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WordPress 6.1 “Misha” has landed: Fluid Typography, Major Performance Improvements, An All New Default Theme, and More!

WordPress 6.1 — the final installment of WordPress is here (for this year folks, relax!). Great features, massive updates (believe me, they are!), and the much-awaited Twenty-Twenty-Three theme (Yes, this version is shipped with a default theme)!

Say hello to WordPress 6.1, “Misha” 👋. Inspired from the life and works of Soviet-Norwegian jazz pianist Mikhail “Misha” Alperin. Misha played a key role in introducing jazz globally, especially in USSR. He is also celebrated as a founding member of the Moscow Art Trio.

WordPress 6.1 is a part of phase 2 of the Gutenberg project which introduces a lot of improvements to full site editing, block editor, and block-based patterns.

“Misha” takes refinement of site-building and the overall WordPress experience to a higher note. Find enhancements that make website creation intuitive while enabling you to push your creative boundaries. While you’re at it, here are some of Misha’s jazz piano as you learn about all WordPress 6.1 has to offer!

New Default Theme: Twenty Twenty-Three

Following in with the WordPress tradition, the last release of the year comes with a brand new default theme. This version is also keeping the tradition alive with the theme: Twenty Twenty-Three (TT3). Looks like the future is here early, with massive features, and functionality.

The theme features a minimalist style, with 10 variations (Creativity unleashed 🚀). Don’t worry, the theme is a block theme with full-site editing capabilities. Get your inner designer out and pick a variation of your choice. About adding more design, the limit is you!

Credits: WP.org

Being a content guy myself, I always think about fonts, readability, letter spacing, etc. If you too have those lingering thoughts, well, the TT3 theme also houses 4 fonts that are used in different styles. Hey, you can choose them when crafting your posts and pages!

All in all, the TT3 theme has everything you need to build the website you want, with no restrictions or limitations. It’s an open playing field and the only thing that can stop the possibilities is – You!

Performance Improvements

There are major performance improvements packed with WordPress 6.1. Let’s take a look at some of the most interesting and major ones.

Fluid Typography

WordPress 6.1 comes with fluid typography support via the theme.json file. This feature takes responsiveness to the next level, allowing text to automatically adjust its size based on the user’s viewport.

This feature now comes built-in with this WordPress version update. You can change the fluid typography settings in the theme.json file.

WP_Query Performance

A great improvement to the WordPress experience is a change in how database queries are handled in WP_Query. The concerned ticket on WordPress.org was opened 6 years ago and was finally closed after inclusion in the WordPress 6.1 release.

Improvements to WP_Query performance in 6.1

In a nutshell, this change results in caching of database queries, so if the same database query is run more than once, the result(s) will be loaded from cache. It is worth noting that by default, all calls to WP_Query will be cached going forward.

Kudos to the team of WordPress and contributors who worked on this major improvement. In the latest tweet by a core contributor:

In WordPress 6.1, there is a massive improvement to database performance. Database queries in WP_Query are now cached. A ticket I have been working on for 5+ years was merged.

This should result in billions of less repeated database queries.

Improvement to REST API

When a webpage is requested, many different requests for various components of the page are made. The improvements in REST API not only streamline the process but also reduces the number of database queries.

Thus, what we get as end-user and visitors is an optimized website experience, that is fast and optimized for maximum performance.

WordPress explains:

When running profiling tools against the responses of REST API requests, it was discovered that post controllers request a lot of linked data to each post.

For example, when returning a post in a REST API response, linked data such as author (user), featured image, and parent post were all requested.

As these linked items were not primed in caches, it could mean that for each post in the REST API response there would be 3 separate database queries: one for the user, one for the featured image, and another for the parent post.

In WordPress 6.1 all the caches are primed in a single database query

Improvements to Cache API

There are many improvements in the Cache API. One of them is called “Check cache key types” which addresses a problem created by plugins.

This fix enables developers to notice a failure that resulted in a weird website behavior or complete failure.

The developer notes on this fix state:

This commit introduces a quick type check on the given cache keys and adds a _doing_it_wrong() message that should help plugin developers to notice these issues quicker.

