WordPress 4.4 Update: What You Need to Know
What changes can you expect?
The next WordPress update is scheduled for release on December 8. There’s already some online buzz (and some misinformation) about it, so we thought we’d let you know what you can expect.
As always, many of the changes are behind the scenes and you won’t even notice them. They’re small code improvements that make things run better, faster, or more efficiently. But there are definitely a few improvements you need to know about.
New Default Theme 2016
Every year for the past five years, WordPress has released a new default theme. Named for the year, they started with TwentyTen. Now we’re up to TwentyFifteen, and with version 4.4 WordPress is releasing TwentySixteen.
It was designed by Takashi Irie (who also designed TwentyFourteen and TwentyFifteen), and according to WordPress spokesman Lance Willett:
“The default theme should show off the latest and greatest features, be flexible enough to gracefully support child themes and encourage customization, work well for a blog or a website, and sport a design that is aesthetically pleasing and a bit different from the last design. Under the hood it should represent the best in coding practices and technical excellence. That said, the default theme isn’t trying to be an end-all-be-all theme. It won’t please everyone.”
TwentySixteen features a standard blog layout, with a horizontal header and menu across the top, and a sidebar on the right. It was built with a mobile first approach, so it’s responsive and looks great on devices of all sizes. Other notable features include:
- Custom color options, making it easy to personalize.
- Image sizes are larger, corresponding to current trends
- Pull quotes
- Custom post intros and excerpts
- 2 widget areas at the bottom of posts and pages — great for calls to action
Improved Responsive Images
Images place a big load on a page, and with the trend toward larger images, some sites take a big hit in terms of page load speed. Unfortunately, internet users are impatient with slow load times, and Google’s algorithms reward speed.
WordPress 4.4 will include support for image loading into WordPress core. Specifically, it will include native support for srcset and sizes so site owners will no longer need to rely on plugins (which add their own load!) for this functionality.
WordPress lets you seamlessly embed YouTube videos, tweets, and content from a few other approved sources. It’s called oEmbed.
Now they’re expanding that capability to allow embedding from almost any source.
They’ve added some security protocols, since embedding things in your site from unknown sources can be a bit risky.
To use oEmbed, you’ll just insert the URL on a line of its own, like this:
As a WordPress user, this is not an enhancement that you’ll notice, but my developer friends are squealing like little girls at a sleepover.
API stands for Application Programming Interface. It’s the way one program talks to another — for example, if you use HootSuite to handle your social media posting, it communicates with Twitter by means of an API.
REST stands for Representational State Transfer.
The REST API is a specific API that was designed to get information into (or from) WordPress from a variety of sources. It’s fairly new, and was designed with modern browsers and mobile devices in mind.
It will be merged into the WordPress 4.4 core, and will make life easier for theme and plugin designers.
Taxonomy Term Metadata
Metadata gives you information about other data. Taxonomy is a classification scheme. Term in WordPress is not a category or tag, but gets its context from the term taxonomy table. So taxonomy term metadata means that WordPress is giving you a way to get information about taxonomy terms.
Frankly, unless you’re a real statistics, analytics, or developer geek, this won’t mean much to you. I’m only including it here because you may have seen it elsewhere and have questions about it.
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