Customizer Improvements in 4.7

WordPress 4.7 has been the most active release on record for the customize component, with four major feature projects merging and shipping with 4.7 and over 90 tickets closed as fixed. This post summarizes the highlights of the user and developer-facing changes.

4.7 Customizer Feature Projects

Create pages within live preview during site setup

Add new pages while building menus and setting a static front page; outline your site directly in the customizer.

This project began with the ability to create posts and pages direction from the available menu items panel in the customizer, as originally proposed near the end of the 4.6 cycle:

https://make.wordpress.org/core/2016/06/16/feature-proposal-content-authorship-in-menus-with-live-preview/

Subsequent changes also added the ability to create new pages when assigning the front page and posts page in the Static Front Page section. Because this is now built into the core dropdown-pages customizer control, themes and plugins can also allow users to create new pages for their options instead of relying on existing content. The homepage sections in Twenty Seventeen include this new allow_addition parameter. Here’s how to register a dropdown-pages control supporting new pages:

$wp_customize->add_control( 'featured_page', array(
	'label'          => __( 'Featured Page', 'mytextdomain' ),
	'section'        => 'theme_options',
	'type'           => 'dropdown-pages',
	'allow_addition' => true, // This allows users to add new pages from this dropdown-pages control.
) );

Additionally, a proposal for term statuses was developed as a first step toward expanding the menus functionality to work for creating and previewing taxonomy terms in a future release (see #37915).

Improvements to the Sliding Panels UI

Customizer navigation is now faster, smoother, and more accessible.

This project tackled a series of tickets focused on improving the usability of the “sliding panels” UI in the customizer controls pane. The first step was to refactor the section and panel markup so that sections and panels are not logically nested. This is the biggest internal change to the UI and has a dedicated post going into the details:

https://make.wordpress.org/core/2016/09/28/changes-to-customizer-sliding-panelssections-in-wordpress-4-7/

This primary change resolved numerous problems with sections and panels not opening and closing properly, and eliminated situations where navigation to leave a section could become hidden. The next step was making section and panel headers “sticky” so that navigation is easier to access within long sections (such as for a menu); see #34343.

Finally, hover and focus styling for navigation in the customizer has been updated to use the blue-border approach found elsewhere in core, including for the device-preview buttons in the customizer, in #29158. This completes a refresh of the customizer controls pane’s UI design that began in WordPress 4.3 with #31336. The core UI now uses the following consistent UI patterns in the customizer:

  • White background colors are used only to indicate navigation and actionable items (such as inputs)
  • The general #eee background color provides visual contrast against the white elements
  • 1px #ddd borders separate navigational elements from background margins and from each other
  • 15px of spacing is provided between elements where visual separation is desired
  • 4px borders are used on one side of a navigation element to show hover or focus, with a color of #0073aa
  • Customizer text uses color: #555d66, with #0073aa for hover and focus states on navigation elements

Plugins and themes should follow these conventions in any custom customizer UI that they introduce, and inherit core styles wherever possible.

Any custom sections and panels, as well as customizations to the core objects in plugins and themes, should be tested extensively to ensure that they continue functioning as intended with all of these changes in 4.7. It’s particularly important to ensure that things like the use of color match the core conventions so that the user experience is seamless between functionality added by plugins and core.

Customize Changesets (formerly Transactions)

Browse your site and switch themes more seamlessly within the customizer, as your changes automatically persist in the background.

This project rewrote the internals of the customizer preview mechanism to make changes persistent. Each change made to a setting in the customizer is saved to a changeset (a new customize_changeset post type), facilitating future features such as scheduled changes, revisions, or saving and sharing drafted changes. Changesets also open the door to using the customizer to preview Ajax requests, headless sites, and REST API calls for mobile apps. In 4.7, changesets enable switching themes in the customizer without needing to decide between publishing or losing your customizations, as they’re automatically persisted in the background.

For more details on changesets, check out the two dedicated posts:

https://make.wordpress.org/core/2016/10/12/customize-changesets-formerly-transactions-merge-proposal/

https://make.wordpress.org/core/2016/10/12/customize-changesets-technical-design-decisions/

Custom CSS

Fine-tune your site and take your theme customizations to the next level with custom css in the customizer.

