WordPress 5.5 Update- New Block Features, XML Sitemap, Lazy Loading Images and more

The release of WordPress 5.5 is on the horizon and it is the second major update of the year. According to the official WordPress blog, this update is set to be released on 11th August 2020 and will include a couple of features that were not shipped with WordPress 5.4 along with major changes to User Interface, improvements to block editor, introduction of new features and more.

In this article we will be taking you through some of the new features of WordPress 5.5.

But before we move forward, it is important to know WordPress 5.5 is currently under development and this means there are chances that some of the features might not be included in the stable release.

Having said that, lets dive into the article

What’s new in WordPress 5.5

As mentioned above, WordPress 5.5 is a major update and there are quite a lot of features and improvements that will be included in this update such as

  • Improved Design
  • Lazy Load for images
  • XML Sitemaps
  • New Icons
  • Auto Update for themes and plugins
  • Introduction of new block directory
  • Inline Image Editing
  • Block Patterns

And more. Below we have discussed each of these features and more in detail.

Changes to Block Editor in WordPress 5.5

Before WordPress 5.0, Classic editor was the default editor and after the release of this update it was replaced by Gutenberg Block Editor.

It was a drastic change and since then WordPress has been releasing regular updates and features to improve the block editor such as

WordPress 5.1– The biggest change to the Block editor in this update was improvement in its performance. Before this update, Gutenberg was little sluggish and after the release of this update the editor’s load time was improved and typing felt improved.

WordPress 5.2– In this update the block editor received a significant improvement in its performance as it reduced the load time of large posts by 35% and the key press time was down by half. Also, several new blocks were added such as RSS, Amazon Kindle embed, Search, Calender and Tag Cloud. To keep a track of these blocks, Block Manager tool was introduced using which you can switch the blocks on and off and it will show you only the ones you need.

WordPress 5.3– This time as well the block editor team was able to reduce the loading time for large post (around 36k words and 1k blocks) by 1.5 seconds. On top of that new features such as Group Blocks was introduced and also improvements to various blocks was released.

WordPress 5.4– Just like the previous updates, Block editor team was further able to improve the performance of Gutenberg editor. There was a 14% reduction in load time and the time to type was reduced by 51%. Also, two new blocks were added and these were social links and buttons. As far as improvement to blocks is concerned, more color options were released for Button, Cover, Group and Column blocks. It is important to know after this update WordPress started displaying the block editor in fullscreen mode.

Now that you know about the previous changes, it is time we take a look at.

New Features and Improvements for Gutenberg in WordPress 5.5

WordPress 5.5 will include 10 releases of Gutenberg plugin starting from 7.6 to 8.5 and will also have bug fixes and improvements from Gutenberg 8.6 and 8.7. Hence, the list of features and improvements is long and let’s take a look at some of them individually

UI Improvements

The first improvement or change that you will be able to notice is the prominent and defined borders around toolbars and buttons.

border around buttons and toolbar in Word

The next change that is you will be able to spot easily is the button for adding new blocks is now a button.

add new block button in WordPress 5.5

If you have been using the block editor for a while then you know that this button is not clearly defined in the versions of WordPress previous than 5.5.

Also, you will notice the Canvas Padding has been removed.

canvas padding removed in Gutenberg

And some of the blocks have new icons.

Device Previews

Another interesting feature that we came across while testing WordPress 5.5 was Multi Device Preview.

This is a new feature and cannot be found in WordPress versions prior to 5.5 and using this you can see how your content will look on various screen sizes.

device preview in WordPress 5.5

As you can see in the screenshot above, you can select the device from the list and the content area will automatically change showing you how your content will appear on that screen size.

new device preview feature in WordPress 5.5

This is a useful addition as it will let you know about the appearance of your post on different devices without having to leave the WordPress dashboard. If you have used page builders like Elementor or Divi to create pages then I’m sure you would have used this feature before.

All in all a great addition to the block editor.

Inline Image Editing

Before we dive into this section, it is important to know that you can edit images in WordPress and it allows you to crop, rotate, resize and flip.

Now, if you want to do this then you will have to go to Media Library in your WordPress dashboard and from there you can edit it.

