What’s New in WordPress 5.5 (+ Screenshots and Tips)

It’s that time again! WordPress 5.5 will be out today if everything goes as planned. I feel quite excited about this new version. I had the chance to be part of the magic that happened behind the scenes of this WordPress release as a mentor and  I would love to share the most important WordPress 5.5 features and improvements that will soon come your way. Our customers will receive the new version shortly after its official release, as always depending on the individual settings in the WordPress auto-updater for each of their installations.

Security Improvements

Easy Control of Plugins and Themes Automatic updates

Since WordPress 3.7 users have been able to turn on/off WordPress native auto-update for their plugins and themes through their wp-config file. Now with WordPress 5.5 turning on/off plugin and themes, auto-updates can be done much easier by clicking a link in the admin interface. 

Plugin Auto-updates

Most of the massive attacks on WordPress websites happen through outdated vulnerable plugins. That is why making the option for plugin auto-update so accessible to all users in the interface has the potential to greatly improve WordPress security. 

To review the Plugins auto-update feature in WordPress 5.5 when it rolls out, go to “All Plugins”, and you will see a new column “Automatic Updates”. We highly recommend that you keep plugin auto-updates ON for all your plugins, as this is the easiest way to receive security updates as soon as possible and keep your site safe. 

plugin auto-update in WordPress 5.5

The SiteGround auto-updater also provides an option for plugin updates in its interface. We check for new versions of your plugins when we do core WordPress auto-updates and we do automatic backups of your WP installation right before the upgrade begins to guarantee a safe failover in case anything goes wrong. Choosing which plugin auto-update option to use is up to you: if you want to get your plugins updated as soon as a new version gets out, make sure you enable the new WordPress feature. It will work fine, regardless of the plugin auto-update setting in our own auto-updater. If you feel you better wait and get a backup before any update, you may rely only on our system. 

Themes Auto-updates

Based on our experience, auto-updating themes can be a trickier process than auto-updating plugins. That is why we have not included such an option so far in SiteGround WordPress auto-updater. After all, changing something in the theme can change the outlook of your website and you may not want this to happen automatically without being pre-viewed by you. 

Still, we believe it is a good idea to keep your themes up-to-date from a security point of view. The best way is to create a staging copy of your site when there is a theme update, check how your site with the updated theme there, and if everything is OK, update the theme on your production installation. 

If you none-the-less want to switch on the themes auto-updates, you need to click on each theme you have installed and enable the option from the theme screen.

theme auto-update in WordPress 5.5

Speed Improvements

There are a lot of factors that determine the performance of your website. However, images are one of the main culprits when it comes to slow web pages. WordPress 5.5 introduces image Lazy loading as a default feature in the WordPress core. This is a great optimization that stops images from loading in bulk when you open a web page and load them gradually instead as you scroll through. 

At SiteGround we have been big fans of Lazy Load for a long time. It is a feature we provide to our users through of SG optimizer plugin since 2018. Since we initially launched the Lazy Loading optimization we have been actively developing it adding support for iframes, videos, WooCommerce products, shortcodes, and much more. At this point, Lazy load options in the SG optimizer are more advanced than what is introduced in the WordPress core. That is why, for people that have Lazy load enabled through the SG optimizer, we will disable the native Lazy load. 

SEO Improvements

Search engine optimization is always evolving and writing unique, useful content that responds to people’s search intents is still the main differentiator between websites that rank well and those that rank poorly. 

However, on top of meaningful copywriting, you should also help your SEO standing by using some more technical tools, like XML Sitemaps for example. XML sitemaps make it easier for search engines to crawl all content elements included in your site and more likely for them to be indexed and shown in searches.

Starting with WordPress 5.5 you will be able to get an XML sitemap generated directly from your WordPress installation without relying on third-party plugins to achieve this.

native sitemaps in WordPress 5.5

This native option is great if you want a map that will list:

  • Pages
  • Posts
  • Categories
  • Tags
  • Users

If you want a more complex sitemap, that includes images, news, and videos, you’ll still need to rely on a third party plugin but I think this is definitely a great option for website owners that don’t want to add plugins.

If you want to dig deeper into more practical SEO tips, check out our series of articles from guest author and SEO expert Rebecca Gill.

Gutenberg UI and functionality

The block editor got a major UI overhaul, as well. Eleven versions of the Gutenberg plugin have been merged into WordPress 5.5, bringing with them new functionality, speed improvements, and a changed UI. 

