The first major WordPress release of the year is out. WordPress 5.4 “Adderley”, named after the jazz trumpeter, Nat Adderley, was released on 31st March 2020 and I am excited to test its new features – but I won’t be doing this alone. You will accompany me throughout the process.
But before we get into the details, let’s skim through the updates WordPress 5.4 real quick.
- A lot of updates for the Block Editor: Block editor received a lot of attention in 5.4. There are tons of improvements in user experience, performance, and block management.
- Improvements in the Site Health Check feature: A new widget in the dashboard now notifies the site administrators about the health of the WordPress sites.
- Accessibility improvements: Accessibility options also got enhanced in this release with improvements to keyboard navigation.
- Developer focused updates: WordPress 5.4 is developer-friendly, thanks to updates such as better semantics, favicon handling, and a new Calendar widget.
Let’s start testing the new features by downloading WordPress 5.4 from the Dashboard > Updates menu on your WordPress site admin with the click of a button.
Since there is always a chance that your plugins or themes may not be compatible with the new WordPress version and it could break your production site, I highly recommend you to clone it at a staging site (The Cloudways Platform greatly simplifies the process of setting up staging sites) to test the update without breaking anything.
As soon as the new version is updated, a welcome screen pops up with details of the improvements to the Block Editor.
Right after updating to 5.4, I see the new Site Health Check widget on the dashboard.
It rates my website health Good and asks me to check four items on the Site Health Status screen. I think this is a really nice touch because right there on the dashboard, the widget offers a quick check on the site health and offers a direct link to the Site Health screen.
Block Editor Updates
In WordPress 5.4, the core team merged ten previous releases of the Gutenberg plugin. As a result, the Block Editor is now a dependable environment that simplifies and speeds up the drafting process. I think it is about time that the community should make Gutenberg the primary editor for their websites.
If you need encouragement, consider this:
The Block Editor team claims 14% faster loading and 51% reduction in time-to-type for a post (~ 36,000 words, ~1,000 blocks)
A new modal offers information about the editor and how it makes life easier for content producers by introducing new blocks.
Additional tools are now available in the Latest Posts Block. Now you can define the desired width, height, and alignment for the images.
On mobile devices, the toolbar stays at the top for easy navigation.
If you use the Table Block, you can now add the caption to display additional information about the data.
Other updates include:
- Two new blocks for social links and buttons with more color options.
- More color options for Buttons, Cover, Group, and Column Blocks.
- Image (re)sizing enhancements in the Gallery Block.
- New API to help developers interact with the editor better.
- Use multiple colors in a single text in any RichText block.
The core WordPress team has significantly improved the performance of the Gutenberg editor, with special attention to the user experience and fixing the shortcomings of the previous versions.
Site Health Check Feature Improvements
I covered the Site Health Check feature in my WordPress 5.2 Jaco release blog post. Since then, I have been personally using it and found it to be a very useful feature.
In WordPress 5.4, the core team took the feature a step ahead by embedding the tool in the Dashboard. You can now have a quick site health check without clicking the feature itself and waiting for the screen to get populated.
Accessibility has always been a serious topic and I noticed a couple of conversations in the community on the subject. Well, the good news is that the 5.4 comes with various accessibility improvements.
Accessibility improvements include:
- Keyboard navigation issue fixes.
- Better keyboard navigation in the Media modal.
Additional accessibility improvements in the Block Editor include easier tabbing, image’s title attribute within the Image Block, and visual switch for switching edit and navigation modes.
Developer Focused Updates
WordPress 5.4 also brought goodies for developers.
- WordPress 5.4 moved the navigation to the nav element to accommodate HTML 5 specifications.
- As a best practice and for better semantics, function do_shortcode() is replaced by apply_shortcode().
- In WordPress 5.4, users are able to add ico files directly from the customizer.
- Site ID is now added to the newblog_notify_siteadmin filter for WordPress Multisite networks.
If you are interested in learning more about the changes and updates, refer to the developer notes.
Here’s the official announcement on WordPress.org.
So far WordPress 5.4 “Adderley” release seems focused towards the Block Editor, and with good reasons – the Editor faced a lot of criticism initially, but with time and a lot of improvement by the core team, it is now a far better product in WordPress 5.4.
Do test the new release and comment below if you come across any difficulties or share your experience.
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Ibad Ur Rehman is a WordPress Community Manager at Cloudways. He likes to explore the latest open-source technologies and to interact with different communities. In his free time, he likes to read, watch a series or fly his favorite Cessna 172SP in X Plane 11 flight simulator.