In WordPress 5.5, this feature has received a major improvement and you will be able to edit images without having to leave the editor.

inline image editing in WordPress 5.5

As you can see in the screenshot above, this feature allows you to zoom, rotate change aspect ratio and crop an image inside WordPress editor. This means you will no longer have to leave the editor for doing minor edits to images in WordPress.


There are a few changes and improvements that have been done to the heading block and the first change is the new icon.

heading block icon change in WordPress 5.5

And the second improvement is, now you can change the level of heading to any from the toolbar itself.

headings level change in WordPress 5.5

It is important to know in the versions prior to this you only have heading levels up till 4 in the toolbar and the option to transform headings to H5 and H6 are in the sidebar.

Preformatted Block

Preformatted block is used for displaying the text exactly as you type it. Often this block is used to add code snippets in a tutorial or a post.

In WordPress 5.5, this block has received a minor change and it can now be changed into a code block.

change preformatted block to code block

In previous WordPress versions, a preformatted block can only be changed into a Paragraph, Classic paragraph or Group block. However, in this update you will see the Classic paragraph has been replaced by the code block.

Block Patterns

Block Patterns is a new feature that will be included in WordPress 5.5 and with the help of this you will be able to design pages quickly.

These patterns can be found next to the Block menu that appears when you click the (+) button in the top toolbar.

block patterns in WordPress 5.5

When I was trying this feature, there were only a limited patterns available for buttons, columns, headers and text. But all in all this is a very useful addition as using these pre-built pattern blocks will help speed up the design process. Also, with time you will definitely see an increase in the number of these patterns.

Block Directory

Another important addition to the Block Editor will be the new Block directory. These are WordPress plugins using which you will be able to add new blocks to the editor without having to leave it.

block directory in WordPress 5.5

As you can see in the screenshot above, the block directory search is the same as the block search. And to add a new block using this feature all you have to do is search for the block, add the block and continue writing.

Before we move forward it is important to keep in mind that, this Block Directory will only include plugins that contain a single block and follow specific guidelines.

The Gutenberg block plugins that offer multiple blocks cannot be accessed or installed using this feature because single block plugins are just meant for adding blocks and on the other hand regular WordPress plugins can include other features and functionality as well.

Also, these plugins will continue to work the same way.

Background Colors and Gradient

If you like to design your blog posts then this feature is for you. WordPress 5.5 will allow you to add background colors and gradients to various blocks such as Groups, Paragraphs, Headings, Columns, and more.

background color and gradient in WordPress 5.5

Using this you can design your posts and pages better than before using the block editor.

Drag and Drop

In WordPress 5.5, you will notice a massive improvement in the drag and drop feature. Earlier moving or re-arranging of blocks was a little dull. However, in WordPress 5.5 it is very smooth and the difference is noticeable.

Now, you will be easily able to see where you are about to place the block and that is because the buttons to move the blocks have been shifted next to the block icon or switcher.

smooth drag and drop in WordPress 5.5

It is important to know removal of the movers and canvas padding gives the block editor a much cleaner look.

Multiple Block Formatting

Another interesting feature that will be added to the block editor is the ability to format multiple blocks at the same time.

For example, if you have created 3 blocks of text and you want to change the formatting of the content on each of them then all you have to do is select 3 blocks and the options to format will be available in the sidebar.

multiple block formatting in WordPress 5.5

Before we move forward, it is important to keep in mind that the blocks that you are going to format must be the same. This means if 2 blocks are text and 1 is image or group then you won’t be able to use this feature.

Auto Update Plugin and Themes in WordPress 5.5

To promote better security and streamline the updating process, WordPress introduced automatic background updates in WordPress 3.7. This means minor updates were installed automatically as soon as its released.

This feature has now been extended to themes and plugins and you can enable automatic updates for themes and plugins in your WordPress dashboard.

Now to enable automatic updates for plugins, the first step is to log in to your WordPress dashboard and navigate to plugins. There you will see the option to Auto- Update in front of every plugin.

automatic updates for plugins in WordPress 5.5

Click Enable auto-updates to enable this feature for the plugins you want to automatically update.