New Block Editor UI

You will immediately notice how the modal bar that appears when you click into a block is bigger, with more contrast and more compact. The options are still there, and more!

new gutenberg features in wordpress 5.5
improvements gutenberg in wordpress 5.5

New Block Patterns

You will be able to add block patterns, which are combinations of blocks commonly used together. Text and media, two or three buttons in a row, headers with text, you name it. This is a great way to save time when you write your blog posts and an encouragement to be more creative with your content design.

block patterns in WordPress 5.5

Inline Image Editing

During WordCamp Europe 2020 Online, Matt Mullenweg, co-founder of WordPress.org and Matias Ventura, one of the leading engineers of the Gutenberg project, gave a demo of this new feature. You can now zoom, crop, and rotate images directly into the block image. You can see it for yourself in the video recording of the conversation and think about how this can also speed up and improve your editorial workflow. 

And much more

With eleven versions of Gutenberg going into WordPress 5.5 as you can imagine there are a lot more exciting features included. To see them all in detail, you can check out the release posts in the Core blog.

Accessibility Changes

No WordPress major release would be complete without some Accessibility improvements and 5.5 is no different. In this release a number of changes were introduced, with these being the most notable:

  • The first iteration of alternative view modes for list tables
  • Link-list widgets can now be converted to HTML5 navigation blocks.
  • Primary buttons actually look disabled when they are disabled
  • Meta boxes can now be moved with the keyboard.

Pro Tips For Developers

There are a lot of changes under the hood as well, which will be especially interesting for our developer customers. Don’t forget to check the Field Guide with all the Dev Notes related to major changes. I would also recommend you sign up for the Core blog: it’s very active and it’s the best way to keep up to date with changes that might affect your code. The more time you have to test changes, the better… don’t wait for release day to discover that something broke.

Over to you

Have you tried some of the things mentioned above, maybe through the Beta Tester plugin or the Gutenberg plugin? Even if you haven’t tried anything yet, what are you excited and curious to try?

Francesca Marano

WordPress Community Manager

Francesca is a passionate speaker and you can find her in Italy and around the world talking about WordPress, community, open source, women in tech, small businesses. She is a part of the WordPress community team, organizing meetups and WordCamps in Torino and taking part in many other WordPress events worldwide. She is now also the SiteGround WordPress Community Manager.

WordPress

Comments ( 48 )

Sean

Aug 11, 2020

I fully appreciate the work the Wordpress core team do with all the innovative new features, and it's all for free, but when it comes to things like sitemaps and lazy loading, they should know full well that most existing websites have already implemented tried and tested methods of both functions. With that said, the least they could do is offer an easy toggle on/off feature to give users the choice. I can see how this might be useful for new Wordpress users going forward, but for the rest of us it isn't. However, maybe new users would also like to use the more advanced methods for either of these functions that we've already been using for years. Also, plugin authors at both Yoast and SG Optimizer have had to modify their plugins in order to override the new default native features, unnecessary extra work if you have to ask me. Otherwise, I too am excited about the rest of the upcoming changes :-)

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asdf

Aug 13, 2020

I guess they had to choose. Rookies couldn't enable additional XML as easily seasoned builders could adapt to it becoming built-in. They therefore will better support newer users while hopefully not losing more experienced users such as yourself. As more of a noob, I'm grateful. Coincidentally was just getting round to creating first sitemap, so this update will deprive me of that educational experience. No matter. I'm sure there's plenty of other things to worry about!

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Francesca Marano Siteground Team

Aug 13, 2020

There is so much to learn indeed!

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Francesca Marano Siteground Team

Aug 13, 2020

Both features can be disabled by plugin developers so they don't interfere with our settings. I will admit, I also wish some of the features had a UI but I also think some changes cater mostly to developers because, as you said, most WordPress users rely on plugins to get the job done!

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Rick

Aug 26, 2020

I agree with Sean on this for the toggle option.

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Marilyn

Aug 11, 2020

I haven't tried out any of these yet but three of the updates have me excited 1) Easy auto updates for plugins & themes 2) XML sitemaps 3) Update of themes & plugins by uploading zipped files, i.e., the option to replace files without having to delete :)

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Francesca Marano Siteground Team

Aug 12, 2020

The zip upload was really long overdue :-)

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Francesco Giammanco

Aug 11, 2020

Ottimo articolo

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Francesca Marano Siteground Team

Aug 12, 2020

Grazie!

