On July 20th, 2021, the latest version of the beloved platform, called Tatum, after legendary Jazz pianist Art Tatum, was released. In the same way that Art extended the boundaries of jazz piano, WordPress is also pushing boundaries with its latest update. In addition to the incredible number of amazing features and improvements, WordPress 5.8 is now paving the road to a new way of building websites: Full Site Editing (FSE).
Furthermore, Version 5.8 comes with tons of enhancements, which we are about to discuss below.
1) Full Site EditingGutenberg, the block editor for WordPress, was initially only available to use within Pages and Posts. One of the most exciting (and talked about) additions of version 5.8 is that we can now use the Block Editor to build our websites in multiple areas.
With version 5.8, you can use Gutenberg to build templates using the Block Editor, and we'll see Full Site Editing in WordPress 5.9 (expected in December), where you'll be able to edit items like the header and menus using Gutenberg blocks.
The new FSE feature in WordPress 5.8 allows the user to create and edit templates using the Block Editor. This means you'll be able to create a custom post or page template with Gutenberg's editor.
Here are a few ideas of how you could use the exciting new functionality:
Custom Landing Pages
Custom 404 Pages
Custom Headers per Page
Custom Post layouts
Custom Blog Layouts
Custom WooCommerce Layouts
2) Template EditorWordPress 5.8 will ship with the new template editor, which is a clear step toward creating a full site editing tool using the block editor. The new editor should improve over time as WordPress releases more updates.
As you may have guessed, the template editor allows you to create and save templates for your WordPress website and use them later for any post or page.
There is a new set of theme blocks that can be used to build templates. Here is a list of what you can add currently (quite likely, this list will grow in the future)
Post Featured Image
As this is an optional feature, theme developers and users will be able to very easily turn it off.
Keep in mind that the template editor is still relying on your WordPress theme and will inherit its styles. This also means that if you're unable to see the Template tab on the post edit screen, your theme most probably doesn't support the feature.
3) Duotone and Media ImprovementsIf you haven't yet heard of the new duotone feature, this is a great opportunity for us to let you know about a new cool addition to Image and Cover blocks.
The Duotone feature is a filter that allows users to overlay two colours in their content, forming a unique effect that previously would have required a designer touch. The colours will usually overwrite any shadows and highlights of the underlying image or video.
You can use WordPress's defaults, theme-defined colours, or create your own mix in terms of a palette.
It's worth mentioning that WordPress 5.8 also introduces several upgrades to the media library. The infinite scrolling has been replaced with a "load more" button, thus improving the experience for both screen-readers and keyboard users. Another cool upgrade is that now you can copy media file URLs from the Add New media screen.
4) Blocks As WidgetsThe new blocks as widgets interface in WordPress 5.8 is another leap towards a full-site editor experience. "Blocks as widgets" brings the familiar block editor into your WordPress sidebar, giving you way more freedom and flexibility when it comes to design. You can now change colours, spacing, typography and other design aspects without installing any plugins.
Take advantage of the new widget experience by using the Customiser or by visiting the Appearance » Widgets page.
5) Suggested Block PatternsBlocks in WordPress have always been designed to help you create content and better organise your website. With the new version, in addition to the default blocks provided by WordPress, you will be able to build their own block using even more patterns:
- Reusable Blocks - These blocks are made for specific scenarios (e.g., WooCommerce checkouts) and can then be reused on other pages as needed
- Dynamic Fields Blocks - Creating custom fields that pull data from another field or post This is great if you want all posts within a certain category, for example, to use the same pattern/template each time when displaying information
6) New things in the Existing blocksWe shouldn't leave out the improvements brought within already existing blocks. One of them is the improved Select Tool with Block Handles, which shows you a block handle to quickly move blocks up and down.
Another cool upgrade is the gradient background colour of the Table Block. If you're a fan of this design, the gradient feature will pair extremely well with the Duotone option.
There are more options to adjust text, background, and link colours too. You now have full control over spacing among columns, cover, and other blocks.
Don't miss the improved list view panel - It will show you the complete list of blocks in your post or page.
7) The Query Loop BlockThe Query Loop Block is a new block with great potential for customisation. It's designed to offer more flexibility in the way you display your data, including aggregating and customising posts or pages from WordPress
With The Query Loop Block, WordPress now provides users with an entirely customisable loop - allowing you to loop through queries! A few examples of this include:
- Displaying only published items on one page
- Showing tags without having to create separate blocks for each tag
- Ordering results by newest first (or oldest) instead of alphabetically
8) Support for WebP imagesSince its launch by Google in 2010, the image format 'WebP' kept gaining traction and a lot of websites are now relying on it when it comes to speed optimisation. One big downside for WordPress users is the lack of support for the format that changes with the platform's new version.
With the latest version, WebP is finally supported, much to the delight of many users. If you've never used the WebP format, you should probably know that images are typically around 30% smaller in file size than PNG & JPEG - without losing out on any quality. That’s a massive contribution to website speed optimisation and definitely worth trying out!
Keep in mind WordPress will not automatically reformat your images to WebP - you need to do that beforehand. It’s also worth noting that the .webp format isn’t fully supported yet - some browsers are still unable to display it. In order to safely speed up your site, it’s recommended that you use a third-party plugin.
One excellent option we offer is the Litespeed cache. The popular plugin can format your PNG and JPEG images and serve the WebP format only to the browsers that support it.
Additional changes1. WordPress 5.8 has dropped its support for Internet Explorer 11. While it might be a slightly controversial decision for some, others have foretold long ago that this moment will come. If you are an IE 11 user, take note of this as in the second phase of dropping support (coming in the WordPress 5.9 version, December 2021), IE 11 support will be removed for the block editor & all generated CSS files as well (even the software giant Microsoft dropped support for the browser in late 2020).
2. WordPress recovery mode email message will now only be shown when email can be sent.
3.The theme.json file will now allow you to control the editor style & associated Global Settings and Global Styles.
Final ThoughtsIn WordPress 5.8, we see over 170 bugs fixed and 96 enhancements brought in, which is a truly amazing job (for comparison, the 5.7 version fixed 26 bugs).
We see a lot of unique new features and updates with Tatum, all of which are targeted at improving capability but also user experience. The new options are also a clear indicator that WordPress is heading toward optimal flexibility not just for content but for design too. We're pretty eager to see what the next versions will bring to the table!
As always, to take full advantage of everything WordPress has to offer it’s recommended to use a proper hosting solution. If you’re looking to get high-performing WordPress hosting, take a look at the plans we currently offer. You'll find easy-to-use WordPress management tools for installation, site staging and backups, incredible security with malware scanning and vulnerability patching. Last but not least, you'll be able to super-charged speeds thanks to LiteSpeed page cache and Redis object-cache.
If you have any thoughts on the new set of features, we'd love to hear them in the comments. You can also join the community forums or one of the many Facebook groups where fans and users actively discuss all new releases.