WordPress 5.8 what changes?

WordPress 5.8 brings a few small but interesting changes, major advancements towards full-site editing, improvements to the Gutenberg editor, and welcome progress in image format support.

Below are the most important changes according to my taste.

Widgets with blocks

With the introduction of the new widget editing, a big step is taken towards full-site editing. The usual widgets have to be said goodbye and in future the blocks will also be used in the widget area.
With WordPress 5.8, the widget areas can now be fed with blocks and operated like the Gutenberg editor. This opens up new possibilities and, above all, gives you more leeway when customizing your widget areas.

New widget areaNew widget area with sample blocksNew widget area with example blocks

WebP images are finally supported

The WebP image format ensures about 26% smaller file size than PNG and about 25-34% smaller than JPEG images. Until now, plugins and server settings had to be added to get the WebP format running on WordPress websites, but from WordPress 5.8 the format is finally supported natively. Of course, you still need to convert the images to WebP images, WordPress doesn’t do that automatically for you. However, like me, you can easily convert them using the following plugin, which by the way is free: Shortpixel Optimizer.

Small changes in the media library

There are two small adjustments in the media library. The first is that the infinite scrolling (scrolling down automatically loads new images) has been removed and replaced with a “Load more” button. The first 40 media are displayed and each click on the button loads another 40 media. The second change, which I find extremely useful, is that after uploading a new file via “Media” > “Add file”, a small info box is now displayed directly, from which you can copy the URL of the just uploaded file directly. I love this little innovation, because I’ve often been annoyed when I had to click on a file after uploading it before I could copy the URL.

News "load More" button in the media libraryNew “Load more” button in the media libraryURL link when uploading new mediaURL link when uploading new media

Improvements and new features in the Gutenberg Editor

WordPress 5.8 adds some useful adjustments and a little gimmick. So first the gimmick.

Duotone effect for images

A duotone effect can now be added to Image Blocks. The duotone effect allows you to choose two colors or eight of the included templates to edit the image with. This can create an artistic effect. As I said, this is a nice gimmick and individual users may be happy about it, but in practice I think this effect will probably only be used by a very small proportion of users.

Duotone effect example with Cloudweb logoDuotone effect example with Cloudweb logo

So let’s move on quickly to the useful adjustments.

Easier to select parent blocks

Navigating in nested blocks used to be rather annoying. It was almost impossible to select the desired element or it just took a few clicks until the right one was selected. But that’s changing now, because with WordPress 5.8 there is an icon, for example, three rectangles next to each other when you select a block that sits within another. If you click on it, the block or group above it will be automatically selected. This allows you to select the desired element more quickly and if you move the mouse over the icon, the surrounding element will even be displayed with a blue border.

Select parent buttonSelect parent button

New Blocks

There are a few new blocks in Gutenberg Editor. Most of these aim to prepare for full-site editing and let you easily insert global elements. This includes the following elements: website logo, website subtitle and page title. The most interesting new block for me is the “Query Loop”. It sounds a bit cryptic, but there is a simple and useful function behind it. With the query loop block you can display a filtered selection of posts and pages in different representations. You can display the pages and posts in various pre-designed layouts. You can determine the number of elements shown yourself, just like some other parameters. You can use the filters to determine, for example, that only posts from one or more categories or from a certain author are displayed. You can also change the displayed order and you have a few other options.

The new elements: website logo, website subtitle and page titleThe new elements: website logo, website subtitle and page titleQuery loop with sample postsQuery loop with sample posts

Load time improvements

In the further development of the editor, the loading time was also worked on. In order to be able to determine differences here, the developers carried out a test with a contribution comprising 36,000 words and 1,000 blocks. This isn’t exactly the normal number of words and blocks, but it’s a good representation for loading time testing. From the last Gutenberg version 10.7 to the version 10.8 delivered with WordPress 5.8, the loading time was improved by one second in this test.

outlook

After WordPress 5.8, the development of WordPress 5.9 is already pending, the release is planned for December 2021. Version 5.9 will continue what started with WordPress 5.8 and will probably add the site editor. This turns the block-based Gutenberg editor into a full-site editor. In the video below from WordPress there is a small preview of what has already changed and what we can expect from the Gutenberg Editor in the future.

Further developments after WordPress 5.9 have not yet been defined in detail. After 2022, however, WordPress will probably receive multilingual support, which means that multilingual websites can be managed directly in the Gutenberg editor in the future.