The second improvement is called, Remove @access private from cache priming functions.

This fix provides theme and plugin developers to access and use certain functions that result in fewer database queries, resulting in an increased website speed performance.

Media Handling Improvement

This improvement boosts how images are shelved to keep them from slowing webpage requests and display. Thus, again adding to website optimization and performance.

What team Wp.org says about this:

Recently I have been playing around with another special attribute to the img tag which is basically decoding=”async”.

After implementing async decoding to the images in a page, the page load became, even more, faster and images are decoded asynchronously by the browser, loading the contents almost instantly and also reducing page render time. This is a huge performance booster to any webpages which has a lot of images (so basically most sites).

Improved PHP performance for Core Blocks Registration

Improvement in ‘block registration’. This improvement enables a much better identification and handling of blocks.

Thoughts from team WP.org:

…reduce filesystem reads and processing of block.json files, which should benefit all WordPress sites and improve performance…

New Site Health Checks

WordPress 6.1 comes with two new site health checks. Well, this is not a major performance improvement, but it does help developers to identify the scope for improving their website performance with the use of a Persistent Object Cache and/or a Full Page Cache.

Persistent Object Cache

The Persistent Object Cache holds a cache of frequently requested webpage parts. This reduces server load and speeds up the display of a webpage.

Cron API

It is more of a bug fix, but also an improvement to wp-cron.php, which is a task scheduler for things like backups, scheduled posts, or updates. This update will speed up the performance, making it compatible (again) with LiteSpeed Web Server plus LSAPI. Find the technical details here.

Block Editor Improvements

Well, of course, there are tons of improvements to our beloved block editor. Well, most people like to call it Gutenberg (PS. it’s the project name of Block Editor). Gutenberg updates were released one after another, starting from version 13.1 to 14.1. Read more about the latest release Gutenberg version 14.4.

There were a lot of conversations, rumors, and cues laid out around the block editor, its scope, use, flexibility, etc. If you felt the same, well the major focus during these Gutenberg releases was to bring a consistent experience and design flexibility for different blocks.

Well, this is just the start. Let’s look at some of the most awesome changes!

Dimensions Controls in Blocks

WordPress 6.1 comes with dimension controls for many more blocks like List, Columns, Paragraph, Table, and more.

This will allow you to set padding and margin to these blocks. A refined and greater control of the minute design and layout elements, here we come!

Visualize the changes and have the design you want!

Enhanced Border Options

WordPress 6.1 comes with more border control options. Take the creativity in you to the next level with the options to adjust the top, right, bottom, and left borders separately.

Also, border options extend to the Image block. Earlier, you could only select border-radius, but now, you can add actual borders.

Image: New Border Enhancement Feature for More Creative Designs
Credits: WP.org

Well, it’s no hidden fact, there are always discussions around Featured Images and Cover Block, their difference, etc. Many users wanted to use the Cover block as the Featured Image.

WordPress 6.1 gives you the power to choose a Featured image for a Cover Block. You just need to set the Featured image and it will start appearing inside the Cover block. Also, this allows you to showcase the Featured image anywhere on your page.

Note: Hey, this option should be used correctly. Else, your featured image will appear twice on the screen.

Quote and List Blocks with Inner Blocks

Now, move an item up or down in a bullet list. WordPress 6.1 introduces inner blocks that give items in a list, a block of their own. Cool, right?

Image: Design Options for Quote Block

Also, the Quote block gets style updates, all thanks to inner blocks. Now, style quote and cite blocks separately.

Editor Screen Enhancements

WordPress 6.1 also brings many changes to the Editor screen. A more immersive and intuitive experience awaits you! Following are some of those enhancements:

The preview Button is View Button

The Preview button is renamed, taking the name View. Also, the View button now includes a link to view your website!

Information Panel Improved

The information panel is a great improvement for all the content creators. Now get word count, characters, blocks, time to read, etc.!

The WordPress Logo Replaced!

You can see your website’s icon on the top left corner of the screen of your WordPress dashboard. It will be used as the View posts button, make sure you’ve set your site icon!

