Written by: Sanjeev

Blogging Monthly 007 – WordPress 5.6, Black Friday Deals, Astra Theme Update, And Genesis Block Theme

In this episode, we will discuss the upcoming WordPress 5.6 release, latest Black Friday deals for Bloggers and Genesis Block Theme BETA for WordPress.

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With this monthly episode, we will discuss the upcoming WordPress 5.6 release, latest Black Friday deals for Bloggers and Genesis Block Theme BETA for WordPress.

Blogging Monthly 007 Episode

WordPress 5.6 News and Theme Updates

Hey Everyone, Welcome to the latest episode of Blogging Monthly. This is Sanjeev Mohindra from MetaBlogue and in this episode, we will talk about the latest updates around Blogging and WordPress.

We are coming close to the end of 2020 but before that we have to brace one more major update of WordPress – WordPress 5.6. So, let’s start this month episode with talking about the upcoming features in this release.

WordPress 5.6 Features

Currently, WordPress 5.6 is slated to launch on 8th December unless there are some serious issues in BETA testing. This will be the last major release for WordPress this year and packed with some of the key features.

PHP 8 Support

The first feature coming with the update is support for upcoming PHP 8 upgrade. PHP 8 upgrade will be launched at start of December 2020 and WordPress will have support for it within a week.

Since PHP 8 is a major upgrade and contains a lot of features, you may not want to move your WordPress sites to PHP 8 right away. The WordPress themes and Plugins which you use on your blog also needs to be tested with the latest version before you can think of upgrading the PHP version.

Though, it’s nice to know that WordPress core will have compatibility with the latest version and as soon as other plugins are certified, you can plan the move. PHP 8 comes with many enhancements including JIT (Just in Time Compiler).

For novice, the JIT will convert the PHP byte code to machine code removing the intermediary formats with the help of Dynamic Assembler. This should speed up the PHP code interpretation which intern should help WordPress improve the page performance. If you want to know more about the PHP 8 changes, Kinsta has a good article on it – Check Here.

I use Plesk for managing most of my WordPress installs, so I will be looking for Plesk support of PHP 8. Plesk allows to install multiple versions of PHP and attach web apps to specific PHP version. It means, I can install and test staging sites with PHP 8 before making it live for my sites.

The idea should be to look for sites with a smaller number of plugins and traffic, to see the compatibility with PHP 8. Those should be the sites to move to latest version and see the performance enhancement before moving the real money sites.

Gutenberg Editor Improvement

The upcoming release will pack as many as seven Gutenberg plugin release. All the updates for last seven releases will be pushed into WordPress Core with this release.

There are some minor enhancements on the Information section to communicate the structure and word count more clearly for your posts. Typography section gets an option to set the line height along with font size and weight.

WordPress 5.6 Editor Enhancement

The Block patterns was introduced in WordPress 5.5 and they are getting some nice UI enhancement. Now, they will be organized under category so that users can easily navigate between them. You will also get more pattern with the default WordPress theme and premium WordPress themes can use the facility to arrange the pattern designed by them.

The other major updates like Block based Widgets has been postponed to next WordPress update as there is some more work pending. The complete block-based site editor is also not ready for the prime time, so it will be available in the future updates.

Auto Major Updates

WordPress already allows automatic updates to minor releases, with the WordPress 5.6, you can opt for automatic major updates also. It’s an optional setting which means you have to choose in the WordPress admin interface to get the automatic updates.

Though, the automatic updates are coming for WordPress major updates, I would not recommend enabling it. Major updates can have clashes with WordPress Themes and Plugins. I don’t think developer community currently ready for it.

Developers needs to test their plugins with the major updates, release fixes in case of issues. Though WordPress notify them for the release date, I still think, developer community takes some time to adopt the WordPress updates.

One of the reasons many webmasters don’t upgrade their sites right away for major updates is themes and plugins compatibility. This would still be an issue and unless we have solution to it, not sure how many webmasters will adopt to it.