As mentioned above, this feature is also available for themes and in order to enable automatic updates for WordPress themes, you need to go to your WordPress dashboard then head over to Appearance then themes. Now select the theme that you want to enable this feature for.

automatic updates for themes in WordPress 5.5

And you will find the “Enable Auto-Update” option.

It is important to know using this feature you can keep the plugins and themes you are using updated preventing any security vulnerabilities.

Update Themes and Plugins using zip file

This feature is an extension of what we have discussed above and with WordPress 5.5 you will be able to update themes and plugins by using zip files.

To update plugins using this feature, the first thing you have to do is login to your WordPress dashboard and click Plugins then Add New. In the next step, you need to upload the plugin’s zip file and click Install Now.

update plugins using zip file in WordPress 5.5

When you click Install now, you will see the logs very similar to the screenshot above. Also, it is important to notice the logs clearly state “Destination folder already exists” then displays the current and uploaded versions.

And at the bottom it gives you 2 options

  • Replace current with uploaded- In case you want to update the plugin.
  • Cancel and go back- If you want to skip the update.

Having said that,

As mentioned above, you can use this feature to update themes as well and for that you need to visit Appearance then Themes and click Add New.

On clicking Add New, it will take you to the Add themes page where you will see the option to Upload Themes.

When you click Upload Themes, it will allow you to add the theme’s zip file. Once you are done adding, click Install now.

And it will show the same logs as above and all you have to do is either select Replace current with uploaded or skip it by clicking Cancel and go back.

Before we move forward, it is important to know this feature will come in very handy when plugins or themes are not working as expected and you need to manually update to fix the problem.

With the introduction of this feature, you will no longer have to use FTP for this until you can’t access the WordPress dashboard.

XML Sitemaps in WordPress 5.5

XML sitemaps are an important part of any website and it is the collection of all the links of posts, pages, categories, tags, and other elements of your website.

This file is used by search engine bots to crawl your site and plays an important role in SEO. Creating this file is very simple and straight forward and all you need to do is install and configure any popular SEO plugin. And the plugin will generate an optimized sitemap for your site.

Till now WordPress was not offering this feature. However, in WordPress 5.5 this feature is being introduced and will be enabled by default. Below I have listed a few object types that will be indexable.

  • Homepage
  • Post archive
  • Pages and posts
  • Custom post type
  • Categories and tags
  • Custom Taxonomies
  • Author archive

It is important to keep in mind that WordPress sitemap index will be created at /wp-sitemap.xml. In other words, you will be able to see the default sitemap generate by WordPress on https://yourdomain.com/wp-sitemap.xml/ where “yourdomain.com” is the name of your domain.

Also, each sitemap index will be able to hold a maximum of 50k sitemaps and each sitemap can hold a maximum of 2k entries.

Now, I’am sure there will plenty of questions regarding this feature and below ar some of the frequently asked ones

How can you disable default sitemap in WordPress?

There are 2 ways you can disable sitemap generated by WordPress

  • Using wp_sitemaps_enabled filter
add_filter( 'wp_sitemaps_enabled', '__return_false' );
  • By disabling initialization of sitemaps
remove_action( 'init', 'wp_sitemaps_get_server' );

What about image, video and news sitemaps?

Sitemap functionality in WordPress 5.5 is pretty basic and extensions like image, video and news is currently not covered by this feature. In future, WordPress might introduce hooks and filters that will enable other plugins to add this feature.

What about sites using plugins to generate sitemaps?

If you are using any popular WordPress SEO plugin like All in one SEO, Rank Math or Yoast to generate sitemaps then it is important to know these plugins have been working on this feature for a longer time than WordPress and provide optimized sitemaps.

All of the above listed SEO plugins will continue to provide sitemap feature and will automatically disable the default XML sitemap by WordPress.

Lazy Loading images in WordPress 5.5

I’m sure that you are already familiar with the fact that text is lighter than images and hence it loads faster. And due to this it is always recommended that you need to optimize images so that it does not impact the page load speed.

One of the techniques which is commonly used for this is Lazy Loading images. When you implement Lazy Load, only the images that visible on the screen are downloaded and rest of the images loaded as the user scrolls the page.

