Currently at beta testing stage, WordPress 5.7 is scheduled for stable version release on 9 March 2021. So what’s new with this version of WordPress and what are the features worth looking forward to?
One Click HTTP to HTTPS Migration
Among the most exciting feature is the availability of a 1-click button to help with HTTP to HTTPS migration, if your sites hosting environment is able to support HTTPS (e.g. availability of a valid SSL certificate). Since Google began advocating HTTPS migration, website owners have been doing this migration largely with the aid of plugins. With WordPress 5.7, SSL plugins may become a thing of the past as the core itself will have database replacement features to detect non-HTTPS urls and replace them with the HTTPS version; this will enable WordPress 5.7 to rewrite mix content whenever possible. Certainly a much anticipated featured since many sites these days are launched on HTTPS; it will mean one plugin less to install and manage for many WordPress webmasters.
Ongoing jQuery Updating
This is not new but rather, just another step in the process of getting WordPress updated with the latest version of jQuery. Since 2016, there have been calls for WordPress to update to jQuery 3, which is more secure, has more features and provides for a better developer experience (DX).
On 30 June 2020, Andrew Ozz, a lead WordPress developer finally announced a 3 step plan to make this happen. This plan called for the removal of JQuery migrate v 1.4.1 in WordPress version 5.5, updating to jQuery v 3.5.1 together with jQuery Migrate v 3.3.2 in WordPress 5.6 and the removal of jQuery Migrate altogether in WorPress 5.7 or later.
Important Note: Andrew Ozz’s 3 Step plan calls for the removal of jQuery Migrate in WordPress 5.7. Hence, there is no better time than now to test your site for compatibility, when we are still at WordPress 5.6. And if you are still using old incompatible themes and/or plugins, it’s time to either look up their developers for updates or source for new alternatives.
Lazy Loading of iFrames
Lazy loading is one of the technics used by web developers, like us, to speed up the loading of your website. It delays the loading of an image till a user scrolls to it, thereby significantly improving your scores for Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), one of the 3 components of Core Web Vitals. Since WordPress 5.5, lazy loading of images has already been added as a feature enhancement. Come WordPress 5.7, this same support will be provided for iframes. WordPress sites using iframes (e.g. to embed Youtube Videos) will benefit from this new feature.
New Admin Area Colour Scheme
This change is mostly subtle and some users may not even notice it. But still, the objectives are two-folds:
- Simplify Colour Choice for Developers
- Improve Accessibility (ie Easier to Read)
To achieve this twin objective, the WordPress core team has reduced the colours used to a single palette of 99 colours (the current scheme has a total of 199 colours). They have also ensured that there is a higher contrast ratio between the lighter and darker shades, thereby making white print easier to read on the darker shades and vice versa.
New Robots API
This new API allows for the central control of robots meta tag, used in SEO, that are injected into a page. It introduces to the WordPress core, a new wp_robots () function and wp_robots filter which developers can rely on when using this central meta tag management layer.
Full Site Editing (FSE)
When the WordPress team announced the planning roundup for WordPress 5.7 on 21 December 2021, there was a statement that FSE via Gutenberg was their main goal of 2021. This led to expectations we will see FSE in core by WordPress 5.7. Unfortunately, this is not the case; we now know that the minimum viable product (MPV) for FSE is targeted for launch in plugin form in April 2021 and will only make its way to Core by version 5.8, which is tentatively slated for release in June 2021.
This is a disappointment as many in the WordPress world have been looking forward to the day when they can layout all elements in a page (including the 404 page) using Gutenberg blocks.
Gutenberg Editor Improvements
While FSE will not make its way to Core this time around, there are still some noteworthy new features and enhancements added to the editor in WordPRess 5.7. These includes all enhancements made in the Gutenberg plugin from versions 9.3 to 9.9, namely:
- The ability to drag and drop block and block patterns onto the page or post
- Full height alignment option to set the block to cover the whole viewport
- Having the block inspector show the icon and description of block variations plus a dropdown which makes it easy for you to switch between the available variations
- Improvements to usability and stability of reusable blocks including the auto saving of reusable blocks each time a post is saved
- Vertical alignment controls added to the buttons block
- Size adjustment controls added to the Social Icons block
- The ability to adjust font size in the list and code blocks