What to Expect in WordPress 5.5

After a month of beta testing, WordPress 5.5 is set to be released on 11 August 2020. The second major update of 2020 brings a whole host of bug fixes and improvements with it, some of which could break your themes or plugins if you’re not ready.

So what are we going to see in the latest version of WordPress? Quite a lot, it turns out, and most of it centres around the Gutenberg editor.

Gutenberg 8.5 has been rolled into the WordPress 5.5 release, bringing with it a smoother editing process. Images can now be resized, cropped, scaled and rotated without leaving the block editor, and block patterns have been introduced. These are groups of pre-configured blocks that users can easily insert into their posts and pages.

That’s not the end of the block updates, though – theme editors can now allow end users to change the line height of paragraphs and headings with the custom-line-heights support flag.

Perhaps the biggest news of all is that WordPress 5.5 finally introduces automatic updates for plugins, like Yoast SEO, and themes. This can be done via the admin dashboard; just go into your list of plugins or themes and click ‘Enable auto-updates’ next to the relevant ones. For some developers, this could mean putting extra quality control in place.

Plugins and themes see more improvements in the WordPress update. They can now be updated with zip files, and the process is simple. Head to Plugins > Add New Page or Appearance > Themes and then upload your file.

Page speed optimisation hasn’t been left by the wayside. Lazy loading is now a default option for all websites, although it’s not yet supported in Safari. Meanwhile, built-in sitemaps are enabled by default. A new index file called wp-sitemap.xml will be created, containing links to all the other sitemap files it generates. It supports all post types, taxonomies and author archives, although it only provides basic functionality. If you’re after something more complicated, you’re better off sticking with your plugin.

There’s also improved accessibility as theme developers are now encouraged to use the opt-in navigation-widgets feature. You can find out how to do this on the WordPress website.

Other updates include default categories for custom post types and support for default terms in custom taxonomies. Thankfully a bug with comment counting has been fixed – the counts and page numbers for unapproved comments are now calculated correctly. Widgets with custom image sizes also now correctly display captions.

Are there any bugs?

As with any release, some bugs have occurred since the launch of WordPress 5.5.

This time around, a lot of users reported an issue with the creation of non-existent XML sitemap pages. When these pages are clicked, they show a 404 error.

This bug has now been fixed in WordPress 5.5.1.

That’s not the only issue that has arisen, though. A cessation in support for jQuery Migrate caused over 50,000 sites to break. However, it’s worth pointing out that this error wasn’t caused by WordPress – it was an older and outdated plugin.

If you’re having problems caused by this issue, or your developer console says that you have JavaScript issues, WordPress has released a plugin that can help. Called Enable jQuery Migrate Helper, it has been downloaded more than 50,000 times.

When’s the next version coming?

WordPress 5.6, due to be released in December 2020, has been scaled back due to development issues. It will now focus on the Gutenberg Widgets Screen functionality.

This version was supposed to include the menu Navigation Screen, but it has been removed as this part of Gutenberg hasn’t yet reached a testing level of functionality.

What are you most excited about in the latest version of WordPress? Let us know in the comments or tweet us @TeamTillison.

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