In the versions prior to WordPress 5.5, lazy load was implemented using plugins. However, this feature will be included in WordPress 5.5 and will be enabled by default for all sites.

lazy load images in WordPress 5.5

As you can see in the screenshot above, Lazy load in WordPress is done using a new attribute loading which has 2 possible values

  • eager– To load an image immediately on a web page
  • lazy– To load an image when it is relevant to viewport.

It is important to keep in mind, to prevent an image from lazy load, it is required that you specify loading="eager" or else it will by default load lazy after update.

This is an amazing feature that has been included in this update. Lazy load will not only boost the page speed but also will help save bandwidth if you are just starting out and are using budget WordPress hosting.

Accessibility changes in WordPress 5.5

  • WordPress 5.5 will give you the ability to copy links in media screens and modal dialogs with just a click of a button instead of highlighting the line of text.
copy button in WordPress 5.5
  • List tables will have extensive, alternative view modes. Currently, WP List Table supports 2 modes which are Default and Excerpt. In WordPress 5.5, excerpts has been included in the Extended mode and Default is now Compact mode.
view modes in WordPress 5.5

The first view mode is Compact and in this mode all of the additional information is hidden including the action buttons.

compact view mode in WordPress 5.5

The action row will only be visible when you take your pointer over an entry.

The second view mode that is supported by WP List Table in WordPress 5.5 is Extended and in this mode excerpt and the action buttons are visible.

extended view mode in WordPress 5.5
  • Custom logo on the front page does not link to the homepage. This means if anyone lands on your website’s front page and clicks the logo, it won’t reload the page. However, if a user on any of the internal pages clicks the logo it will take the user to the homepage.
  • To give a more consistent experience to users, in WordPress 5.5, the styles for both primary and secondary buttons are updated.
CSS changes to buttons in WordPress 5.5

As you can see in the screenshot above, the buttons looks disabled. However, in previous versions this was not the case.

  • Most websites these days have a list of links displayed on a page for navigational purposes. These links are enclosed within <ul> tags and while making changes these tags can create confusion as <ul> does not give a proper context to the links. And that is why in WordPress 5.5, a new support feature has been introduced which is navigation-widgets. When the support is declared, all the default widgets in WordPress core that output link list will be wrapped in <nav> tag.

Other Accesibility changes in WordPress 5.5

  • You will be able to move meta boxes using keyboard.
  • You can edit images using assistive devices as it can status messages in image editor.

And more.

Rest API changes in WordPress 5.5

In WordPress 5.5, Rest API will see a lot of changes and this includes introduction of endpoints, features, functions and enhancements. Below is a list of new endpoints

Block Type

These endpoints will return all the registered block types

  • GET /wp/v2/block-types will return all registered blocks.
  • GET /wp/v2/block-types/core will return all blocks within core namespace.
  • GET /wp/v2/block-types/core/quote will return the definition for core quote block.


These endpoints are introduced for managing plugins and also facilitate the block directory inserter feature in the block editor.

  • GET /wp/v2/plugins will return a list of all the installed plugins on a site.
  • GET /wp/v2/plugins/name-of-plugin/name-of-plugin will return information about a specific plugin. The first name-of-plugin is the plugin’s folder, the second name-of-plugin is the main plugin file without the .php extension.
  • POST /wp/v2/plugins { slug: "name-of-plugin" } installs a particular with the slug name-of-plugin from the WordPress.org plugin directory. The endpoint does not support uploading a zip file.
  • PUT /wp/v2/plugins/name-of-plugin/name-of-plugin { status: "active" } activates the sepecified plugin.
  • DELETE /wp/v2/plugins/name-of-plugin/name-of-plugin deletes the selected plugin. The plugin must be inactive before deleting it.

Block Directory

This endopint will allow for the searching of the WordPress.org block directory.

  • GET /wp/v2/block-directory/search?term=keyword searches the block directory for a specific term in this case it is “keyword“.

This endpoint requires both activate_plugin and install_plugin capabilities.

Image Editing

This endpoint allows for the editing of images in media library and facilitates the new inline editing feature in block editor.

  • POST /wp/v2/media/5/edit edits images with ID 5.

