January 2022 Newsletter

WordPress 5.9

This significant release was originally scheduled for November, 2021, but it was wisely delayed, eventually seeing the light of day on January 25th, 2022. See the release notice, while more technical information can be found in the WordPress 5.9 Field Guide.

In brief, the content can be summarised as follows:

the introduction of Full Site Editing (FSE). This provides the mechanism for controlling your site via a visual interface. Note that it is limited to block themes, and there are not many of them just yet. Features which were controlled by the Customiser are now controlled within the FSE for block themes. I was not expecting to see FSE until the next release. It will no doubt be subject to a series of refinements.

a new default theme – Twenty Twenty-Two is a block theme.

the Navigation Block (for the creation / maintenance of menus) has finally made its much delayed initial appearance.

Patterns have seen various improvements, notably to the Pattern Explorer. Once again, it is early days for this feature. There are a limited number of patterns in the Pattern Directory at the moment.

Block Control. Refinements include new typography tools, flexible layout controls, and finer control of details like spacing and borders, along with greater control of individual images within a gallery block. 

Classic Editor

It seemingly remains a struggle to persuade existing users of the Classic Editor to convert to the block editor. An article in WP Tavern on January 19th, 2022 claimed that there are still 5 million users of the Classic Editor.

What’s Next

I am inclined to think that 2022 will principally be a year when WordPress development will concentrate on further improvements and refinements to Full site Editing and the block editor in an attempt to persuade more users to give up on the Classic Editor.

The next stage of the Gutenberg project will be Collaboration. Perhaps, initial work may commence here later this year.

Within a day or two of writing the above, a Preliminary Roadmap for WordPress 6.0 appeared. It includes the following statement:

The overall aim is to consolidate and expand the set of customization tools introduced in 5.9 for creating themes with blocks, with a special focus towards usability and refinement. This new release could be considered a conceptual wrap for Gutenberg: Phase 2. This doesn’t mean the customization phase would be concluded with it, but that its main features would have been established.

Matias Ventura

It was subsequently announced that two releases are planned for the remainder of this year: 6.0 in late May and 6.1 in late October.