Matt Mullenweg, the overall product lead for core releases in 2017, has published an overview for what users can expect in WordPress versions 4.9 and 5.0. After the success of 4.8 and the initial release of Gutenberg last week, Mullenweg is aiming to see the plugin installed on 100K+ sites during the next few months before merging it into core. He also suggested that WordPress could put a promo for the plugin in the upcoming 4.8.1 release.
“In the meantime I think we can do another user-focused 4.9 release with the theme of editing code and managing plugins and themes, doing v2s and polishing some features we brought into WP last year,” Mullenweg said. “Weston and Mel already have some good ideas there, and we can start to discuss and brainstorm at the Dev chat next week. This will also allow the Gutenberg-driven release to be 5.0, which is a nice-to-have but not the primary driver of this decision.”
Mullenweg elaborated on changes to the release process in a post on his personal blog. The original idea was for releases to be driven by improvements to the three focus areas (the editor, customizer, and REST API), but the radical changes that Gutenberg introduces to the editing experience means that customization improvements will need to wait until the editor is a little further along:
Mel and Weston took this as an opportunity to think about not just the “Customizer”, which is a screen and code base within WP, but really thinking in a user-centric way about what it means to customize a site and they identified a number of low-hanging fruits, areas like widgets where we could have a big user impact with relatively little effort.
WordPress is littered with little inconsistencies and gaps in the user experience that aren’t hard to fix, but are hard to notice the 500th time you’re looking at a screen.
I didn’t think we’d be able to sustain the effort on the editor and still do a meaningful user release in the meantime, but we did, and I think we can do it again.
During this week’s core development meeting, contributors brainstormed more specific items for inclusion in 4.9. The ability to schedule customizer changesets is one feature they discussed as a possibility. Customizer component co-maintainer Weston Ruter described the feature as “adding statuses for changesets: being able to draft a changeset to come back to later, and then to be able to schedule it to go live.”
The Customize Snapshots feature plugin contains the UI for this and Customize Changesets, the term for the underlying infrastructure required for saving a Customizer session as a draft, was added in WordPress 4.7. Adding the UI in WordPress 4.9 would allow users to share Customizer sessions, preview them outside of the iframe, and schedule them to publish at a future date.
Andrew Roberts, a contributor to TinyMCE, said they should have a new mobile-optimized UX, which would result in a responsive toolbar, that could land within the proposed 4.9 timeframe.
“I would wonder if we couldn’t tweak the UI to be closer to Gutenberg (e.g. white toolbars),” Roberts said. “I had raised this idea before and it was thought it was better to wait until Gutenberg, but I remain of the opinion we could iterate a little bit closer to get users used to it.”
Contributors also discussed the possibility of changing the default font in the editor to ease the transition to Gutenberg in the future. Currently, Gutenberg uses system fonts for UI and Noto Serif for the editor text.
Mel Choyce, who is heading the Customizer focus with Weston Ruter, said she hopes the team can finish the Gallery Widget for 4.9. Current progress on the widget can be found on GitHub.
WordPress 4.8.1 is tentatively planned for the last week in July, and contributors anticipate including a fix for some issues with the new Text Widget stripping out code.