WordPress 5.3 Development Kicks Off: UI Polishing, Editor Improvements, and New Twenty Twenty Default Theme

WordPress 5.3 release dates were confirmed this week. The timeline has the official release arriving November 12, 2019, with a decent margin of time to avoid WordCamp US (early November) and the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday week at the end of November. Beta 1 is expected September 23 and a Release Candidate is scheduled to follow on October 15.

The scope for this release is squarely in line with Matt Mullenweg’s 2019 goal of tightening up the software to improve existing features.

“The focus will be polishing current interactions and making the UIs more user friendly,” WordPress 5.3 release coordinator Francesca Marano said in the schedule announcement.

Another major part of this release is the editor improvements that have already been pushed to the Gutenberg plugin over the past few months. Riad Benguella, WP 5.3 Editor Tech lead, said these improvements “go beyond ‘polishing things,’” and will include more than 10 previous releases of the plugin.

After speaking with component maintainers, WordPress Executive Director Josepha Haden posted a summary of updates that could be included in the release during the proposed timeframe:

  • Grouping: support for dividing your page into sections
  • Motion: support for visual motion when moving/arranging blocks
  • Column patterns and widths: support for fixed column widths, and predefined layouts
  • Big images: support for saving progress after a big image fails to upload
  • Media accessibility: some fixes and a lot of polish as a result of the a11y audit
  • PHP 7.4: support for the new version coming late in November
  • And also: Build/Test updates, better administration of emails, and a lot of under the hood improvements

WordPress 5.3 to Introduce Twenty Twenty Default Theme

Earlier this month, Haden confirmed that WordPress 5.3 will include a new bundled default theme. Twenty Twenty development is taking a different route from previous default themes in that it will not be designed from scratch.

“I think something that would be cool is taking a theme from the community that is already doing cool stuff with the features we’ve been introducing, and modifying it to fit with the 5.3 release,” Haden said.

The lead for the default theme project has yet be announced, although Mark Uraine, a designer working on Gutenberg, will be facilitating the effort behind the scenes.

“I know people are looking at themes that make good use of Gutenberg and have theme developers that can dedicate some time to this,” Uraine said.

WordPress 5.3 will be the last major release of 2019. Contributors plan to land a minor release in the meantime. WordPress 5.2.3 RC 1 was released today. Jeffrey Paul, who is helping to coordinate this release, said the focuses for 5.2.3 include the PHP version bump coming in 5.3, backporting some block editor features, and improving accessibility and RTL issues. The official 5.2.3 release is scheduled for Wednesday, September 4, 2019, 10:00 AM PDT.


5 responses to “WordPress 5.3 Development Kicks Off: UI Polishing, Editor Improvements, and New Twenty Twenty Default Theme”

  1. Guys, simple but extremely proved comment.
    Gutenberg is great and would be really powerful.
    But.. what is killing it is its EXTREME MINIMALISM.
    I have tried gutenberg with at least 20 clients, and they simply cannot find the functions where they want.
    Then, when they open the buttons to choose something, again, what they want is hidden.

    My suggestion, always present row, column and add block buttons would pump it to heaven

    • It’s a bit hard to use something completely new without a manual or any training. That is not only true for Gutenberg it’s most parts of our life. The designers of Gutenberg saw in the usability studies in the last couple of month, how new people approach the block editor and it was quite eye opening. Not only did they see how little the initial tips are used, because they get into the way of actually typing a title. There is a big discussion around a help system going on and people explore, mock-up and discuss better solutions around context sensitive help
      You can chime in and help make this a better experience for occasional content creators.

  2. I like using WordPress for the most part. I’m not being snarky or anything. I genuinely enjoy working with WordPress over other publishing platforms. My issues are mainly with plugins not conforming to best practices. Why should I have to dig into code to call out image alts? I have to do that with my content enough as it is. It’s frustrating. Like most people I genuinely want to have a clean beautiful website that ranks well. It’s little bits of thing I’m powerless to change like tags. All the SEO sites say I have too many h2 tags, but that’s how WordPress structures tagging as I understand it. Other times I can’t get schema to work.
    Even with all that, I still outrank my nearest keyword competitors 2-1 and climbing without paid search or adequate social sharing.

    Not bad for a dyslexic former street kid finding a purpose in life.


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