WordPress 5.5 is scheduled for release on the 11th of August 2020. While it’s still almost a couple of weeks away, here’s a quick rundown of the major changes to expect. There’s no doubt about it – this is a major release, and it’s only the second one in 2020. As always, the changes fall into three categories – those impacting end users, those impacting developers, and “under-the-hood” changes that improve performance. In this article, I’ll only be dealing with the first of the changes, namely those that impact you as a user.
XML Sitemaps – Finally
Sitemaps are files that contain a list of URLs on your site, typically in an XML format. Their main purpose is to provide an easy reference to search engines for which URLs to crawl. Without this, it’s possible that some pages on your site will never be found – particularly if they’re not linked to by other pages.
Most of us have been using XML sitemaps for years via plugins. There was the famous “Google Sitemaps” plugin that I used myself for several years. But lately, I’ve transitioned to the one provided by Yoast instead. Despite this being a necessity, it wasn’t until June 2019 that Thierry Muller, an employee from Google suggested making this a core item. As a result, native sitemaps will now be coming to WordPress.
But Don’t Get Rid of Yoast Just Yet!
Just kidding – we don’t use Yoast just for the sitemaps :). But the ones that will be natively available on WordPress are still rather primitive. Nothing more than a file with some URLs. The sitemaps provided by a plugin like Yoast are a lot more feature rich. For example, they also store the “last modified” date, that tells search engines to prioritize pages that have some changes, instead of requesting your entire site over and over.
In addition, Yoast sitemaps also have a separate file for image indexing, plus “no-indexed” posts and pages are automatically removed, and more.
Bottom line: If you’re already using an XML sitemap via a plugin, you should probably continue using it.
Native Lazy Loading
Hopefully, this will also fix the issue with the Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) on images on Gutenberg that I talked about earlier this month. But these are two separate issues, so I have no idea if it’ll be included or not.
Block Grouping with Drag n’ Drop
After initially disliking it, I’ve finally come to appreciate the Gutenberg editor. But so far, there hasn’t been a way to drag and drop blocks to re-arrange them. You had to select what you want and then painstakingly use the “up” and “down” arrows on the toolbar to slowly move the blocks to the new location.
WordPress 5.5 will now allow us to drag and drop a block or a group of blocks, making it easier to move around elements like images, FAQs, and more. It’s a nice quality of life change that makes editing a little more enjoyable. Things like this, highlight the Automattic team’s goals to transition Gutenberg from an “editor” to a “website builder”.
Introducing the Block Directory
The block directory is a long-term goal of WordPress to allow users to install blocks separately from plugins. However, I’m not sure if that’s how this will work, so I’ll need to test it a bit more before I decide if it’s a feature that I’ll be using frequently. But it’s an exciting direction for WordPress – particularly for those who don’t want to install dozens of plugins!
WordPress 5.5 is a big release that will bring some long overdue changes like native lazy loading, sitemaps, image editing and a brand-new block directory!
I’m a NameHero team member, and an expert on WordPress and web hosting. I’ve been in this industry since 2008. I’ve also developed apps on Android and have written extensive tutorials on managing Linux servers. You can contact me on my website WP-Tweaks.com!