress 5.5 and enabled by default. 

These Sitemaps help the webmaster to inform the search engine which URLs of your site it can crawl. They are essential to search engines discovering the content on your site. Your site’s home page, posts, pages, custom post types, and more will be included to improve your site’s visibility.

Auto-Updates for Plugins and Themes

WordPress 5.5 early look auto updates for plugins & themes

WordPress 5.5 also brings auto-updates for plugins and themes. Easily control which plugins and themes you want to enable auto-update for.

We recommend that you always run the latest versions of all plugins and themes. This feature now makes it easily possible.

Lazy-Loading Images

WordPress 5.5 includes native support for lazy-loaded images utilizing new browser standards. In simple words, Lazy loading makes sure that the images of a post/page only loads when a user scrolls down to that specific image.

This saves bandwidth for everyone and makes it easier for those with slower internet speeds to browse the web, saves bandwidth, and more. It is a long-awaited feature from the folks using WordPress to build their sites.

Based on initial testing currently, there are no conflicts with most plugins that implement lazy-loading for images. We strongly advise the authors of these plugins to test them with the WordPress 5.5-alpha and confirm their plugins are working as expected. And we also think there is no need to be alarmed for the Lazy Loading plugin makers. As not all web browsers support the lazy loading attribute, users will want to opt-in for a Lazy Loading plugin.

Better Accessibility Features

With every release, the WordPress core team improves the accessibility features of the CMS. WordPress 5.5 is no different. Below is a list of accessibility improvements

  • List tables now come with extensive, alternate view modes.
  • Convert Link-list widgets to HTML5 navigation blocks.
  • Copy links in media screens and modal dialogs with a simple click of a button.
  • Disabled buttons will now look disabled.
  • You will be able to move Meta boxes with the keyboard.
  • A custom logo on the front page no longer links to the front page.
  • Assistive devices can now see status messages in the Image Editor.
  • And more.

Miscellaneous Changes

  • You can now update plugins and themes uploading a ZIP file.
  • More finely tuned control of redirect_guess_404_permalink().
  • Several packaged external libraries have been updated, including PHPMailer, SimplePie, Twemoji, Masonry, and more!

We are Excited for WordPress 5.5

As you can see from the list above WordPress 5.5 is bringing a lot to the table. From popular feature requests, built-in XML sitemaps, auto-update for plugins and themes, and more.

You can easily start using WordPress 5.5 with your website. To do so, you can either download the zip file from WordPress.org or you can install the latest version from your WordPress dashboard update section. Do not forget to take a full backup of your WordPress site before you update it.

We tested the beta version along with the final version of the WordPress 5.5 release to bring you this early look at the CMS updates. You can visit the blog section of Themeum for more content like this.