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WordPress 5.8 Beta 1 Released: New Blocks, New Widgets Screen, and Pattern Directory on Deck

New Blocks, New Widgets Screen, and Pattern Directory on Deck

WordPress 5.8 beta 1 is ready for testing. This upcoming release makes major strides towards solidifying WordPress’ site building capabilities, along with improvements to features users have enjoyed since the launch of the block editor. It is one of the most feature-packed releases in recent history and as such requires all hands on deck for testing.

New blocks in 5.8 include Page List, Site Title, Logo, Tagline, Query Loop, and Duotone. I decided to take each one for a spin this weekend on a test site, putting myself in the shoes of someone trying these blocks for the first time.

I was surprised to learn that the template editor will be available to sites using any WordPress theme, since all the previous FSE testing rounds have called on testers to use the latest version of the TT1 Blocks Theme. It will be interesting to see how users respond to this and if it works well with older themes. Users can now create and edit custom templates for pages and posts using blocks.

The template editor includes the new List View panel that gives an overview of all the sections and blocks in the template.

Most of the new blocks in 5.8 are intended to work within the context of the template editor, but they also work in the post editor.

The Page List block magically populates a list of all the pages on a site as soon as it is inserted. Unfortunately, there isn’t a way to delete a single page from the list. If you try to delete a page the entire block disappears. This seems like a bug and is a frustrating experience in the context of the post editor. It may be more useful in terms of building navigation but this seems like a rough first pass.

The Query Loop block comes with some different designs for how the loop could be displayed. Once a basic layout is chosen for a starting point, users can further customize the blocks within the loop, including typography, color, length of excerpt, and more.

The Site Title, Tagline, and Logo blocks all seem to work as expected but I found previews to be unreliable for things like alignment and spacing. At this point in time, it seems like template editing will be better suited to users who are more adventurous and experimental when it comes to new features.

Duotone is a fun new core block that you can see in action below, demonstrated by WordPress documentation contributor Milana Cap. The block adds images effects that can be used in media blocks. Theme and plugin developers can also employ and customize the effects for their own particular use cases.

Hello New Widgets Screen!

WordPress users will be greeted with a new block-based widgets screen in 5.8. It allows you to use blocks in any widgetized area. It wasn’t until I saw how this works that I realized how rigid our old widgets system was. Whatever functionality you were trying to insert had to be readily available as a widget or shortcode. Now any block from the vast world of blocks can be added to widgetized areas.

Justin Tadlock wrote a post about how users can disable it with the Classic Widgets plugin. Should you disable it? Not unless you are forced to because of using a theme that doesn’t support it very well. Using blocks in widget areas is going to give you much more flexibility for what you can insert. You can even continue to use the old style widgets via the Legacy Widget block. Users may need a little time to adapt to the new interface but it’s worth it to have access to the growing world of innovative blocks.

Pattern Directory Will Be Integrated with WordPress 5.8

The new Pattern Directory will launch on along with the 5.8 release. Justin Tadlock recently amplified the Design Team’s call for pattern contributions that would be available to users right away. Several have already been submitted via GitHub issues for the directory and the creativity here is energizing. In addition to introducing an exciting new avenue for designers to put their work out into the ecosystem, the Pattern Directory stands to become a valuable resource and inspiration to users who are designing their own websites.

A “How It Works” pattern submitted by Lax Mariappan

At launch the directory will only contain patterns that use core blocks but using blocks from may also be a possibility in the future.

“There have definitely been some discussion of allowing any blocks from the Block Directory to be used and that they would be auto-installed if someone inserted the pattern,” Shaun Andrews commented in response to a theme studio inquiring about submitting their own patterns that use free blocks. “I believe this is possible, and something we should do, but there simply hasn’t been any work done to enable it yet.

“We’re focused on getting the first iteration of the Pattern Directory launched, and then we plan to continue improving things.”

Pattern transformation is a new feature launching with the new directory, which allows users to convert a block or collection of blocks into different patterns. Patterns can also be recommended and selected during block setup, which should make product onboarding easier.

These are just a few features coming in WordPress 5.8 that need testing. Check out the 5.8 beta 1 release post for a more comprehensive list of all the improvements that are on deck. The official release is scheduled for July 20, 2021.


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