For more details on this see- Rest API changes in WordPress 5.5

New wp_get_environment_type() function

In WordPress 5.5, a function wp_get_environment_type() has been introduced that retrieves a website’s current environment types.

This will help developers easily manage plugin and theme functionalities on production and development environments.

By default, wp_get_environment_type() function will return production as value. However, the other supported values are

  • development
  • staging

Now, in you want to set the environment type of a website to staging then you can easily do it by defining WP_ENVIRONMENT_TYPE constant in wp-config file. Below is the code snippet.

define( 'WP_ENVIRONMENT_TYPE', 'staging' );

It is important to keep in mind, when the value development is returned by wp_get_environment_type() then wp_debug will be automatically set to true even if it is not defined in the wp-config file.

For more information on this check the developer notes.

Other changes in WordPress 5.5

  • In WordPress 5.5 Dashicon library has received its final update. A total of 65 new icons have been added and it includes 39 icons for the block editor along with 26 others.
  • WordPress 5.5 will include 2 new block tools and these are Custom Line Height for defining custom line height for paragraphs and headings. And Custom Units for supporting more types of measurements such as ems, rems, percentage, vh, vw and more.
  • In this release PHPMailer Library has received a major update. The version has been upgraded from 5.2.27 to 6.1.6. On top of that other external libraries such as SimplePie, Twemoji, Masonry & imageLoaded, getID3, Moment.js and Clipboard.js also have been updated.

WordPress 5.5 Release schedule

  • 7th July 2020– Release of Beta 1
  • 14th July 2020– Release of Beta 2
  • 21st July 2020– Release of Beta 3
  • 28th July 2020– Release Candidate 1
  • 4th August 2020– Release Candidate 2
  • 11th August 2020– Target release of WordPress 5.5

Want to test WordPress 5.5

As mentioned before, WordPress 5.5 is in its development phase and it is not recommended that you use it on your main site until the stable version is released.

If you want to try out the beta version then I will suggest doing it either on a localhost or a staging environment. And for that you can download the WordPress 5.5 beta version or you can install the beta testing plugin and get involved with WordPress.

Also, on Blogging Unplugged we have created a dedicated Updates section where you will find all the updates related to WordPress, SEO and other related topics.

How to update WordPress 5.4 to WordPress 5.5

Before we move forward, I would again like to let you know to not use the under development version of WordPress on your main site.

Having said that,

Once the stable version is released, you will notice a notification in the Update section of your WordPress dashboard.

Now, if you are using Managed WordPress Hosting then your hosting provider will take care of it for you. However, if you are starting out and using shared WordPress hosting then you will have to it yourself.

If you are going to update it yourself then the first step is to take a backup of your site and for that I recommend using UpdraftPlus plugin.

Once you are done taking the backup, the next step is to navigate to the Update section in your WordPress dashboard and click Update now button.

After the update, make sure to check your website and see if everything is working as expected. And that’s it you have successfully updated your website to WordPress 5.5.

Having said that,

I hope you now know What’s coming in WordPress 5.5. If you have any queries feel free to get in touch via the contact page or social media.

Do let us know which feature or improvement you like the most in this update. Also, if you find this article helpful then share this post with your friends and colleagues on social media.

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  1. Hey Jasmeet

    As you mentioned above, WordPress 5.5 is coming up with a lot of useful updates.

    Lazy loading is the one, I’m waiting for eagerly.

    Keep sharing such informative content.

    Amit Garg

  2. Thank you for sharing this. As someone new to blogging and wordpress I found this post very helpful!

  3. This WordPress update looks interesting. I can’t wait for the lazy load feature.

  4. WordPress keeps becoming better version after version. I’m so excited for the new version.

  5. Landed here from Santanu’s video. As mentioned by him this is truly a detailed guide and day by day WordPress is coming up with new features and leaving an impression of uninstalling other plugins.
    But you missed updates that are made for Developers such as REST API etc.

    1. Hi Shubham, yes I did miss out on Rest API changes in WordPress 5.5 and few other technical details as I wanted this article to be super easy to understand for new bloggers or website owners. However, I have now updated the article. From next update onwards I will include the more technical parts as well. Thank You

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