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WordPress is constantly changing and evolving. However, it’s easy to get caught up in your day-to-day and miss some important announcements and releases intended to help make managing your site easier.

Over the past couple of months, we’ve seen a steady stream of exciting new WordPress features and announcements. With the release of WordPress 5.4 on the horizon, now seems like an appropriate time to take a moment to review some of the latest and upcoming tools introduced to the platform.

In this post, we’ll take a look at five new WordPress features to get excited about. We’ll cover everything from new block additions and WordPress 5.4 features to native functionality that’s still in the testing stage. Let’s get started!

1. Block Editor welcome guide

Whether you’re a seasoned WordPress professional or just starting out, at some point you’ve probably found yourself lost on the back end following an update. Your clients will likely have similar experiences.

This is one reason to get excited about the Block Editor welcome guide modal that will ship with WordPress 5.4:

The WordPress 5.4 Block Editor Welcome Guide.

The slideshow will offer a micro-tour as well as a link to a full-length WordPress Block Editor guide. The accessibility of this resource will likely be incredibly helpful and convenient when onboarding new clients. It may even save you some time that would otherwise be spent fielding support inquiries.

2. Social links block

There are countless WordPress plugins that let you integrate social icons with your websites. While you still need one to enable social sharing, the new social links block set to ship with WordPress 5.4, will make it easy to add social media links and icons directly in the editor:

The social links icon block in WordPress.

After selecting the social links block, you can click on the Add button to choose an icon and input its corresponding link. There are three style variations available as well as 39 different social networks.

This is one of two new blocks coming to WordPress. The other is a buttons block, which will enable users to add multiple buttons at one time.

3. Default fullscreen editing mode

For years, the option to use the editor in fullscreen mode to some degree has been available. However, it was recently announced that WordPress 5.4 will enable fullscreen mode for the WordPress editor by default:

The WordPress editor in fullscreen mode.

To opt-out of fullscreen mode, you can click the three vertical dots in the top right-hand corner, then deselect Fullscreen Mode:

The fullscreen mode setting in the WordPress editor.

Note: This is also where you can re-open the Welcome Guide we referenced earlier.

If you deselect fullscreen mode in the Block Editor settings, then it will open as usual in the future, except for on new devices. You can reset your user preferences at any time.

4. Built-in lazy loading functionality

Page speed and performance are, of course, top priorities for most WordPress professionals and users in general. Lazy loading can help optimize images to improve these metrics.

While there are many lazy load plugins available, they’re not without fault. Plus, any chance to minimize the number of extensions you need to use on a WordPress site is a win.

Fortunately, that’s what the WordPress team is working to achieve with the release of the Lazy Loading Feature Plugin. The purpose is to test the prospect of natively incorporating the loading HTML attribute for images as well as other supported elements.

If it’s successful, the goal is to add the feature to WordPress Core. Therefore, WordPress professionals are encouraged to try the plugin and offer feedback.

To do so, install and activate the plugin. It adds loading=”lazy” attributes to all the site’s pages, posts, and text widgets.

Next, you can test the feature by visiting the site via a supported browser such as Chrome or Firefox. Viewing image-heavy pages and posts can help uncover bugs such as missing images or the page ‘jumping’ during loading. Feedback can be provided via either GitHub or WordPress.

5. Native XML sitemaps

Originally proposed in June 2019 and made available through GitHub, the WordPress Core Sitemaps plugin is now available in the WordPress Plugin Directory. Like the Lazy Loading plugin, it aims to test the integration of basic XML functionality into the core of the Content Management System (CMS).

The plugin enables an XML sitemap by default. It will allow indexing for your:

  • Homepage
  • Posts page
  • Core Post Types (Pages and Posts)
  • Custom Post Types
  • Core Taxonomies (Tags and Categories)
  • Custom Taxonomies
  • Users (Authors)

The sitemap plugin includes an index feature to automatically create a sitemap index at /sitemap.xml. Additionally, each sitemap page will exist at a URL with the following structure: sitemap-{object-type}-{object-subtype}-{page}.xml. So, for example, a WordPress post URL would look like sitemap-posts-post-1.xml.

Although the plugin is officially available, it’s still in its early stages. Users can help test, validate, and improve it. Sitemap plugin authors are also encouraged to integrate with the official plugin and extend its core functionality using the sitemaps API.

Conclusion

No matter how long you’ve been using or working professionally with WordPress, keeping up with the latest features can be difficult. However, it can also make managing your site all the more efficient and enjoyable.

In this post, we covered five new WordPress features you can get excited about:

  1. A Block Editor welcome guide included with WordPress 5.4 to make onboarding clients easier.
  2. A social links block for effortlessly adding social network links and icons to posts and pages.
  3. Default fullscreen editing mode for distraction-free work.
  4. Built-in lazy loading attributes to improve performance for image-heavy pages.
  5. Native XML sitemaps to help boost your site’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) through proper indexing.

Which of these WordPress features are you most excited about? Let us know in the comments section below!

Image credit: Pixabay.

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