But first, let’s take a look back: When WordPress 5.0, the last regular version of WordPress, was released in December 2018, one innovation in particular generated excitement and discussion in the community: The Gutenberg editor.
The content editor, named after the inventor of modern book printing Johannes Gutenberg, was a complete revamp of the entire editing experience and promised much more flexibility in content creation and management. The “blocks” were designed to allow users to integrate text, images and files as well as a variety of widgets.
Not everyone in the WordPress community was immediately enthusiastic about the Gutenberg editor. Some users found working in blocks quite awkward at first compared to the classic WYSIWYG editor TinyMCE. Others complained about the lack of compatibility with themes and plugins already in use or simply about the large number of initial bugs. However, the core developers of WordPress have steadily improved the Gutenberg editor over the years and have taken a major step forward with version 5.9 and the introduction of the new standard theme, Twenty Twenty-Two.
Not an expert yet in using WordPress? Want to find out more on what the world’s most widely used content management system is all about? Then read our introductory article from December 2021.
The four phases of the Gutenberg project
The complete integration of the Gutenberg editor, which was previously designed as a plugin, is still an ongoing process and involves a total of four phases:
- The first phase was to enable simplified content editing with the block editor and ended with the release of the Gutenberg editor with WordPress 5.0.
- With phase 2, not only main content but also other page content such as headers, footers, etc. was to be made editable via block editing. This promise was fulfilled with the release of WordPress 5.9 in January 2022, albeit with a significant delay.
- According to WordPress’s development roadmap, aspects of collaboration are to be optimized and expanded in phase 3. This will enable multiple content managers to work together more efficiently and intuitively on content.
- Swiss website operators in particular are likely to be looking forward to the final phase 4, as multilingualism is to be integrated into the WordPress core.
Since the introduction of the new Twenty Twenty-Two theme, it has also been possible to edit home pages, 404 pages and other essential pages using templates. This allows you to change the design style of individual elements without having to change the entire theme. Blocks such as paragraphs, columns, media, etc. can also be defined separately and globally. And for social icons – a very important element nowadays – the editor allows the outer gaps to be configured in pixels and percentages as well as in the EM, REM, VW and VH values. The configurations are saved in a custom styles file.
Before the introduction of the Gutenberg editor, there were other plugins and themes that already allowed you to create and edit content using a block or widget, such as the still-popular Elementor plugin and also the Divi theme. But the long-term aim of the Gutenberg project is that the Gutenberg editor becomes an integral part of the WordPress core and therefore no longer needs to be installed as a plugin.
Highlights of WordPress 6.0
If you switch to the new version 6.0 of WordPress, you will essentially no longer need additional page builders such as Elementor or Divi. This is thanks to the range of functionality of the Gutenberg editor, but also due to performance capability since many scripts, CSS files or other elements no longer need to be loaded separately.
So, what great new features and functions does WordPress now offer? We briefly describe below what we think are the most important changes. The WordPress developers recently published a more comprehensive list on a corresponding info page for Release Candidate 1.
WordPress developers describe the Style Switcher as one of the most important new features. This feature allows different style aspects to be bundled in block themes. This makes it easy to change the entire appearance of your website with just a few clicks. In themes that support this style switching feature, alternative styles can be easily searched for and applied with one click.
Of course, this major release, which focuses on the Gutenberg editor, also included new content blocks. One of the new blocks is the Read More block. This allows longer sections of text to be split or expanded with a “Read more” button.
In addition to the Query Loop block, which is currently popular among blogs, the No Results block allows you to define the text and text styling for the case where a query does not return any results. The new Comments Query block works in a similar way to the Query Loop, allowing you to set the appearance of your blog comments.
While you can use the Post Author block to determine the appearance of the author’s avatar, you can use the Post Author Biography block to display the description text stored by the author.
Worth noting is that WordPress maintains a list of all Core Blocks that are part of the Gutenberg plugin.
Improved layout options
A whole series of minor optimizations relate to the different design settings available to website operators and authors when editing pages and content. The menus have been optimized for color selection, color transparency and border settings. In addition, there are now more options for defining stylings for entire group blocks (e.g. typography).
Anyone previously wanting to lock individual blocks in such a way that they could not be moved or deleted by other authors had to do so using the code. But not all WordPress users have this detailed technical knowledge. With WordPress 6.0, this option can now be selected directly in the user interface thanks to the new Block Locking function.
Export block themes
Exporting a theme has now also been massively simplified. The editor allows you to easily export the customized theme as a ZIP file. This allows the theme to be uploaded again for other WordPress projects and reused (it will replace the standard Twenty Twenty-Two theme). Our initial tests on this went quite smoothly. It is recommended to create the design with the standard pages if you want to use it for other pages as well.
Optimization potential for fonts and navigation
In our beta tests, we found the new way to handle your own fonts somewhat negative. These can apparently only be integrated via PHP or theme.json. This could be difficult, though, for many users who may be less technically savvy.
This is even more of a pity because not every website operator wants to use Google Fonts, preferring not to be reliant on Google queries. After all, data protection compliance considerations also play a role. If a website visitor rejects third-party cookies, Google fonts, for example, should not be loaded. The corresponding website might then look very unattractive, as WordPress would use its default font in this case. For example, you would see a serif font where it should actually not be displayed.
Another problem area arises when creating and editing the navigation. WordPress 5.9 did introduce a new tool that allows navigation elements to be created in much more detail and thus offers designers in particular more freedom.
But many users are likely to perceive the new navigation as more complex, difficult and time-consuming. With certain settings, changes to the menus are not immediately apparent and the editing process is quite involved. Long-standing WordPress admins should therefore prepare for quite a change here.
Finally, testing the beta version of WordPress 6.0 also showed that the new navigation block is obviously not error-free. It can be assumed that not all the bugs relating to this on the official release of 6.0 will be fixed.
On May 25, 2022, the day after the official release of WordPress 6.0, a meeting for interested users from the local WordPress community will take place in Zurich. You can find more information about the WordPress Zurich Meetup here.
Looking ahead: What’s happening next with WordPress?
Of course, WordPress 6.0 is not the final stop. As usual, the core developers will also be busy in the near future developing new features, functional optimizations, bug fixes and usability improvements. If you’d like to know which features the developer community is currently working on, visit the relevant Feature Projects Overview page on wordpress.org for more information. And bug tracking is publicly available at any time.
Although no release dates have yet been announced in the official roadmap for subsequent WordPress versions (e.g. version 6.1), the authors point to a long-term plan for the full integration of the Gutenberg editor in the four phases described above.
Use WordPress 6.0 with Hostpoint now
If you’d like to launch your own website project with WordPress 6.0 or update your existing website to the latest version, you can do so with Hostpoint. According to the development roadmap, WordPress 6.0 is scheduled to be released on May 24, 2022, and will be available to Hostpoint customers shortly thereafter.
Users of earlier versions of WordPress can complete the upgrade to 6.0 directly in the WordPress Admin environment. Initial installation of WordPress 6.0 can be executed in the Hostpoint Control Panel with a single click. And new customers can visit hostpoint.ch/en/wordpress to find a suitable WordPress hosting package Free 30-day trial.