WordPress Updates UPDATED: 13 May 2024

WordPress 6.5 is Here… Find Out What’s New!

Christos Paloukas

13 min read

As the digital landscape around websites continually evolves, WordPress remains at the forefront of it all, introducing its latest iteration, WordPress 6.5 “Regina”, released on April 2, 2024. Helmed by a dedicated release team led by Matt Mullenweg this time, the major release marks a significant advancement in the platform’s history.

Initially slated for an earlier release date, the team opted for a one-week delay, prioritizing the carefully planned integration of the new Font Library feature. This decision is aimed at ensuring the fonts are appropriately stored and fully tested, stressing WordPress’ general commitment to delivering robust and thoroughly vetted features. Considering how jam-packed with new features and needed improvements this major release is, waiting one week longer for 6.5 shouldn’t have stressed anyone too much.

Let’s travel a bit back in time. Since its debut with WordPress 5.0 in 2018, the Gutenberg Editor has undergone substantial changes, becoming an indispensable tool for content creators and web developers. With this release, it’s time for the editor to shine again. Most of the big news around WordPress 6.5 focuses on Gutenberg Site Editor enhancements. An impressive number of 261 tasks were dedicated to the improvement of the editor. These updates demonstrate the WordPress community’s dedication to providing a more intuitive and flexible editing environment built into the WordPress core.

Among the many other new features and enhancements, WordPress 6.5 brings to the table, the major changes that stand out in this release include the easy-to-use Font Library integration, the introduction of new APIs like the Interactivity API, and yet another fresh batch of over 110 performance fixes and enhancements. All of these contribute to a more dynamic, efficient, and user-friendly WordPress experience for everyone!

Site Editor

With WordPress 6.5, the Gutenberg Editor leaps from version 16.8 to 17.7, introducing substantial enhancements that further refine the editing experience. WordPress is focusing on intuitive interfaces, smarter automation, and enhanced customization options. This way it continues to empower creators with tools that inspire creativity and efficiency. Let’s review some of these updates!

Drop Shadow Effect

An elegant method to apply shadow effects to a broader array of elements including images, buttons, and column layouts. This adds a layer of sophistication to the visual presentation, enabling creators to infuse depth into their designs seamlessly.

Cover Block Features

The Cover Block’s new features include the automatic selection of the overlay color based on the background color of the image chosen. This smart feature facilitates better visual harmony and contrast in cover block presentations, enhancing the aesthetic appeal of pages and posts​. Manual color selection and more new settings like aspect ratio selection are also made available.

Background Image Block Enhancements

The block that manages background images, currently only the Group Block, now includes new adjustable elements such as the image’s dimensions, its repetition across the block, and its placement within the layout.

Renaming Blocks

The previous major release of WordPress introduced the ability to rename Group Blocks within the list view. Version 6.5 now allows for the customization of block labels for any block type within the editor’s overview.

Context Menu for Block Settings

In a bid to streamline navigation and settings adjustment within the Site Editor, WordPress 6.5 allows users to right-click any block to access its settings directly from the list view.

Enhanced Style Revisions

The update to style revisions enables more detailed and transparent tracking of changes made to a site’s appearance, offering users a comprehensive view of style revisions, including not just the date, time, and author, but also a brief summary and other pertinent details of each modification.

This new feature is invaluable for collaborative web design, allowing teams to seamlessly revert to previous versions and understand the evolution of a site’s aesthetic. The ability to navigate through an unlimited number of revisions, thanks to improved pagination, and the integration of revisions into the Style Book enable web creators to craft and manage their online presence with precision and ease​.

Enhanced Content Management Views

With a focus on enhancing the site editing experience, this update introduces versatile viewing options for managing templates, pages, and patterns. This flexibility enables users to use a view that best suits their management style, from grid layouts for visual appeal to table views for detailed oversight all from the Site Editor.

Smoother Drag-And-Drop

Enhanced drag-and-drop capabilities and heightened reactivity are introduced in WordPress 6.5. They are designed to make the block editing process significantly more accommodating for every user.

