It’s been yet another very productive year for the WordPress community with the final major WordPress release of 2023 having been rolled out! WordPress 6.4 ‘Shirley’ comes jam packed with a brand new theme and significant usability, performance and accessibility features making WordPress evermore practical, fast and inclusive for all.
The primary focus areas of the WordPress roadmap for this year, leading up to the 6.4 release, included enhancing various aspects of the WordPress experience ranging from streamlining the nuances of writing posts to managing site patterns more efficiently.
A whopping total of 1,150 fixes and enhancements were successfully released in this latest version of WordPress thanks to all the community’s contributors led by a talented underrepresented gender release squad for the second release in a row.
As Josepha Haden Chomphosy, the lead for Executive Director of WordPress, puts it, these updates are designed to ease the efforts of content creators and site developers alike; delivering a high-value, low-hassle experience that the WordPress community has come to expect.
Let’s dive right into the fun new features of WordPress 6.4!
Twenty Twenty-Four Theme
The multi-purpose default theme included in WordPress, Twenty Twenty-Four, offers a clean, modern design, adaptable to various content types, from blogs to business sites.
The theme emphasizes flexibility and ease of customization by providing extensive collection of page building and styling features making the daunting task of building and maintaining your website far less intimidating for the average user.
The page templates introduced are designed to cater to a wide range of uses, from casual blogging to business and portfolio websites.
The theme offers a diverse collection of 35 block patterns designed to simplify and enhance website creation. These patterns are essentially collections of pre-designed blocks that can be easily customized with your own text and media content, streamlining the process of page or post creation.
Twenty Twenty-Four theme users are empowered to further customize their website by leveraging the 9 included style variations to quickly set beautiful text and color options and by exploring the subtle but useful look-and-feel options made available by the block variations.
New Site Editor Features in WordPress 6.4
The Site Editor in WordPress 6.4, first introduced in WordPress 5.9, offers a full-site editing experience, enabling users to customize their entire website, including headers, footers, and templates, directly from the WordPress interface. It has seen major improvements in usability and flexibility, allowing for more intuitive site-wide design and content management for a broad spectrum of users.
Refined Command Palette
The Site Editor just got more powerful by the improvements to the Command Palette in WordPress 6.4. The Command Palette is a powerful tool that enhances the efficiency of site navigation and content management first introduced in WordPress 6.3.
Aside from the refreshed design, new commands have been added to the Command Palette to help you speed up finding settings, pages, perform block-specific actions, and do so much more. Recently added commands include, among others, grouping, ungrouping, duplicating, removing, adding before, and adding after a block.
Group Block Improvements
The Group Block in WordPress 6.4 allows users to group multiple blocks together, facilitating easier layout management and style application to a collection of blocks. Everyone that uses the WordPress Site Editor to build their site will benefit from the latest improvements to the Group block.
Group Block Names
WordPress 6.4, you can name your group blocks, making it easier to organize and distinguish between them.
You can also set background images for group blocks to help you create visually appealing content.
Image Previews in List View
Image and gallery thumbnails are now available in the list view, enabling you to skim through your content quickly.
Lightbox – Image Enhancements
If you want your images to stand out, enable the Lightbox functionality allows for full-screen, interactive image viewing, when an image is clicked . You can either enable this for individual images, or globally across the entire site.
Lightbox eliminates the need for coding knowledge required for creating more visually appealing and functional layouts to enhance the visual storytelling of a site while maintaining consistent image dimensions thus ensuring a cohesive visual experience across the site.
New Patterns Features In WordPress 6.4
Patterns are collections of pre-designed blocks that provide a quick and efficient way to build elegant layouts and designs within pages and posts. They have significantly evolved since their introduction in WordPress 5.5 to offer a broader range of customization options.
Creating your own patterns is a great way to maintain consistency across your site’s design. The use of ready-made patterns enables all users to create stunning and professional sites regardless of their level of experience with WordPress.
The ability to set custom categories for patterns allow for better organization and quicker access helping to streamline the design process.
While choosing a pattern, you now have the option to filter by source and type. Source filtering allows you to browser patterns from the WordPress.org Pattern Directory, bundled in the active theme, or created by users on the site. Type filtering lets you view either synced or non-synced patterns.
Export & Import Patterns
Now you can share patterns across sites by exporting them as JSON files and importing them on other WordPress sites. This feature saves time and effort for users managing multiple sites and encourages sharing and collaboration within the WordPress community.
WordPress 6.4 Performance Optimizations
The WordPress community really but their backs into adding as many performance optimizations to this release by encompassing over 100 performance-related updates, leading to a faster and more efficient experience for users and site visitors.
Here are the key performance optimizations and features included in WordPress 6.4:
- Improvements in template loading, particularly for themes, for faster rendering and loading of templates
- Enhanced script loading strategies, utilizing “defer” and “async” attributes optimizing the way scripts are loaded thus reducing the impact on page load times
- New functions to help plugin developers with autoloaded options and allow them to efficiently retrieve multiple options in a single database query
- Image loading optimization enhancements
- Streamed the process of style (CSS) management replacing hard-coded style tags with
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The WordPress community has been battling it out to make WordPress more inclusive than ever this year pushing fixes and features to address accessibility issues release after release.
In WordPress 6.4 we saw improvements in List View and Navigation block accessibility and UI enhancements in the admin area have also been applied to improve usability for anyone that uses screen readers.
These changes make WordPress more accessible, aligning with web standards and inclusivity principles ensuring that a wider spectrum of users can effectively use and manage WordPress.
Latest PHP Versions
Keeping up to date with the latest PHP versions is often a challenge for WordPress but nonetheless the community made it happen! WordPress 6.4 strongly recommends using PHP versions 8.1 or 8.2, aligning with the latest standards in web development.
These latest versions of PHP offer significant improvements in performance, security, and efficiency, making them the optimal choice for running WordPress sites.
Generally, using the latest PHP version ensures better performance due to optimized code execution, enhanced security features, and compatibility with modern web technologies.
Block Hooks for Developers
Great news for developers! WordPress 6.4 introduces Block Hooks, expanding the extensibility of Block Themes by enabling developers to automatically insert blocks at specific locations — similar to how Classic Themes were able to use filters and actions to be extended.
WordPress 6.4 Recap
Reflecting on the evolution of WordPress in 2023, the release of WordPress 6.4 ‘Shirley’ marks a significant milestone. It not only demonstrates WordPress’s commitment to continuous improvement but also highlights its adaptability to the ever-changing landscape of web development.
The biggest changes of the year, particularly the all the work with the Site Editor maturing rapidly, the introduction of the Twenty Twenty-Four theme and the performance and accessibility optimizations, to list a few, underscore the WordPress community’s ongoing dedication to both end-users and developers.
These developments represent a balancing act between making the platform more user-friendly for non-technical users while simultaneously providing powerful tools and features for developers.
Phase 3 of the Gutenberg project roadmap is now underway. This phase is focused on collaboration, providing a more intuitive way to co-author content. We’re excited to see what the future holds!
WordPress continues to evolve as a robust, flexible platform capable of meeting diverse needs, from simple blogging to complex website development.
At Pressidium, we’re convinced this release solidifies WordPress’ position as a leader in the content management system market, ready to adapt and grow in the years to come.