WordPress 5.9: Full Site Editing, New Block-based Default Theme, and More

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WordPress 5.9 is here, as always, right on schedule — January 25th, 2022. The name is “Joséphine,” in honor of acclaimed international jazz singer Joséphine Baker. She is known for her versatility, which is a quality that can also be associated with WordPress 5.9. In addition to the incredible number of amazing features and improvements, WordPress 5.9 continues the Full Site Editing journey. Continuing to go strong, version 5.9 of the CMS comes along with tons of improvements.

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WordPress 5.9 New Features

The most important feature that comes in full with WordPress 5.9 is, of course, Full Site Editing (FSE). Many of the 5.9 features are available only when you use a theme that supports FSE. Naturally, one of those themes is Twenty Twenty-Two.

WordPress 5.9: Twenty Twenty-Two Theme

WordPress 5.9 gets us to the center of the Gutenberg Roadmap, namely the Customization phase. That phase is again mostly focused on Full Site editing, Block Patterns, Block Directories, and Block-based themes.

As Matt Mullenweg says, with 5.9, we are at the MVP (the Minimum Viable Product) of this customization phase of Gutenberg. These words are probably the best summarization of the key features of the upcoming WordPress release.

The Twenty Twenty-Two Theme

Twenty Twenty-Two is the first default block theme in the history of WordPress. This is more than just a new default theme—it’s a brand-new way to work with WordPress themes.

Block themes put a wide array of visual choices directly in your hands, from color schemes and font combinations to page templates and image filters, all from the Site Editor. So in one place, you can either give Twenty Twenty-Two the same look and feel as your organization’s other projects or take your site’s look in another direction. The choice is yours!

The Twenty Twenty-Two theme comes installed with WordPress 5.9. You will find it with your other installed themes.

Global Styles

The release of WordPress 5.8 in 2021 brought us a new standard way for theme developers to customize editor settings and styles—by manipulating the theme.json file. 

WordPress 5.9 takes us even further by introducing a graphic interface that allows all users to customize style presets for their sites. You can do this either globally or at the block level without even having to write any code whatsoever. 

The Global Styles mechanism aims to significantly change the way you customize the appearance of your site, as it affects various aspects of the WordPress website design. We should start with the fact that the Global Styles interface is replacing the Customizer and is now the only method for customizing settings and styles with block themes. Furthermore, complex theme option admin pages are no longer needed. This is great because it provides a new standard way to configure theme settings and styles while at the same time streamlining the theme development process. 

Because of Global Styles, WordPress, you gain additional control over the presentation of your site(s), both globally and per block type, beyond the context of individual pages or posts. 

There is a new sidebar now available in the site editor. At the top of that sidebar, you can find a small preview panel and four components in the following order:

  • Typography;
  • Colors;
  • Layout;
  • Blocks.

The addition of new components is expected to be added over time.

Performance Improvements

As a website owner, you should be aware that speed is crucial. That’s why you should be excited about the performance improvements coming with WordPress 5.9.

These improvements will affect several areas of the CMS, from the block editor to block themes, lazy loading, and more. Let’s dive in.

Block Inserter Enhancements

Block types, patterns, and categories are lazily rendered in the Block Inserter. The browser loads higher-priority content first, giving the user a smoother editing experience and improved performance.

Further notable performance enhancements in the context of the block editor affect reusable blocks and List View.

Less CSS Loaded

As for the front end, WordPress 5.9 drastically cut the amount of CSS loaded by block themes, leading to pages loading significantly faster.

The main improvement that should be noted in this context is the introduction of the theme.json settings and styles mechanism, which prevents themes from using massive stylesheets, including hundreds of CSS declarations. The amount of CSS code a theme uses has now been reduced to a few CSS custom properties that any block type can reuse.

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