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Brenda Hulsey

Aug 11, 2020

HI,my name is Brenda I've never built a website before this will be my first time. I don't care to tell you i'm scared to death! Wish me luck

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Hristo Pandjarov Siteground Team

Aug 12, 2020

Wishing you luck! It's going to be just fine :)

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John Affayroux

Aug 14, 2020

How about instead of wishing the noobie (my self included) LUCK, Someone could put together a detailed list, as in, backup all files, do the update, make a test of x, y and z. If ok, done, if not, go back to it was by doing a, b, and c?

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Hristo Pandjarov Siteground Team

Aug 14, 2020

Honestly, we would if such list was possible. Generally, the update doesn't cause issues and works great. It's websites using old jQuery version, loading scripts in unorthodox way, bad code, etc. that experience problems and those problems are unique per site. Backups are created daily, our system does one before updating and reverts automatically if an error is noticed so I think we've covered all the general things with automation so you don't even have to check it.

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Honest Guv

Aug 26, 2020

You will be fine, it is a doddle. Hardly anything to mess up and the learning curve is quick. I started from scratch. Read their help files. You also have the "phone a fiend option." SG are pretty tolerant. :)

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Rick

Aug 26, 2020

Have fun with it!

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Cristina

Aug 28, 2020

Good luck Brenda! The first time is always exciting and scaring but you’ll get comfortable once you are in your way. Good luck!

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Anirban Roy

Aug 12, 2020

Thank you for being the best host ever, Siteground!

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Bweb

Aug 12, 2020

Will Siteground be applying environment types accordingly? ie staging environments... And if so, will the auto-generated XML sitemap be disable for staging sites automatically? I have many questions regarding this update.

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Hristo Pandjarov Siteground Team

Aug 13, 2020

Yes, we're working on that and shortly the appropriate variables will be updated. It's up to WordPress from then on to handle different functionalities per staging / production basis.

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Ivan Roca

Aug 12, 2020

How to switch off WordPress 5.5 Lazy Image Loading option?

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Hristo Pandjarov Siteground Team

Aug 13, 2020

If you are using the SG Optimizer, we will switch it off for you and use our functionality. Otherwise, you can use a snippet in your functions.php file: add_filter( 'wp_lazy_loading_enabled', '__return_false' );

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Yoga Pod

Aug 12, 2020

Is WP 5.5 safe to upgrade? Is it stable and compatible with most plugins? Also, what happened to cPanel?

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Hristo Pandjarov Siteground Team

Aug 13, 2020

Yes, so far there aren't any major issues reported. As for your other question, please check out our blog post regarding cPanel and Site Tools.

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Prashant

Aug 12, 2020

I have tried it, its much user friendly & faster than previous!

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Francesca Marano Siteground Team

Aug 12, 2020

Glad you are enjoying it!

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asdf

Aug 13, 2020

What a great article. Francesca, you write beautifully. I'm hugely impressed with Siteground. Over time that is becoming profound gratitude as they continue to keep up the high quality both of product and of support. So glad I'm with this host.

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Francesca Marano Siteground Team

Aug 13, 2020

Glad you are happy with the service and you find the content helpful!

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Debra Hildebrand

Aug 14, 2020

Is there something I should have done along with the update you did? I cannot use the "text" tab in the block editor anymore (have just tried with products) and my global tags don't show up when adding products...woocommerce

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Hristo Pandjarov Siteground Team

Aug 14, 2020

Have you updated WooCommerce too?

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MG Shaking In My Boots

Aug 14, 2020

I'm only building one website, my own. I'm using the Astra theme and Elementor. Most of it I'm building from blank pages. so I don't know what affect the Astra theme has except to coordinate colors, and typography, etc. which is fine. I was feeling good about this until the upgrades now I'm scared, I don't know what to do. 1) Do I upgrade WP first and then the Astra theme? 2) Reading about making a child theme, that's all over my head. 3) Things say to do the changes in a safe environment -- how does Site Ground help me do that? I have no clue. 4) Since I'm building simple pages with my own blocks etc., if I just go ahead and upgrade everything and the theme gets messed up, is any of my content lost? That's what I don't want to risk. I can always re-do. 5) How often does Astra upgrade their theme and I have to do this? I just want to use the parent theme and leave it at that. What help does Site Ground offer me to get this done?

