Unless something changes between now and January 25th, 2022, your WordPress website will be upgraded with the first major release in 2022 — WordPress 5.9. Providing, of course, that you have set your website to auto-update major WordPress releases.
If your website is set up to only auto-update if it’s a security patch, or a bug fix, then you may want to hold off a week or two before upgrading to 5.9. It has often been the case that minor bug fixes get pushed out rather quickly following a major upgrade. Holding off also allows a little time for theme and plugin developers to release their own updates to ensure compatibility with the latest version of WordPress.
WordPress 5.9 builds upon the editing features included in the recently released 5.8 version. It’s likely that if you are now running 5.8 and you’ve not had any problems with your theme and/or plugins, you won’t notice any impact to your theme when 5.9 is released. At least not for the time being. But, as you know, technology and WordPress constantly evolves.
If you’re still using the Classic editor instead of the Block (Gutenberg) editor, and/or your theme does not support the new full site editing (FSE) features included in 5.9, you will not be able to take full advantage of all the new enhancements. Full site editing features focus on styling for ALL parts of your website, not just the content area. FSE means that your website will be using blocks for everything. As such, the links to the Customizer (where you added any CSS to make style changes to the design) and Widgets will be hidden. With 5.9, you’ll be able to change colors — either site-wide or for different block types — and typography in global styles.
How do you know whether or not you’re site was built using the Classic editor? Chances are that if your website was built 3 or more years ago, and your theme has not been updated since then, you’re using the Classic editor.
Note: WordPress support for the Classic Editor was slated to end on December 31, 2021, but has been extended until the end of this year. Don’t panic. It’s not as if your Classic plugin is going to vanish into the black hole of material possessions and/or will no longer work. After all, it’s not easy to simply do away with a plugin that has five million installations. The Classic plugin will continue to be listed on the WordPress repository for however long it’s necessary. It’s just that it will no longer be supported.
If your website was built on Classic editor, and your theme does not support Gutenberg blocks, NOW would be a good time to update your website — instead of waiting until you NEED to upgrade, but don’t have time to deal with it. Gutenberg and block editors are going to be the future of editing in WordPress.
A Few Highlights of the New Features in WordPress 5.9
Improved block editing.
One of the reasons why millions of WordPress users installed the Classic Editor plugin when Gutenberg was released in 2018 was the frustration of working with Blocks. When you’re using to doing something the same way for decades, suddenly having to do things a whole new way can be quite the learning curve. For many users, the block editor was annoying and frustrating. The Classic plugin provided a way to easily switch back and forth from Classic to Block.
WordPress 5.9 makes it easier to work with blocks, and reorder sections. Other design tools in WordPress 5.9 give you control over typography, featured image attributes, borders, button arrangement, and image filters.
10 new blocks specifically for the full site editing feature.
One of which is a new way to add Navigation Menus to your site. You will notice that the “Menu” link that was on the left side of your dashboard screen has been changed from “Menu” to “Navigation Menus.”
If you’re using a modern theme that supports this new feature, then you will be able to simply add a navigation menu by using the Navigation Menu block in your editor. Unlike the Classic editor, the new block editor makes it easy to adjust colors, spacing, alignment, and more. No more need to add custom CSS to make these changes. You can also use the navigation block to create navigation menus inside of your articles.
The ability to move sections of your page around simply by clicking on an item from the list and move it up and down. This comes in handy when you want to readjust your layout.
Social icons and buttons are now easier to use and control.
For all of the details about WordPress 5.9, you can find the WordPress 5.9 Field Guide here.