With new visual cues and a streamlined menu for quick actions, managing links becomes more intuitive, ensuring a smoother workflow. Enhancements include visual indicators for blog and front-page links and a context menu that provides quick access to edit, unlink, or copy actions for any link​

Updated Preferences Panel

The preferences panel within the Site Editor has been updated to offer a more organized and user-friendly interface. It now includes Appearance and Accessibility panels, with previous options now better categorized, facilitating easier customization and optimization of the editor according to user preferences​

Font Library

The Font Library is a groundbreaking feature in WordPress 6.5, heralding a new era of typography management for WordPress users. It offers a seamless and integrated way to access and manage a wide array of fonts directly within the WordPress editor. This new library not only enhances the visual aesthetics of websites but also streamlines the design process. As a result, it is easier than ever for users to find and implement the perfect fonts for their content without the need for external tools or plugins​.

At the core of the Font Library feature is the capability to create and manage custom font collections. Users can register their favorite fonts using a structured array that includes details such as font family, style, weight, and the source of the font files. This allows for a personalized library tailored to individual design needs and preferences. Moreover, the introduction of this feature addresses the need for a more efficient way to handle fonts, paving the way for improved website loading performance by enabling the deactivation of unused theme fonts​​.

The Font Library also introduces the ability to customize the font upload directory, enhancing flexibility and control over font management. By default, fonts are uploaded to the wp-content/fonts directory, but this location can be customized to suit specific requirements, such as for sites that cannot modify the wp-content directory.

Plugin Dependencies

The introduction of Plugin Dependencies in WordPress 6.5 marks a significant and much-needed enhancement to plugin management, enabling plugins to declare dependencies on other plugins. This feature, managed through the new WP_Plugin_Dependencies class, streamlines the process of ensuring that all necessary plugins are installed and activated to maintain site functionality and prevent errors​​. The user interface within the WordPress dashboard has been updated to reflect these dependencies clearly. Now users are provided with information on required plugins and simplifying the installation and activation process. Notably, plugins hosted on WordPress.org can only declare dependencies also hosted on the platform, ensuring a cohesive and secure ecosystem for WordPress users​.

These updates significantly improve the user experience by providing clear visibility and management of plugin dependencies directly within the WordPress dashboard. When a plugin with dependencies is installed, these dependencies are listed, guiding users to install and activate any missing plugins before the main plugin can be activated. This approach not only ensures a smoother setup process for users but also enhances the overall reliability and functionality of WordPress sites that rely on complex plugin interactions​

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Increased Performance

As with every major release since the Core Performance Team was formed, WordPress just got another boost in performance! WordPress 6.5 has introduced over 110 performance-related updates that have already proven to significantly enhance the user experience, particularly in terms of loading times and interaction speeds. Both the Post Editor and Site Editor have seen significant improvements after testing, now loading more than twice as fast compared to their performance in WordPress 6.4.

Performant Translations Optimization

WordPress 6.5 brings significant improvements to its internationalization (I18N) with Performant Translations, marking a considerable stride towards enhancing the user experience on multilingual sites. This update revolves around optimizing the loading and processing of translations, which has traditionally been a resource-intensive task, especially for websites offering content in multiple languages.

By adopting a more efficient approach to handling translations, WordPress 6.5 achieves up to a 25% improvement in load times for translated sites. This leap in performance is particularly noteworthy for sites with heavy traffic and diverse global audiences, as it directly contributes to faster page loading, improved SEO, and a better overall user experience. The underlying technology focuses on both streamlining the way translations are loaded and minimizing their impact on site speed, thus ensuring that multilingual websites can serve their global audiences more effectively without compromising on performance​.

New WordPress APIs

WordPress APIs are sets of protocols and tools designed to allow developers to create, enhance, and interact with WordPress sites and features programmatically either by using code on the WordPress site itself or from an external source like another site or service.

WordPress 6.5 New WordPress APIs

The Interactivity API, Block Bindings API, and Script Modules API are new introductions in WordPress 6.5. Each of these APIs contributes to the evolving landscape of WordPress site development, offering more flexibility and power to theme and plugin developers, as well as enhancing the site management experience for users. As with any new technology, it will be exciting to see how developers leverage these capabilities in creative and innovative ways.