New Preferences Options

We have two new preference options to choose from:

  • ‘Always open list view’ allows you to display a list view when editing posts.
  • ‘Show button text labels’ allows you to show text instead of icons on buttons.

Customization Enhancements

There are many customization options to your website building journey. Let’s look what WordPress 6.1 has in store for us:

Create More Templates in Site Editor

In classic WordPress themes, you could create templates using template hierarchy and extend your WordPress theme. With WordPress 6.1, you can now achieve the same with the block editor. The best thing, you can do this without writing any code.

The following templates will unlock with WordPress 6.1. Hey, these are all available, irrespective of the block theme you’re using:

  • Single page
  • Single post
  • Individual term in a taxonomy
  • Individual category
  • Custom template (can be used for any post or page)

Go to Appearance » Editor and select templates from the left sidebar. Click on the Add New button to see the available options.

To apply a template to an individual item, you can choose a template, and a popup will appear. Here you can select the item where you want the new template to be used.

Image: Adding a New Template Using Block Editor

Let’s say you pick the Category template, a popup will appear. Select it to apply your new template for all categories or a specific category. It’s as intuitive as that!

Image: Adding a New Category Template Using Block Editor

Quickly Search and Use Template Parts

Searching for template parts becomes swift and easy with WordPress 6.1.
For instance, if your theme has multiple header template parts, then you can quickly find and apply one of them.

Click on the template part options and select Replace. This allows you to choose from a wide variety of available template parts, all yours to use.

Improved Template Options

The template creation process is now easier. A new template will automatically add relevant patterns, saving you time and effort. You can also add a new template to specific item(s). For example, adding an author template, you can apply it for all authors or just one, the choice is yours!

Two new template options are here: page and single item: post. If these options are not enough, you can always create custom templates for any page or post!

Image: New Template Options for More Design Capability

Block Spacing Presets

Currently, block spacing tools require users to specify the spacing pixels. While this offers accurate customization options, it has some limitations when using the same spacing on multiple blocks.

WordPress 6.1 comes with seven spacing presets to choose from to speed up the process. This will help you remember the preset applied and apply it to the blocks you wish to customize, If you prefer using the old way, you can switch to that with a click of a button!

Improved Block Locking

WordPress 6.0 introduced a block-locking feature, enabling you to customize your site’s safely. By locking important blocks, users won’t be able to move or change the design of these blocks.

WordPress 6.1 takes this feature to the next level by applying block locking to inner blocks inside a group block. So now, all you need to do is get everything under a Group block and apply block locking to avoid manual locking of each block!

Find Block Themes Faster

The Themes Directory now hosts a filter for block themes, Now, search for block themes faster, with a pattern preview to give you a better view of how the theme might look like.

Keep Site Editor Settings

Site Editor settings are now persistent for each user. All your settings will remain consistent across browsers and devices. Amazing, right?

A Streamlined Style System

The CSS rules for margin, padding, typography, colors, and borders within the styles engine are now all in one place, reducing time spent on layout-specific tasks and helping to generate semantic class names.

Content-only Editing Support for Container Blocks

Now, different people can work on WordPress at the same time, focusing on their respective tasks. All praises to content-only editing settings, allowing layouts to be locked within container blocks. In a content-only block, its children are invisible to the List View and entirely un-editable.

So, developers control the layout while writers can focus on the content. Combine it with block-locking options for complete control over blocks!

Conclusion

Overall, WordPress 6.1 beta contains more than 350 enhancements and 350 bug fixes for the block editor, this also includes 250+ tickets for the core.

Performance improvements for websites with a large number of custom taxonomies (like tags and categories), reduced database queries in multi-site environments, etc. There are also many other cache-related improvements that speed up the delivery of webpages.

Hey, there’s no denying that most WordPress users spend the maximum of their time creating posts and pages. Well, yes the performance improvements in WordPress 6.1 are massive, the features and customization additions are at par, making WordPress 6.1 a complete package for all your website building and editing needs!

A big shout out to team WordPress for making this possible. Thanks to all contributors for making this amazing feat happen!

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