WordPress 5.9 is currently in its Beta testing phase and is all set to launch on January 25, 2022. With the promise of new and modern features, it’s no surprise users are full of anticipation of what the upgrade has in store next year. 

Naturally, one can predict that the largest content management platform has plans to match up with Google’s Core Web Vitals objectives. And given that developers have been attentive to the feedback on the lack of responsive controls, don’t be surprised if there’s a major shift in this sphere too. 

Read: Should I Use WordPress for My Website?

On that note, here is a sneak peek at what’s coming in the WordPress 5.9 update: 

What to Expect With WordPress 5.9 Update 

Full Site Editing 

Technically, full site editing (or FSE) is not a “new” development since it was one of the main focal points for WordPress in 2021. But given its momentum in the past few years, it only makes sense that the 2022 update will continue heading in this direction.  

To get the ball rolling in the direction of FSE, we will witness several updates in the Gutenberg editor. Accordingly, we can expect the following: 

  • Responsive block models complemented with intrinsic design principles. 
  • Fluidity in typography tools. 
  • Improvements to the List view. 
  • Broader categories of patterns to improve browsing experiences. 
  • Lighter navigation block menus to enrich the user experience, reduce complexity, and test on themes. 
  • Global styles interface to change and preview design elements before implementation. 
  • Smooth integration with block API and theme JSON for increased control over design tools. 

Lazy Loading and Largest Contentful Paint 

One of the most groundbreaking WordPress 5.9 changes would involve the refining of its core’s lazy loading functionality. This move does not come as a surprise considering that Google is prioritising a website’s Largest Contentful Paint (LCP). 

Lazy loading accelerates the perceived load time of a page by delaying the download of rich media page elements such as iframes and images.  For LCP, it measures the speed at which images and other web elements download from the audience’s point of view.  

The lazy loading attribute was set up as a default in WordPress’ core code. However, it affected the above-fold elements such as logos, featured images etc. which were necessary to label the webpage usability. The issue became even more complicated due to the themes involved.

What’s new in WordPress 5.9 is that lazy loading will be excluded for the first image or iframe of the code boosting its LCP metric. In fact, testing this method saw an improvement in Web Core Vitals by an average of 10% which elevated to an impressive 33%! 

Twenty Twenty-Two Theme 

Another exciting offering of the WordPress 5.9 update is the new default theme: Twenty Twenty-Two.  

Much like its predecessor, the theme promises bold designs centring on an engaging theme of bird illustrations. As far as the typography goes, we will see Source Serif Pro making an appearance for headlines along with an exciting number of patterns for innumerable combinations. 

Designers will also enjoy a lively collection of six pre-designed colour schemes which can transform the entire character of the theme. 

The theme maintains the spirit of FSE and Global Styles, along with the block-based features of Gutenberg. As such, it’s expected to be one of the most flexible default themes ever for WordPress. 

Other WordPress 5.9 Changes in the Roadmap 

Apart from the WordPress 5.9 changes listed above, there are other upgrades set aside in the pipelines. Some of these include: 

  • Improved compatibility with PHP 8.0 and 8.1 along with PHPUnit Tests. 
  • Active embeds for Pinterest. 
  • Different languages for login screens. 
  • An update to jQuery 3. 
  • Unzip or Rollback failsafe. 
  • Gallery Block Refactor. 
  • Bug fixes for dark mode glitch, disappearing reusable blocks, and browser window shaking. 

Of course, some of these ambitious changes may not be made available immediately during the launch of the update. However, since this version is expected to stabilize by July 2022, it can most likely come into effect until then. 

Get a glimpse of the upgrade 

WordPress 5.9 changes surely hold a lot of promise and potential. However, the response to this announcement has been mixed. While most developers are relieved that WordPress is finally addressing several design-related issues, others are disappointed that it is not doing enough in terms of SEO, data security, plugin and theme search, etc. Regardless, it is a positive step in the direction for improvement. 

Check with your WordPress hosting service provider on whether you can sign up for the Beta testing versions of WordPress 5.9 and get a slice of the action right away.