Interactivity API

With the release of WordPress 6.5 comes a game-changing feature that’s bound to revolutionize the way users interact with websites: the Interactivity API. This innovative enhancement is designed to make WordPress sites more dynamic and engaging. Imagine being able to add items to a shopping cart, favorite blog posts, or navigate through a website without the page needing to reload. The Interactivity API makes all this possible by enabling real-time interactions directly within the blocks. This means a smoother and faster experience for your site visitors, encouraging them to engage more deeply with your content!

What really stands out about the Interactivity API is its ability to make WordPress websites feel more like snappy applications. This advance in user experience offers a level of interactivity that was previously too complex or even impossible to achieve without extensive coding knowledge. For developers, this opens up a world of possibilities for creating rich, app-like features with ease. While for everyday users, it means enjoying a seamless and interactive experience as they browse. Whether you’re a website owner looking to enhance your site’s functionality, or a visitor seeking a fluid and engaging online experience, WordPress 6.5’s Interactivity API enhancements are set to redefine what’s possible with a WordPress site.

Block Bindings API

The Block Bindings API in WordPress 6.5 is a must for developers aiming to integrate more dynamic content into their sites. This API allows for the seamless connection between custom fields and core block attributes, effectively marrying static content with dynamic elements in a user’s post. Think of the ease provided by automatically displaying the current weather or the look and feel of a post based on custom field data; that’s the level of customization and flexibility the Block Bindings API makes available. This enhancement not only simplifies the process of adding dynamic content to blocks but also opens up a myriad of possibilities for personalized and engaging user experiences.

Script Modules API

On another front, the Script Modules API in WordPress 6.5 marks a significant step forward in managing JavaScript interactions within themes and plugins. This update facilitates a more structured and efficient way to include JavaScript, enabling developers to specify scripts as modules. That means cleaner code, better organization, and most importantly, the ability to use modern JavaScript features directly in WordPress without workaround hacks.

Block Hook Updates

In WordPress 6.5, the updates to block hooks provide a strong push forward in the ability developers have to customize the block editor experience. Block hooks are essential for developers, as they provide a way to hook into the editing process, allowing for custom actions and filters to be added to blocks. With the latest updates, developers might now have more granular control over blocks, enabling them to inject custom functionalities, modify block attributes dynamically, or even extend existing blocks with additional features seamlessly.

For instance, these updates could allow for more sophisticated interactions within the editor, such as dynamically altering block content based on user inputs or external data. Moreover, enhanced block hooks could simplify the process of creating custom blocks, making it more accessible for developers to contribute unique elements to the WordPress ecosystem. These improvements not only enrich the capabilities of the block editor for site builders but also pave the way for more interactive and dynamic content creation possibilities.

WordPress 6.5 Block Hook Updates

MySQL and PHP Compatibility

In WordPress 6.5, the minimum required MySQL version has been raised to 5.5.5, which is a significant change aimed at enhancing security and performance. This update also ensures support for utf8mb4 character encoding and makes InnoDB the default storage engine, improving overall database efficiency.

For PHP compatibility, WordPress consistently works towards ensuring compatibility with PHP 8.0, 8.1, and 8.2 to enhance performance and security. It’s recommended to use officially supported PHP and MySQL versions to leverage the full potential of WordPress 6.5 features and improvements​.

WordPress 6.5 Recap

It’s no secret that the Site Editor is the star of this release. As WordPress 6.5 ushers in substantial updates to the Gutenberg Editor, it lays the groundwork for the next phase of Gutenberg’s evolution: phase 3 – collaboration. These enhancements signal the platform’s forward-looking approach by laying the foundation for collaborative features.

New features like the plugin dependencies functionality and the convenient Font Library, along with all other user experience-oriented updates to the Site Editor, let us know that as time goes by WordPress keeps getting simpler to use for more and more people.

All the other back-end work including the APIs and the performance optimizations that came along with 6.5 put more power than ever in the hands of WordPress contributors and developers! WordPress is only expected to get exponentially more powerful as the overall integration of new capabilities gets easier and doesn’t bring forward performance issues.

Overall, WordPress 6.5 marks a pivotal step towards a more connected and dynamic content creation ecosystem, promising exciting developments on the horizon for WordPress, Gutenberg, and the WordPress community at large.

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