The latest release of WordPress is WordPress 5.6 “Simone”. It’s nicknamed after Nina Simone, an American performer, musician, and civil rights activist.
WordPress comes out with major updates a few times every year. These updates offer new features and improved performance and security. Each time a new version is released, I do a blog post with all the new features that might interest you.
Since version 5.6 is considered a major update (ie. not a minor security update), you might need to manually run an update on your WordPress sites. Or, your web hosting account may handle WordPress updates for you. (Not familiar with how to update your WordPress website? Check out my easy-to-follow step by step guide and video on “How to Update WordPress to the Latest Version”).
However, I always recommend waiting several days before updating to the latest version especially if it’s a major update. This gives all the plugin and theme developers time to do any updates on their end.
New Features of WordPress 5.6
I’ve listed some new features in WordPress 5.6 below.
You’ll see the majority of these new features have something to do with the Block Editor, which is the default editor used in WordPress now (aka. Gutenberg). Although the WordPress Block Editor has improved since its introduction several years ago, other WordPress editors like Divi and Elementor offer more useful functions and are also easier to use. As a result, I don’t teach the WordPress Block Editor in my Website Creation Workshop.
New Default Theme with WordPress 5.6: Twenty Twenty-One
Twenty Twenty-One is a blank canvas for your ideas and it makes the block editor your best brush. With new block patterns, which allow you to create a beautiful layout in a matter of seconds, this theme’s soft colors and eye-catching — yet timeless — design will let your work shine.
Twenty Twenty-One features a simple design that makes it easy to create a site with its block editor. It offers neat block patterns (pre-made layouts made up of regular blocks), enabling you to create a complicated layout like below in no time!
It features pretty pastel color schemes to choose from.
In addition to being beautiful, Twenty Twenty-One is designed to meet the highest level of international accessibility standards. All the pre-set color palettes conform to AAA standards for contrast. And even when you choose your own background color for the theme, the theme automatically chooses the text colors that meet the accessibility standards as well.
The Twenty Twenty-One Theme Has Dark Mode Functionality
Another interesting feature about Twenty Twenty-One is its “Dark Mode” capability. Bright screens strain your eyes and use more battery/electricity. Some video sites and apps have already been offering a way for the users to change their screen’s background color to a dark one to give their eyes some break.
This function has also been available in WordPress with a plugin. Twenty Twenty-One offers this as a part of the theme. And because the color schemes are already set for this function in mind, your site will still look good even with the dark mode on!
In the previous release of WordPress 5.5 we got the auto-update feature for themes and plugins. Now with WordPress 5.6, you have the option to set auto-updates for WordPress software core releases (even major updates).
If you’re building a new WordPress site with WordPress 5.6, this option is already turned on. If you’re updating an existing site to WordPress 5.6, you can turn it on if you choose.
At this point, I don’t recommend turning this on. As I mentioned earlier, a major update might cause some themes and plugins to stop functioning correctly. So it’s a good idea to wait a couple of weeks before updating, to give developers time to make necessary changes.
If you decide to turn this on, just make sure to do a full backup of your site on a regular basis. That way, you can recover your website quickly if an auto-update causes an issue. Of course, you can always turn automatic updates off.
In some situations they give you no choice and they automatically update the site, or they do NOT automatically update the site. This has to do with your hosting company, so contact them.
Site Health Check Improvements
WordPress 5.6 comes with many upgrades in the ‘Site Health Check’ functions. This information helps you improve the security and performance of your WordPress site. However, these checks run in the background and may not be obvious to users. Just remember to keep paying attention to your ‘Site Health’ and fix issues as necessary.
Block Editor and Other Improvements in WordPress 5.6
If you use the WordPress Block Editor, you’ll see new blocks and functions with WordPress 5.6.
However, I still don’t feel their block editor is as useful as the classic editor or other drag-and-drop type block editors (such as Divi). So, I won’t comment on those features in this blog post.
Learn more about WordPress 5.6 in the official blog post by WordPress.org here.
I just love the fact the developers keep improving WordPress. So grateful for the entire WordPress community that helps WordPress to be such a wonderful website platform!