The final major WordPress update for 2020 is here, and it is a historic, all-women release squad. The WordPress community has always been an inclusive and diverse community, and the new release of WordPress 5.6 is the first major update where an entire release squad is comprised of talented women in leadership roles.
The update was released on December 9, 2020 and it came with tons of new improvements, updates and features to enhance the WordPress experience for everyone. In this post, we are going to take a look at some of the new things that we are getting with WordPress 5.6.
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Promoting Inclusivity: The Importance Of All-Women Release Squad In WordPress Community
WordPress has always been a friendly community that advocated for inclusivity, diversity and representation of minorities. In an industry where participation of women is low, and women in leadership roles are even fewer, having an all-women release squad for a major update like WordPress 5.6 simply goes to show just how inclusive this community is.
Josepha Haden, the Executive Director of WordPress and the leader of this new release, had proposed the idea of recruiting individuals who identify as women for the release of WordPress 5.6 with the hopes that it will encourage women to participate in the development of WordPress Core, and in the tech industry in general.
It is important to understand that an all-women release squad does not exclude contributions from men. It only means that the main releasing squad is comprised of women who love WordPress, which is a huge step forward in bringing in more diversity and representation in our beloved community.
According to the official announcement, WordPress 5.6 release squad had some talented and experienced women leaders and cohorts. We feel proud that our very own CMO, Afshana Diya, was involved with the marketing team for WordPress 5.6 and is now a Core Contributor for WordPress.
What To Expect In WordPress 5.6 New Release?
The first release candidate for WordPress 5.6 was made available for testing last week on November 17th 2020. Before this update, WordPress 5.5 was a huge update that came with tons of new features. Now with the year coming to an end, the WordPress team is hard at has released a final update for 2020 on December 9. Here's what you get with WordPress 5.6.
Introducing Twenty Twenty One: A Brand New Default Theme For WordPress
With the year 2021 approaching, WordPress 5.6 introduces a brand new default theme called Twenty Twenty One. Many of you already know that this is an annual tradition of WordPress, and as always, this new theme comes with a modern and elegant design. It uses a modified version of the Seedlet theme, and comes with a minimalistic layout so that you can use it as a blank canvas with the Gutenberg Editor.
Most notably, this theme was designed with the feedback from a11y experts (people are experienced in designing products for accessibility) from the very beginning. So not only does theme with come a with a beautiful design, it is also a stunning AAA-ready default theme that WordPress users will enjoy.
This new theme works especially well with different block patterns, and comes with several new ones to help you create stunning posts and pages with the Gutenberg editor. You can also get several new options to change the position of the blocks any way you like as shown below.
Increased Support For PHP 8 & Updating jQuery
Developers will be happy to know that WordPress 5.6 has more support for PHP 8. Developers can now start planning how their plugins and themes will work with PHP 8.
WordPress 5.6 also includes the start of major updates for the jQuery library, so developers will need to test their plugins and themes beforehand.
Improvements For The Gutenberg Editor
WordPress is continually transforming the Gutenberg Editor with new improvements and enhancements in each version update. WordPress 5.6 is no exception. With this new release, the Gutenberg editor is seeing the following changes:
A New Block Mover To Easily Change Block Positions
With the new “block mover” in the Gutenberg editor, moving each block from one section of your page to another is much easier. Just click and hold down the block mover, and then drag-and-drop it anywhere on your page.
Display Character Counts In The Information Panel
Previously the block editor information panel would only display your word count, number of blocks used and paragraphs. Now, the information panel also displays character counts for your posts and pages.
Display Button Labels In Toolbar Instead Of Icons
When you open your Gutenberg editor, and click on the three vertical dots next to the gear icon, you will get a new option called ‘Preferences’ from where you can change some basic settings for the block editor. These settings are designed to help make the user interface friendlier. One new option you will have WordPress 5.6 is the option to change the toolbar icons to text instead as shown below.
Improved Keyboard Navigation, Enhanced Block Patterns & More
Besides the changes mentioned above, the Gutenberg editor will also see some improvements in keyboard shortcuts, block patterns, and several more adjustments to make the block editor more user friendly for WordPress users.
Application Password For REST API Authentication
WordPress 5.6 introduces Application Password to make it easier for developers to allow their applications to be authenticated by users without jumping through hoops to re-authenticate when cookies expire. For those who are not interested in this change, they can also continue using the previous cookie and nonce authentication for WordPress if they want to.
Enable Auto-Update Opt-In For Major Release
One of the most anticipated features from WordPress 5.6 is the option to enable auto-update for major releases. This will allow users to easily run installation of major WordPress updates in the background.
Accessibility Improvements: Compliance With WCAG 2.1 Criteria Updates
Every major release of WordPress has always focused on improving the accessibility for all users and enhancing the WordPress experience for people who have different needs.
To this end, WordPress 5.6 comes with several changes and improvements. This will include updates that are in compliance with the new web accessibility coding standards, adding arrow navigation in the preview menu, fixing the issue of multiple blocks being dragged downward to prevent blocks being inserted in the wrong position, resolving dropdown menu focus loss when using arrow keys in Safari and much more.
For more information, you can check this list to see how WordPress 5.6 improves accessibility for all users.
To wrap it up, the final major release for WordPress this year is definitely exciting and is sure to improve your experience. Let us know what you think of these updates in the comments below.