WordPress 5.0: What you need to know

wordpress 5 what you need to know

If you’re new to WordPress you could be forgiven for assuming WordPress 5.0 is just another update. Those of you who have been using Wordpress for a number of years, however, will know otherwise. The truth of the matter is that the WordPress 5.0 rollout, which began in September 2018, was (and remains to this day) one of the most talked-about updates in WordPress history. In this article we’ll tell you everything you need to know about this highly anticipated and much debated update.

What is WordPress 5.0?

WordPress 5.0 is the most recent update for the WordPress CMS platform. It is also the biggest and most noteworthy of the platform’s updates in quite some time. Up until now, the majority of WordPress updates have been small and incremental, whereas this one represents several major steps, if not leaps, forward.

Thanks to its many regular updates and its unique approach to website customisation, WordPress has grown to become the most prominent CMS platform in the world, powering approximately 32% of the entire web.

The most notable changes brought about by WordPress 5.0 include the launch of the block-based editor known as Gutenberg (more on this later) and the permanent shift away from the current way in which the platform handles new releases. That is to say, rather than the regular calendar of two platform upgrade releases per year, WordPress will be removing these deadline pressures and will instead focus upon releasing less regular, more meaningful updates that bring more major steps forward. 

Let’s take a closer look at the specific changes brought about by the WordPress 5.0 update:

What’s new, WordPress?

Here’s a round-up of the most significant updates brought to us by the arrival of WordPress 5.0:

Intuitive Site-Building - As part of WordPress’ move towards a better experience for all users, the WordPress 5.0 update includes a more intuitive site-building process with a more straightforward functionality than previous versions.

Rest API Improvements - Good news for any developers out there already using WordPress. The 5.0 update provides improvements to the Rest API (a feature that helps developers build feature-rich websites by making it easier to connect to other features and applications) ultimately making application-building more straightforward for developers.

Block-based Page Editing - By far the biggest and most significant element of the WordPress 5.0 update, the Gutenberg block-based page editor is here to revolutionise the way in which WordPress users can customise page content. We’ll delve into this feature in a lot more detail in just a moment. 

Easier Theme-Building Experience - An additional advantage of the Gutenberg editor, WordPress users no longer need basic development skills to build themes. With the new block-based system, building custom themes has suddenly become a lot more accessible.

Meet Gutenberg

Whether you’re a seasoned WordPress user or if you’re thinking of joining the platform, Gutenberg is going to be the biggest and most significant feature you’ll come across. Gutenberg is only the first few pixels in what is shaping up to be a very big picture indeed, forming phase one of a three-pronged approach to site customisation.

Gutenberg’s block-based page editor forms phase one of the rollout strategy, focusing on quick and easy page content editing. Phase two will step up to entire page-editing templates, with phase three graduating into a full site customisation tool. 

For now, though, the Gutenberg editor brings you a multitude of incredible page editing options, all formed of blocks that you can stack up like LEGO bricks to form your ideal layout. Each block type can be placed wherever you like, and the content within it can be edited in all sorts of ways, giving you levels of control and creativity previously unseen on older WordPress content editors.

Let’s take a closer look at the main benefits of Gutenberg:

A brand new layout

The most physically noticeable change brought about by Gutenberg is the layout of the editor. Those who already use Wordpress will already be familiar with TinyMCE – the platform’s previous WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor; Gutenberg has visually replaced this interface with a simple drop down menu that can be found under the ‘Insert’ button in your editor. This, along with the fresh new overall interface makes the entire editor much easier to navigate and understand. 

Custom blocks

Gutenberg lets you build your page appearance piece by piece in your own vision. Everything from headings and subheadings to body text, blockquotes and lists will have their own blocks, all of which are fully customisable. Each block can be assigned its own individual layout and settings, and you can save your blocks to be reused again later. This build-your-own interface allows you to create professional, engaging posts without the need for development or technical knowledge or the need for using custom code.

The block-based system also allows you to create far more than just written content, with a range of exciting new blocks available to help you create rich content. Some of the most notable new block options include the Table Block, which makes creating simple tables incredibly easy, and the Text Column Block, which allows you to add responsive text columns; a process for which a third-party plugin was previously required. You can, of course, also insert engaging media including audio, video and embedded media all using the block system.

The challenges

As with any major technology update, the rollout of WordPress 5.0 and Gutenberg hasn’t been without its hiccups and backlash. Most notably, many users have been displeased with the fact that not all themes and plugins are compatible with the new editor. All users are, of course, advised to have a recent backup before upgrading to prevent any loss of function. This also shouldn’t be an issue for users new to WordPress, as all new themes and plugins are being built to be automatically compatible with WordPress 5.0 and Gutenberg.

Other users simply prefer the classic WordPress editor, causing something of a panic when users initially thought the Gutenberg editor would be an enforced change. On the contrary, however, if you’re a fan of the older interface you can still upgrade to WordPress 5.0 and download the Classic Editor from the plugin directory; this will return your page editor interface to the classic view.

The good news is, most issues and blips have already been ironed out since the first release of the update. This means that those of you who are thinking of joining the WordPress platform will get all the benefits of the new update without having to worry about any major snags along the way.

Where to download

If you’re new to the platform and want to get started, head over to the main WordPress site and hit the Download WordPress button.

Want to get up and running ASAP? Check out this super useful WordPress 5.0 Cheatsheet, which gives you all the info you need regarding new terminology, usage tips and keyboard shortcuts for quick and easy content editing.

Keep an eye out for updates on this topic. We’re helping current and existing clients navigate the new system and will be sharing our advice and expertise with you too.

And, if you’re thinking about starting to use WordPress read this first. WordPress vs Squarespace.

Katherine Heath