What’s New In WordPress 5.5?

WP Potpourri

Running Time:  24:37

In mid August, 2020, a major update to WordPress was released.

V5.5 is packed with many changes of note. These will alter the way you work with WordPress.

Major changes to WordPress happen about 3 times a year and this is the second such update for 2020.

V5.5 is loaded with significant changes to the Gutenberg block editor as well as to the rest of WordPress.

The Major Changes To Gutenberg

The block editor is moving in the direction of being a page editor and eventually will be the cornerstone to a Full Site Editing experience.

V5.5 is a major step in that direction.

Three new features are now built into Gutenberg.

Gutenberg Looks A Little Different

In my video you’ll see that the Inserter (that’s the UI where all the blocks are located) is now docked to the left side of the screen, making it look like a real Page Builder.

Screenshot of WP 5.5 UI
The block Inserter is now docked to the left side of the screen.

It will be very noticeable that the editing screen is now very clean, and editing tools appear only when needed. Even the right sidebar is hidden by default but shows up when you’re working inside of a block.

Also, many of the icons got makeovers or were removed altogether.

The Block Directory

Part of the master plan for Gutenberg, the Block Directory, is new and part of V5.5.

The idea is simple. Rather than download a plugin which provides a collection of blocks – many of which you’ll never use – the Block Directory makes it easy to search for a single-purpose block, download it, and install it into Gutenberg without ever leaving the page or post you are working on.

The Block Directory is very cool but – as I write this – it is in its infancy. Currently it contains about 200 of these one-of blocks ready for use, but over time there will be thousands to choose from.

Block Patterns

Like the Block Directory which is in the Search tool of the Inserter, Block Patterns can also be found within the Inserter.

Think of Block Patterns as pre-built blocks (i.e. templates) that you use for a page. It’s a big time saver and, of course, any block pattern can be changed to suit your needs.

Screenshot of WP 5.5 UI
Screenshot of the new Block Directory as part of the Inserter.

Block Patterns will be a huge help to theme developers as it gives them the opportunity to suggest block patterns best suited for their themes.

Like the Block Directory, look for Block Patterns to have a major role in Gutenberg’s evolution.

Image Editing

WordPress’s Gutenberg can hardly be confused with Photoshop – or any image editing app – but V5.5 does make it easier to work with images.

We now have a crop tool which lets us zoom in on a part of the image that we want to display. Within the crop tool, there is now a way to change the aspect ratio of an image, making it possible to show a chosen area of the image.

In addition to the crop tool is the image rotation tool which lets you rotate the image in one of four positions.

Currently, both the crop and rotation features work only with a simple image but I’m looking forward to seeing them work for other image types, such as the cover image and gallery images.

The Major Changes To The Rest of WordPress

Not to be forgotten, the non-Gutenberg part of WP also got some love in V5.5.

Auto-Updating

With V5.5 you now have the option to switch on automatic updates for your plugins and themes.

Failure to keep WordPress software up-to-date is the leading cause of risking your site to being compromised. With this new feature, you can opt-in to have any plugin or theme automatically updated as soon as a new version becomes available.

(Auto-update does not apply to WordPress core itself. Your web host handles it or you have to do it yourself.)

A word of caution – an update can cause issues with other plugins or your theme, so it’s a good idea to use this feature sparingly, if at all. Best practice is to make sure you have daily backups to your site readily available in the event you need to rollback to an earlier version.

XML Sitemap

A sitemap is a file which provides road map details on how your site is structured. It is what Google and other search bots use to determine how to index your site so your pages can show up when anyone queries Google.

By default, until V5.5, there was no sitemap built into WordPress.

If you’re not sure how a site map works, have a look at the one used for this site. This is what a search bot crawls.

Note: SEO plugins, such as Yoast, RankMath, and All In One SEO, already provide a site map.

Lazy Loading

Previously for a page with many images, WordPress would download all those images even if the user never scrolled down the page to see them. With Lazy Loading, images are downloaded only when they are needed, that is, actually seen by a user. Think of it as “just in time” images.

WP V5.5 Is Loaded

There are so many changes in this version of WP it’s hard to keep track of them. Wait till you see what is coming in WP V5.6 in late 2020!

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Putting Your Site In Maintenance Mode

WP Potpourri

Running Time:  10:43

When you’re building your site or when you want to make it inaccessible to the public after it’s launched you can use the WP Maintenance Mode plugin to accomplish this task.

While your site is “offline” you will be able to do any work you normally can do as a logged in administrator.

The plugin is really easy to configure. There are plenty of options if you’re ambitious or fussy on how you want your “Maintenance Mode” or “Coming Soon” page to appear when anyone sees your home page.

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How To Start Over With A WordPress Site

How To Migrate A WordPress.com Site

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WP Potpourri

Running Time:  10:43

There’s only one way to move a wordpress.com site to the self-hosted (incorrectly referred to as the .org) version of WordPress.

The process involves using the WP export/import tool so that content can be exported from the .com site and then imported to the self-hosted site.

You’ll see that after the import is done you’ll still need to do things like adjust your WP settings, remove unwanted pages from the self-hosted site, install the theme along with a few other tasks to make your site similar, if not exactly like the .com site.

For more information see my “The Down And Dirty Way To Migrate A WordPress Website.”

You can use the same technique I demonstrate here moving from one self-hosted site to another host but I don’t recommend it. There are better techniques (with or without the use of a plugin) which will produce an exact copy of the original site.

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How To Update Plugins

WP Potpourri

Running Time:  3:26

I demonstrate the two ways plugins can be updated inside your WP Admin.

There is no upside to not keeping your plugins up-to-date. In fact, quite the contrary. Letting your plugins get out-of-date could present a security risk to your site.

Like all WP software, there are 2 types of updates. A 3 digit update, such as 6.7.3 indicates the update involves a security patch or a bug fix. A 2 digit update, such as 2.1 indicates a change in plugin features.

Remember to always keep a current backup of your site available just in the rare instance there is a problem.

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