roland kirk

Del de la Haye (Flickr name:del) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (]

WordPress’ latest version, WordPress 5.3  just got released. It’s nicknamed “Kirk” in honor of jazz musician Rahsaan Roland Kirk

wordpress 5.3 logoWordPress normally comes out with major updates a few times every year, adding new features and improving performance and security. And when they release a new software version, I like to send out an email with all the new features that might interest you!

Since version 5.3 is considered a major update (ie. not a minor security update), you might need to manually run an update on your WordPress sites unless you have a web hosting account that handles it 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, in general, I recommend waiting for a few days to a week before updating to WordPress 5.3. This gives all the plugin and theme developers time to do any updates on their end which tends to happen when a major release comes out.

New Features of WordPress 5.3

WordPress 5.3 is a major release, introducing 150+ new features and improvements, both in the front-end (what you see on the outside of your site) and on the back end (what you see when you log in as the admin) aka under the hood!

Below, I’ll go over some of the useful features you’ll see as a WordPress user.

Automatic Image Rotation in WordPress 5.3

Have you ever taken a photo on your Smartphone, uploaded it to your WordPress site, and found it was displaying sideways? Whenever that happened, I had to tell myself, “Oh, there is no way that WordPress would know the correct orientation of the photo… I just need to fix it myself.”

WordPress 5.3 proved that it has gotten much smarter! It can now detect the orientation data of the photo and correctly orient it as you upload. See the photo below. The image on the right shows an image uploaded to a website with WordPress 5.2, and the left with WordPress 5.3.

wordpress 5.3 automatic image rotation

High-resolution Image Support in WordPress 5.3

Another cool image feature you’ll see with WordPress 5.3 is optimizing large images.

As you know, the quality of photos has gotten much better in recent years. As a result, typical photo file sizes have gotten very large. However, when large size images are used on a website, the site can get ‘heavy,’ resulting in slowing down the site loading time. Large files can also quickly use up the server space and affect site performance as well.

WordPress 5.3 detects as you upload a large image file and automatically resizes it to an optimal maximum size for a website (2560px). This will be a handy feature for those who don’t know much about image optimization and how to reduce the image size before uploading. This often happens when you purchase stock photography for your website.


Better Accessibility for Visually Impaired Users

WordPress 5.3 aims to improve accessibility so that the admin interface is easier to see. You’ll notice this when you log in to your WordPress Admin Dashboard.

Lines are darker, drop shadows are gone, and the overall color contrast is easier on the eye. Here is a comparison of the “Quick Draft” area:

WordPress 5.2 Quick Draft

WordPress 5.2 Quick Draft

WordPress 5.3 Quick Draft

WordPress 5.3 Quick Draft


New Default Theme: Twenty Twenty

The new default theme is here, and it’s named, “Twenty Twenty” (surprise!). Here is what they say about the theme:

Our default theme for 2020 is designed to take full advantage of the flexibility of the block editor. Organizations and businesses have the ability to create dynamic landing pages with endless layouts using the group and column blocks.

twenty twenty wordpress theme

It will be interesting to try out this theme to see how easy and flexible it is to create sleek landing pages.


Block Editor (“Gutenberg”) Improvements

If you use WordPress’ built-in block editor (nicknamed “Gutenberg”),  instead of the Classic editor or the editor that came with your WordPress theme, you’ll notice the editor responds to you faster in WordPress 5.3. You’ll also see the explanation of what each block does when you hover over various block types in the editor, which can be helpful if you are not familiar with them.

media and text block

They also introduced a new “Group” block, which sounds interesting but I have not tried it yet.  You can read more about the block editor improvements here at


Administration Email Verification in WordPress 5.3

Have you ever had trouble recovering your WordPress admin panel access because you changed your email address but forgot to update your WordPress user information accordingly?

It sounds like something like that happens more often than you think because WordPress 5.3 will now remind you of your login email address from time to time. They call it, “Administration Email Verification.”

You’ll be periodically greeted by this screen when you try logging in:

admin email verification

It even makes it easy for you to update your address with that Update button right there.  Once you update it, you will get an email asking you to verify the email address.  Just click on that link to verify your address.


Easier-to-Understand Site Health Screen in WordPress 5.3

The Site Health introduced with WordPress 5.1 has been a helpful tool especially for non-techie WordPress website owners. And WordPress 5.3 brought some improvements to the Site Health to make it even easier for users to understand.

site health

Instead of the Site Health status shown in percentage, it simply says either “Good” or “Should be improved.” You can now stop unnecessarily worrying about the 10% when the Site Health says “90% healthy.” 🙂


View Password Option on the login Screen

Now with WordPress 5.3, you can view your password when you are logging in.  It makes knowing that you are typing in the correct password much easier!  Just click the little eye and you can see what password you have typed in.


With all these new features, there is so much to get excited about WordPress 5.3!

As more features are introduced, I’ll of course incorporate them into my Website Creation Workshop Program. The next WordPress foundation workshop is coming in Spring 2020…
If you would like to be notified when enrollment opens for the WordPress Foundation Class, just go here!

If instead you already have a WordPress site and want to know more about marketing your WordPress site and my top 10 WordPress Plugins, go here!


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