On December 8, 2015, WordPress released version 4.4 (named for jazz musician Clifford Brown), offering the release for download on the WordPress site and for update via the WordPress dashboard. WordPress 4.4 introduces a new default theme, implements the use of responsive images, streamlines content sharing, and improves headline hierarchies on the admin screen.
“Twenty Sixteen”, New Default WordPress Theme
“Twenty Sixteen” is the newest default WordPress theme, designed to offer a more modern take on the traditional WordPress blogging format and focussed on better readability and display across all devices. Providing users with multiple menu positions, Twenty Sixteen includes the standard horizontal masthead, with an optional right sidebar “social menu” that pairs well with blogs. Stocked with five color schemes, Twenty Sixteen also allows users to customize their own color schemes, with endless possibilities. Custom background and header options further enhance the creation of stunning websites, and a harmonious, fluid grid uses a mobile-first approach, with overflow displaying large images. Finally, the ability to add an intro to posts using the custom excerpt feature makes for a cleaner presentation of posts on a site.
Out of the Box Responsive Images
The website viewing experience can be widely varied – depending on the type of device used to access the web, users view websites with different screen sizes, resolutions, and pixel densities. To address this, WordPress uses responsive images, assessing various conditions such as screen size, screen resolution, and viewport size to automatically deliver an image more appropriate to the particular device. With the addition of “srcset” and “sizes” support in WordPress 4.4, all images added to a post, featured images, attachment pages, and images galleries will automatically be responsive “out of the box”, allowing the user’s browser to display the correct image based on the capabilities of the current device that the site is being viewed on. For example, where a full-sized image is attached to a WP 4.4 post, users on mobile devices will instead see a large or medium-sized image, as appropriate. This new feature is “behind-the-scenes”, requiring no additional consideration by users, and will automatically be applied to all images previously added to the site.
Better Embeds for Streamlined Content Sharing
In previous versions, WordPress has been an oEmbed consumer, incorporating additional oEmbed support with each new release and allowing users to simply enter a URL into a blog post to automatically embed videos, Tweets, and Facebook status updates. With version 4.4, WordPress becomes an oEmbed provider, and can now embed rich content from almost every site that supports the oEmbed standard. The useful oEmbed for posts streamlines how posts are shared across the web – users can now embed previews of posts from other WP sites, simply by pasting the post’s URL on its own line in the WP Visual Editor. Preview content appears within an iFrame, with a sharing button, a link to related comments, and a “continue reading” link that takes visitors to the main source page on which the article is hosted. In WordPress 4.4, oEmbed discovery is turned on by default – to disable it, users need install and activate the Disable Embeds plugin.
Improved Headings Hierarchy Enhances Assistive Technology
A chronological headings hierarchy can be a useful tool for various users, in particular those viewing a website using assistive technology. Assistive technology users can navigate and find information on a web page much more easily if a chronological headings hierarchy is adhered to, with no heading levels skipped (ie. h1 headings are logically followed by h2, then h3 headings, etc.) – and WordPress 4.4 is designed to better address this issue. If the headings hierarchy is consistent, then assistive technology users can press the ‘1’ key on the keyboard to jump to the h1 headings, ‘2’ to move to the h2 headings, etc, etc. When headings levels are skipped, page navigation can be confusing and difficult for users. WordPress 4.4 provides a correct headings hierarchy that ensures no heading levels are skipped.
As always, when making the updates and improvements featured in version 4.4, WordPress considered client feedback to further enhance the user experience. By listening to those who use the program every day and releasing a beta version in advance of the full release, WordPress is effectively serving its clients, growing and evolving based on their needs and requests.