WordPress 5.9: What’s new in this release?

Since the introduction of Gutenberg in WordPress 5.0, the team have been working on phase two of the roadmap focusing on Full Site Editing (FSE), Block Patterns, Block Directory and Block-based themes.

And with WordPress 5.9 now on the way, we’re finally going to dig into those new features in the customisation phase.

There’s a lot I could cover with this release but for this post, I’ll show you what you can expect with WP 5.9 and an overview of the new features.

A new generation of themes

WordPress themes are evolving. And we’re finally seeing those changes in action with WordPress 5.9, which focuses on Full Site Editing (FSE), Global Styles and the long-awaited Block themes.

Full Site Editing? Global Styles? Block Themes? What is all this?

As we know a WordPress theme changes the design and often the layout of your site, this is how it looks on the front-end to a user.

Classic themes are a combination of files that control how content is displayed and styled. They are built with PHP files, include template files and can be styled using the Customiser.

Block themes however are built with Blocks and HTML files. These themes have templates that are composed entirely of blocks.

Yes, you read that right. Initially we were able to use Blocks when creating a Page or Post. But now Blocks can now be used to build all parts of your site.

This means you have full control over all sections, like the header and navigation, the content area, sidebars, custom page templates, footer and more.

All of these elements can be edited without code in the new Site Editor.

WordPress 5.9 also introduces an interface that allows you to customise style presets for your site, either globally or for individual blocks. Again without having to write any code.

Source: WordPress.org

The Global Styles interface (or theme.json) replaces the Customiser and allows you to control the style of your site when it comes to the typography, colours, sizes, layouts and other aspects of your sites design.

Source: WordPress.org

These features are now included in the WordPress Core, so you will no longer need to install the Gutenberg plugin to enable them.

The new default theme

With the release of WordPress 5.9, we also have a new default theme, Twenty Twenty-Two.

This is the first default block theme and was designed to be flexible, lightweight and customisable. It gives us a proper look at what’s coming in regards to FSE and Global Styles.

Source: WordPress.org

WordPress note that classic themes will continue to exist and work. But if you want to use the latest features, then yes you’ll likely need a block-based theme. You’ll slowly see more and more block-based themes being rolled out going forward.

Other updates in WP 5.9

There are a number of new Block features and improvements including updates to the Gallery Block, featured image enhancements and spacing for Column Blocks.

Source: WordPress.org

This update also introduces a Navigation block that allows you to create, manage and reuse menus that have been built with blocks (like the page link block or site logo block).

This also lets you convert previous menus from your classic themes into block-based navigation menus for your block-based themes.

Source: WordPress.org

There’s a new language switcher on the login screen so you can register, log in and reset your password in your preferred language.

There’s also other updates including Editor performance improvements and enhanced lazy-loading performance to help with Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) reports.

Before you update to WP 5.9

WordPress 5.9 was due in December 2021 but is now scheduled for release on 25th January 2022.

As with any major release, I advise to take steps to prepare your site and ensure that it’s safe to update. It’s also typically advised to wait a couple of days or weeks until they release version 5.9.1, which will fix any bugs.


WP 5.9 definitely looks interesting! And although I’m curious about what the future of WordPress theme development looks like, I do think FSE is an excellent step forward for users. I’m excited to see the progress with each release. Check out my Instagram Story about WordPress 5.9 here.

What are your thoughts on WP 5.9? What would you like to see in WP 6.0 which is due April 2022?

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