#35395 introduced a user-oriented custom CSS option in the customizer. Now that the base functionality is in place, it will be further enhanced in #38707 in future releases. Read the feature proposal for details on the implementation and why it’s important for core:

https://make.wordpress.org/core/2016/10/11/feature-proposal-better-theme-customizations-via-custom-css-with-live-previews/

There’s also a dedicated post that walks through the process of migrating existing custom CSS options in themes and plugins to the core functionality – be sure to follow those steps if your plugin or theme does custom CSS:

https://make.wordpress.org/core/2016/11/26/extending-the-custom-css-editor/

Other Changes with Dedicated Posts

4.7 features several other features deserving special attention. Read the posts for visible edit shortcuts (which expand the functionality of customizer partials), video headers (which extend the custom header feature), and starter content for more information:

https://make.wordpress.org/core/2016/11/10/visible-edit-shortcuts-in-the-customizer-preview/

https://make.wordpress.org/core/2016/11/26/video-headers-in-4-7/

https://make.wordpress.org/core/2016/11/30/starter-content-for-themes-in-4-7/

Additional User-facing Changes

With over 90 tickets fixed in the customize component in 4.7, we can’t cover everything here. But, here are a few more highlights:

Improved Custom Background Properties UI

#22058 introduces a more comprehensive and more usable custom background properties UI when a custom background is set up. There are now presets to control all of the detailed options at once, and the individual options are presented in a more visual way. Background size and vertical position are also now available as standalone options when using a custom preset.

Theme developers should update their add_theme_support() calls for custom-background to specify the default size, vertical position, and preset to reflect their default background image CSS. Perhaps the most significant improvement here is the ability for users to easily set up fixed full-screen backgrounds – and the ability for themes to make that behavior default if desired.

And even more…

4.7 also:

  • Loads the frontend preview iframe more naturally, eliminating a lot of weirdness with JS running in an unexpected location and ensuring that JS-based routing will work (#30028)
  • Allows the search results page to be previewed, and any forms that use the GET method in general can now be submitted whereas previously they would do nothing when submitted (#20714)
  • Hides edit post links in the customizer by default. Plugins, such as Customize Posts, can restore the links if they make post editing available in the customizer (#38648), although the visible edit shortcuts should generally be used instead.
  • Shows a cursor: not-allowed for mouse users when hovering over external links in the preview, as these can’t be previewed
  • Officially removes support for the customizer in Internet Explorer 8, preventing users of this outdated browser from accessing the customizer at all (#38021)

Additional Developer-oriented Changes

Hue-only Color Picker

#38263 adds a hue-only mode to the Iris color picker, wpColorPicker, and WP_Customize_Color_Control. Built for Twenty Seventeen’s custom colors functionality, the hue-only mode allows users to select a hue and saves the hue degree as a number between 0 and 359. To add a hue-color control:

$wp_customize->add_control( new WP_Customize_Color_Control( $wp_customize, 'colorscheme_hue', array(
	'mode' => 'hue',
	'section' => 'colors',
) ) );

As demonstrated in Twenty Seventeen’s custom colors strategy, the hue-selection strategy opens up a whole new world of possibilities for custom color options in themes. Rather than introducing numerous text and background color options and requiring users to adjust them to ensure that adequate color contrast is provided, themes can consolidate their color options into one or more hue pickers. Then, the corresponding use of hsl colors in CSS allows themes to define color patterns where users customize color hues without impacting the lightness of a color option, thereby preserving the designer’s use of proper contrast between text and background colors, and any use of color lightness for visual hierarchy. Check out the implementation in Twenty Seventeen for inspiration (including instant live preview).

Fix Sections that .cannot-expand

When creating custom customizer sections that, for example, display an external link but don’t actually expand to show section contents, the cannot-expand class can be added to the section title container to prevent JS events and CSS hover/focus styles from being applied. Be sure to also remove the tabindex="0" from the container if you copy the core code since your custom section shouldn’t be focusable if it can’t expand (and any contained links or buttons would be keyboard-focusable automatically). See #37980 for details.

Allow Plugins to do Comprehensive Late Validation of Settings

To account for custom subclasses of WP_Customize_Setting that don’t apply the customize_validate_{{$setting_id}} filter, this filter now will be applied when WP_Customize_Manager::validate_setting_values() is called. This ensures that plugins can add custom validation for every setting. For more, see #37638.

Credits

Huge thanks to the 61 people (and counting) receiving props for the 120+ customize component commits in 4.7 (as of RC2): @westonruter, @celloexpressions, @afercia, @sirbrillig, @ryankienstra, @helen, @ocean90, @melchoyce, @bradyvercher, @folletto, @johnbillion, @delawski, @karmatosed, @georgestephanis, @dlh, @curdin, @valendesigns, @mattwiebe, @michaelarestad, @joemcgill, @sstoqnov, @lgedeon, @mihai2u, @coreymcollins, @stubgo, @utkarshpatel, @desrosj, @odysseygate, @johnregan3, @aaroncampbell, @mapk, @iseulde, @mrahmadawais, @vishalkakadiya, @sayedwp, @hugobaeta, @jonathanbardo, @jorbin, @tristangemus, @deltafactory, @kkoppenhaver, @seancjones, @Presskopp, @Mista-Flo, @nikeo, @adamsilverstein, @lukecavanagh, @coffee2code, @peterwilsoncc, @presskopp, @pento, @Kelderic, @sebastian.pisula, @mckernanin, @FolioVision, @MikeHansenMe, @welcher, @cdog, @grapplerulrich, @iamfriendly, @flixos90.

 

#4-7, #customize, #dev-notes