WordPress 5.3 Field Guide

Update on 18 October 2019: Added the “Noteworthy Adminadmin (and super admin) CSSCSS Cascading Style Sheets. changes in WordPress 5.3” dev note to the Accessibility section

WordPress 5.3 is shaping up to be the best WordPress yet! Users will see new blocks, more intuitive blockBlock Block is the abstract term used to describe units of markup that, composed together, form the content or layout of a webpage using the WordPress editor. The idea combines concepts of what in the past may have achieved with shortcodes, custom HTML, and embed discovery into a single consistent API and user experience. editor interactions, improved media handling, improved accessibilityAccessibility Accessibility (commonly shortened to a11y) refers to the design of products, devices, services, or environments for people with disabilities. The concept of accessible design ensures both “direct access” (i.e. unassisted) and “indirect access” meaning compatibility with a person’s assistive technology (for example, computer screen readers). (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accessibility), and the new Twenty Twenty default theme. Among many goodies in 5.3, developers will love the date/time component improvements, PHPPHP The web scripting language in which WordPress is primarily architected. WordPress requires PHP 5.6.20 7.4 compatibility, and will also be able to take advantage of 157 enhancements and feature requests, 366 bugbug A bug is an error or unexpected result. Performance improvements, code optimization, and are considered enhancements, not defects. After feature freeze, only bugs are dealt with, with regressions (adverse changes from the previous version) being the highest priority. fixes, and more! Let’s look at the many improvements coming in 5.3…


Of the 50 updates related to Accessibility in 5.3, you’ll want to particularly note the changes to Admin CSS, improvements of all the media views form controls and changes to explicit labeling, how coreCore Core is the set of software required to run WordPress. The Core Development Team builds WordPress. will now programmatically add aria-current="page" attributes to certain widgets, and programmatically add specific aria-label parameter for navigation menus. Read the dev notes below for more details on the Accessibility focus.

Block Editor

The block editor has continued its rapid iteration since WordPress 5.0, and now has GutenbergGutenberg The Gutenberg project is the new Editor Interface for WordPress. The editor improves the process and experience of creating new content, making writing rich content much simpler. It uses ‘blocks’ to add richness rather than shortcodes, custom HTML etc. https://wordpress.org/gutenberg/ version 6.5 bundled with WordPress 5.3; that’s TWELVE releases all bundled into 5.3 (versions 5.4, 5.5, 5.6, 5.7, 5.8, 5.9, 6.0, 6.1, 6.2, 6.3, 6.4, and 6.5)! Bug fixes and performance improvements from Gutenberg versions 6.6 and 6.7 will also be part of 5.3. The Beta 1 post highlights many of the new features and improvements across these releases, but I’ll specifically pull out the reduction in 1.5 seconds of loading time for a particularly sizeable post (~ 36,000 words, ~ 1,000 blocks) as an impressive achievement given all that has otherwise been added to the block editor. The dev notes below also highlight new server-side block style variations APIAPI An API or Application Programming Interface is a software intermediary that allows programs to interact with each other and share data in limited, clearly defined ways., a new block example API, the Group block, reduced block styles specificity, using class names for text alignment, Columns block classnames, color support for the separator block, an updates to Table and Gallery blocks markup.


Of the 42 updates for Media in 5.3, you’ll want to particularly note the new way to manage big images by detecting them and generating a “web-optimized maximum size” of them as well as saving of image metadata while creating intermediate sizes. Read the dev notes below for more details on the Media component.

Multisitemultisite Used to describe a WordPress installation with a network of multiple blogs, grouped by sites. This installation type has shared users tables, and creates separate database tables for each blog (wp_posts becomes wp_0_posts). See also network, blog, site

Of the 15 updates for Multisite in 5.3, you’ll want to particularly note changes to the database, changes to WP_MS_Sites_List_Table, return for short circuits for multisite classes, and improved performance for sitesite (versus network, blog) and networknetwork (versus site, blog) lookups by ID. Read the dev note below for more details on the Multisite component.

PHP 7.4 & Code Modernization

The great news continues. WordPress 5.3 supports PHP 7.4, which is scheduled for release at the end of November! Contributors worked with several external libraries to ensure that all 5 tickets addressing compatibility issues for PHP 7.4 were addressed in time for WordPress 5.3.

