For me, the WordPress 5.8 update is one of the biggest WordPress updates since we got the block builder a few years ago. The Gutenberg editor is probably the most significant update in recent years – and now we are getting a new update that sets the course for WordPress. I have briefly summarized the biggest changes for you.
Link to video
First the most important thing:
As with any major update, first test the update in a test environment or at least create a backup of your installation before the update. It’s possible that plugins & Co. aren’t running smoothly yet! So watch out. Okay, let’s start with the small changes before we get to the big deal.
Use WebP in WordPress
The first change is that WordPress 5.8 now natively supports web images. Currently we usually include a JPEG image or a GIF for animated images – or a PNG if we need transparency in the image. Well, WebP will be the replacement for JPEG and PNG, meaning it will also support transparent images. The advantage is that WebP has a much smaller file size. Unfortunately, not all graphics programs can export WebP images. But I found a website that does the work for you here: cloudconvert.Com. But watch out: Not all browsers support WebP image compatibility, so check which web browsers can and cannot display the image. Older browsers in particular will not be able to display the web image. Sadly, that includes Safari. Any version older than 2020 will not work with web images. My advice: If you want to automatically convert your images to WebP format, you can take a look at the Shortpixel tool, which also offers a CDN for images. The advantage is that Shortpixel automatically recognizes which browser can display what and then delivers the images in the smallest possible version.
Gutenberg list view
The next important changes of the WordPress5.8 update are related to the WordPress block builder. The first improvement of the WordPress block builder is the Gutenberg list view. Previously there was a small drop-down window showing the list of all blocks used in the layout. Now we get a full list view of everything so I can easily navigate my layout and start editing the block. Now, this doesn’t sound like a big deal, but since Gutenberg is extremely convoluted with design elements, it can be difficult to get the right level. The new list view makes it much easier to work with more complex layouts.
Module improvements, e.g.Duo Hue
Also, improvements have been made to all standard blocks, such as adding more color options, more features related to fonts, font size, and so on. The new color filters are interesting. Here we can add a duo tone as an overlay to the image.
There is a new PDF block
The next improvement in WordPress 5.8 is very awesome: There is a new PDF block. Now you can easily embed a PDF on the page. The visitor can look at the PDF directly, leaf through it, print it out and download it. I add the PDF (file) block. I click on Library and select the PDF. Ready. Here I have inserted my PDF into the website.
Theme Building Feature Set
Okay, now let’s move on to the big changes that can fundamentally change the way we use WordPress. It’s no secret that major changes are coming to WordPress. We are talking about the “Theme Building” feature set, i.e. creating templates that can be applied to different pages or posts. All of this is coming in a big way at the end of 2021/22, but we are already seeing the first modules. We have the site logo. Wherever we use this, the site logo will be displayed. We have the title and slogan of the website. This is another element that belongs in a template. And now it gets exciting: We have a polling loop. We have the title of the post and we have the content of the post, the date of the post, the excerpt of the post, the image of the post. Maybe we want to show a grid of recent blog posts on the home page? No problem. And don’t worry, there are many different ways to style this. Well, these blocks don’t make much sense on an individual page, but they are extremely important when creating a theme or template. This is especially true for the dynamic content that we can now use.
Widgets with WordPress blocks
OK, the next big change in WordPress 5.8 is the widgets! We can now use any block in the widget area. For me this is a big change. This changes and modernizes a fundamental part of WordPress. So, from now on, in the widget area we will find the new block builder interface. Just select your widget area, expand the area and you’ll find the block builder interface. By the way, if you don’t like this, you can load the legacy widgets plugin and bring back the old editor.
The last and probably the biggest change is that WordPress now allows you to create your own templates with a “click”. We know this from premium themes, but now we can work with templates directly in WordPress. When I go to any page, I see the page info on the right, and then the default template. Here I can now create a new page template.
Attention: This function is not (yet) available in all themes.
Here we have all the building blocks for the theme and I can start designing my site “around the content”. I can easily assign this template to new pages and posts in the future.
Conclusion: WordPress 5.8 update
That’s what the new WordPress 5.8 offers – and that’s going to be the way to go wordpress 6 being. It will be interesting to see what happens in six or twelve months. I suspect that we will then have a full-site editor. At this point I can encourage you to get acquainted with the block builder. Check out my blog and my YouTube channel. Here I keep showing tips, tricks and tutorials about WordPress. So that’s it. As always, I’ll keep you posted as soon as there’s another major update!