WordPress 5.6 “Simone,” which was released in December, was the third major WordPress release of 2020, and the features and changes that came with it will carry over well into 2021.

5.6 is also now the current default version of WordPress for all new sites built on WP Engine’s managed WordPress hosting platform.

If you’re a current WP Engine customer and you’re unsure which version of WordPress you’re running, simply log into your User Portal and go to the site you want to review. Scroll down under “Environment stats,” and you’ll see a box on the right-hand side displaying your current WordPress version. As always, if you need help, our Support team is available 24/7.

While the Gutenberg block editor was a major part of the WordPress 5.0 release in December 2018, the still relatively-new default editing experience in WordPress has continued to see enhancements with each subsequent release.

5.6 is no exception, and the bulk of the new elements in this release are related to the block editor and the options available within it. 

Here are some of the key features you’ll find in WordPress 5.6: 

Easier layout control.

For starters, 5.6 brings with it expanded control over block and layout options. From single column blocks, designs using mixed widths and columns, full-width headers, and gradients within your cover block, improvements to the block editor in 5.6 simply make it easier to try different options for the most impactful use of your content.  

New block patterns. 

Block Patterns were introduced in version 5.5 and offer pre-defined combinations of blocks that allow users to quickly and easily add complex layout elements to a page.

5.6 expands on the available Pattern choices with a Quote option, a Heading and Paragraph option, and a Large Heading option, among others. See here for more information about the Block Editor and Block Patterns specifically.

Better video captions.

Another feature of note in 5.6 is the added ability to upload video captions or subtitles within your post or page. This makes it easy to ensure your video content is accessible for anyone who needs or prefers to use subtitles.

New default theme: Twenty Twenty-One.

Twenty Twenty-One is a new default theme that comes with WordPress 5.6. It’s built specifically for the block editor and features new block patterns you can only get by using WordPress default themes. Check out this review on Torque for more info. 

Twenty Twenty-One was also created with a major focus on accessibility. The theme conforms to the WordPress accessibility-ready guidelines and addresses several additional, specialized standards from the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 at level AAA, making it the most accessible default WordPress theme to date. 

Accessibility was indeed front and center across the entire 5.6 launch, and WP Engine Software Engineer Sarah Ricker played an integral role in this effort, serving as the Accessibility Lead on the all women-led release squad.

Sarah joins a long list of WP Engine employees who have contributed to WordPress in many important ways, including contributing code to WordPress Core, maintaining WordPress components such as Media, volunteering, organizing WordCamps and meetups, answering tickets in WordPress support forums, providing financial sponsorships for various projects, publishing educational and informational content for the community on Torque and the PressThis podcast, and of course, helping countless brands adopt WordPress for the very first time. 

You can find out more about all of the new features included in WordPress 5.6 here. As mentioned above, new sites built on WP Engine’s platform, as well as sites that are migrated over, will now default to this version of WordPress. 

While 5.6 has been available since December 2020, we always perform rigorous testing on all new WordPress versions and features to make sure they won’t have unintended impacts on our customers’ sites.

At the same time, we always encourage our customers to run updated versions of WordPress, once that testing has concluded, so they can reap all of the benefits WordPress has to offer. 

See this article for more information about WordPress updates and releases, and if you have any questions or need further assistance, log in to your WP Engine account to reach our Support team. 

Find out more about WP Engine’s managed WordPress platform and how we help our customers win with WordPress every day.