In addition to ensuring 5.3 supports PHP 7.4, a handful of updates occurred as a result of the continued coding standards and code modernization efforts. Most notably, the spread operator is now in use where appropriate, and the native PHP JSONJSON JSON, or JavaScript Object Notation, is a minimal, readable format for structuring data. It is used primarily to transmit data between a server and web application, as an alternative to XML. extension is now required to run WordPress.

PluginPlugin A plugin is a piece of software containing a group of functions that can be added to a WordPress website. They can extend functionality or add new features to your WordPress websites. WordPress plugins are written in the PHP programming language and integrate seamlessly with WordPress. These can be free in the WordPress.org Plugin Directory https://wordpress.org/plugins/ or can be cost-based plugin from a third-party and theme developers are encouraged to read the following detailed dev notes to fully understand the changes coming and how their code should be updated!

REST APIREST API The REST API is an acronym for the RESTful Application Program Interface (API) that uses HTTP requests to GET, PUT, POST and DELETE data. It is how the front end of an application (think “phone app” or “website”) can communicate with the data store (think “database” or “file system”) https://developer.wordpress.org/rest-api/.

Of the 33 updates for the REST API in 5.3, you’ll want to particularly note register array and object metadata, nested response filtering with _fields query parameter, how to set drafts back to “floating date” status, and possibly best of all up to a 30-40% performance increase in large API responses. Read the dev note below for more details on the REST API component.

Site Health

Of the 31 updates for Site Health in 5.3, you’ll want to particularly note changes to the grading indicator, recovery email enhancements, filters for completed Site Health status tests, and a new Admin email verification screen. Read the dev notes below for more details on the Site Health component.

Other Developer Updates

There are even more goodies in 5.3 like much–needed fixes and a set of improvements to the Date/Time component, changes to prevent search engines indexing sites, new default for links in comments and comment author URLs to use the rel="nofollow ugc" attribute, changes on Twenty Nineteen HTMLHTML HyperText Markup Language. The semantic scripting language primarily used for outputting content in web browsers. structure, changes to wp_die() HTML output, expansion of the options available to compare_key so that developers have access to metaMeta Meta is a term that refers to the inside workings of a group. For us, this is the team that works on internal WordPress sites like WordCamp Central and Make WordPress.-key comparison operators similar to those available for meta values, updates related to bumping the Backbone version bundled with WordPress from v1.3.3 to v1.4.0 and other external library updates, dropping support for integer menu slugs, addition of a “Show” button next to the password field on the login screen, passing arrays to supports argument when registering post types, HTML5 support for script and style arguments, recording additional information for saved queries, unit-less CSS line-height values, updates to cores’ build/test tools, and more! Read through the dev notes below to see what else is coming in 5.3.

But Wait, There is More!

Over 362 bugs, 157 enhancements and feature requests, and 36 blessed tasks have been marked as fixed in WordPress 5.3. Some additional ones to highlight include:

  • General: Use ** operator to replacepow() function calls (#48083)
  • I18ni18n Internationalization, or the act of writing and preparing code to be fully translatable into other languages. Also see localization. Often written with a lowercase i so it is not confused with a lowercase L or the numeral 1. Often an acquired skill.: Text length should be localizable (#44541)
  • Menus: Replace httpHTTP HTTP is an acronym for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol. HTTP is the underlying protocol used by the World Wide Web and this protocol defines how messages are formatted and transmitted, and what actions Web servers and browsers should take in response to various commands. with httpsHTTPS HTTPS is an acronym for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure. HTTPS is the secure version of HTTP, the protocol over which data is sent between your browser and the website that you are connected to. The 'S' at the end of HTTPS stands for 'Secure'. It means all communications between your browser and the website are encrypted. This is especially helpful for protecting sensitive data like banking information. in custom links menu item (#46312)
  • Networks and Sites: Redundant blog_versions table (#19755)
  • Networks and Sites: Save database version in site meta (#41685)
  • Site Health: Provide simple debug data in WSOD emails (#48090)
  • Widgets: Replace http with https in the link placeholder widgetWidget A WordPress Widget is a small block that performs a specific function. You can add these widgets in sidebars also known as widget-ready areas on your web page. WordPress widgets were originally created to provide a simple and easy-to-use way of giving design and structure control of the WordPress theme to the user. image (#46320)

Please, test your code. Fixing issues helps you and helps millions of WordPress sites.

#5-3, #field-guide