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Hristo Pandjarov Siteground Team

Aug 14, 2020

If you're building from blank pages, I'd recommend using Elementor Canvas and completely ditch the theme because you're not really using it. For the rest, I believe both Elementor and Astra have no issues with the latest WP version. You should be able to safely update both. If you want, you can use our Staging Tool if you're on GoGeek and above plans, make a copy of your site and give it a try. Our auto update system performs backups and rolls back if errors are detected. In addition to that you have 30 days backups at your disposal which can be used in case something else goes wrong. In any case, our technical support is at your disposal and you can reach out to my colleagues if there are issues.

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Jean-Christophe Dick

Aug 14, 2020

There is an issue with SG Optimizer plugin, I contacted SG support and they had no idea, sent me to Elementor through GitHub which quickly found it was a JS issue with Frontend optimization. Already someone else in the Elementor community forum had the same issue. This should be looked at.

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Hristo Pandjarov Siteground Team

Aug 14, 2020

Please, use the plugin forum to report issues. We had only one report from Elementor and it was caused by a completely different plugin. We, however, look into every case so your feedback would be highly appreciated.

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Mark

Aug 14, 2020

Hello, On the face of it WP 5.5 sounds great, but since autoupdate installed it on our site it has been a major issue. 1) Does not work with certain plugins such as Yoast. 2) Many blocks do not work. 3) Robots.txt was suddenly no longer available 4) Sitemaps had major issues and affected our SEO. Which hopefully won't drop us from searches. All in all do not update to WP 5.5. We have had to revert to 5.4.2 to bring our income back on the site. During a pandemic no-one can afford to lose income.

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Hristo Pandjarov Siteground Team

Aug 17, 2020

Most of these look like some incompatibility with Yoast which is a great plugin and even if there are some issues I am sure they will fix them asap. Unfortunatelly, with big changes like the deprication of the old jQuery for example such things might happen.

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Niall Flynn

Aug 14, 2020

Like Gutenberg too little too late, look at the yoast issues alone, this is not needed. Image sizes, layloading etc all things folks have dealt with for 5-8 years now. WPMUdev, SiteGround etc all do this and more by default. Still no SVG support in the CMS and its 2020 :)

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BB

Aug 25, 2020

Hallo, I can't upload themes to my homepage/new website. It's only download and download on Mac doesn't work.

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Marina Yordanova Siteground Team

Aug 26, 2020

We have a detailed tutorial for Installing themes: https://www.siteground.com/tutorials/wordpress/install-themes/ It will guide you through the entire process step by step. Please review the tutorial first, and if you still encounter problems, contact us through your Client Area HelpDesk.

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AMAR VISHWA India

Aug 26, 2020

Wow , GREAT news , COOOOOOOOL . Always need this , So much thanks to entire Team .

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David

Aug 26, 2020

Any auto-update routine sends shivers down my back! I'd rather have complete control over what gets updated & when it gets updated

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Faisal

Aug 27, 2020

great news I hope It will be helpful for the users. congrats to the team. regards Faisal

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ssnobben

Aug 26, 2020

Wow when will you update Joomla webhosting capabilities and get it right with the fabulous Joomla 4 ?

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Marina Yordanova Siteground Team

Aug 28, 2020

We haven't come across reports about issues with Joomla 4 Alpha. Please contact our Support team if there is a specific case you need assistance with.

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Sonumes

Aug 29, 2020

Thanks Author, Very useful post ever...

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AMM

Aug 31, 2020

My theme customizations don't work with Wordpress 5.5. I reverted to WP 5.4.2 but then the auto updater installed 5.5 again. How can I keep 5.4.2 until the theme developer catches up to 5.5?

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Marina Yordanova Siteground Team

Sep 01, 2020

You could disable it by adding a line of code to your wp-config.php file as shown here: https://www.siteground.com/tutorials/wordpress/auto-updates/#How_to_completely_disable_the_WordPress_autoupdates

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LJ

Sep 03, 2020

We tried to publish the posts for the latest issue of our news website after updating to 5.5. WordPress said the post was published, but it didn't appear on our home (landing) page. We discovered that it did appear in a Recent Articles sidebar but we need all posts pertaining to each issue of our news site to appear on the home page, and these latest posts have time-sensitive material. What could the problem be? And how do we fix this? Thanks very much

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Hristo Pandjarov Siteground Team

Sep 08, 2020

There is a maintenance update after 5.5.0 so I suggest you install it plus the jQuery Migrate Helper plugin by the WP Core tam if needed.

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