WordPress currently leave it at optional but in future they want it to make a default option. It means developer community gets some time to practice the WordPress upgrade support before WordPress forces it.

Accessibility Updates

There are some more updates to WordPress blocks related to accessibility like adding caption to your videos. Along with that there are some more bug fixes how the WordPress accessibility gets handled on Windows or Mac.

The update will also bring the new Twenty Twenty-One default theme which is created accessibility in mind. It aims to be AAA ready to provide accessibility for the site.

So, these are some of the updates which you will get on 8th December with WordPress 5.6 update. PHP 8 update should come before that but as I recommend earlier, I would wait before moving the sites on PHP 8.


Black Friday Deals For Bloggers

How it is possible that we talk in the Thanksgiving week and doesn’t talk about Black Friday. Black Friday deals are already pouring in for webmasters and bloggers. If you are looking for specific product deals, I have setup a page on MetaBlogue for Black Friday deals for WordPress. Go ahead and take advantage of that if you are looking to buy some products.

Many companies participate in the Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. For WordPress Theme and Plugins, most of the companies are going beyond to offer the deals for whole week rather than only the weekend. So, you have enough time to look, decide and buy the products you need.


Astra Theme Update

WordPress has decided to delay the site wide block updates but that doesn’t mean premium themes are stopping. Astra is one of the best WordPress Freemium themes which allows you to create customized sites. They are working on Header and Footer customizer which will allow you to easily build those sections for your sites.

They have released a BETA to test the new header and footer creator which will be released in later update. Currently there are limited customers who have access to BETA testing and trying their hands on the new section builder. The early reviews are positive, and it makes it much easy to create beautiful looking header and footer section for your site.

The good thing that rather than creating an admin section, they have integrated it in the WordPress Customizer. Astra, true to its roots, integrate well with WordPress way of development. This new integration gives you a freedom to design multi-layer header and footer with the similar experience, you are familiar with.

The process is as easy as dropping widgets in the widget space and setting them up. You get three lines of space, you can easily add widgets to before, after and header lines. Based on the widget selection, you will also get the settings in the customizer to enhance the look of your header and footer.

Here is a video demo of the new functionality. If you like it, Black Friday will be an appropriate time to get the theme and be ready for it.


Genesis Block Theme

Genesis Themes are running the BETA for the latest WordPress theme called Block Theme. This is different than all the other child themes of Genesis Framework.

Genesis Block Theme BETA Testing

Till now all the child themes needs Genesis Framework to run on the WordPress, but this Genesis Block Theme will be independent theme. You can install on the WordPress site and with the upcoming full site experience, you can easily build the complete site design using blocks.

This will be a big move from the Genesis Framework strategy till now. Till now all the core functionality has been delivered with Genesis Framework and theme layouts with Child Theme.

But the overall landscape of WordPress Themes is changing. Now, if you see most of the major themes like Elegant Themes, GeneratePress, Astra, Thrive Theme Builder, all of them are single themes with huge customization options. So, you don’t need to keep changing themes, you can use the customization options to tailor the look of your site.

Most of the themes are offering the pre-made templates which can be installed with one click. Genesis Block Theme is the step in same direction. With this theme, you can create most of the theme elements within block editor.

Also, WordPress moving towards full site editing, this theme will keep supporting more elements of the site. Templates, Blocks and Block Patterns will be the key for the success of this theme. We need to see how many different block templates will be supported since they also sale Genesis Pro for the premium block templates.

Is there something else you would like to listen about or like us to cover as part of this Blogging Monthly series, please write to bm.feedback@metablogue.com. If you have any tips for the news around blogging, you can send it to us on bm.tips@metablogue.com. You can always follow us on Twitter or Facebook for the latest updates.

Full Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning that if you click on one of the links and purchase an item, we may receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). We only hyperlink the products which we feel adds value to our audience. Financial compensation does not play a role for those products.

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About Sanjeev

A passionate blogger and technology enthusiast with more than 20 years of experience in enterprise software development. Over 12 Years of experience in successfully building blogs from scratch.

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