This article is outdated, check out what’s new in WordPress 4.6 here.
WordPress 4.4 has just landed, named ‘Clifford’ in honor of the jazz trumpeter Clifford Brown. We’ve covered previous releases and there’s always something that excites me, but nothing comes close to this release. This is due to native responsive image support, WordPress now becoming an oEmbed provider and the introduction of the first half of the WP API.
In this article, I’ll dig deeper into what’s new in this latest release, as well as what you need to know when upgrading.
Upgrading to WordPress 4.4
If you’re not already performing regular website maintenance, now’s a great time to start, check out our guide to WordPress maintenance here.
Testing or Staging
Whether you only have a handful of visitors, or thousands, if your website is important to you, you should be using a staging or test site.
Despite best efforts, sometimes it’s difficult, if not impossible to replicate a production system. However, for most sites, a staging site will help you work whether there are any issues to look out for.
Ensure You Have Trusted Backups
Upgrading aside, you should always have reliable backups of your site. Most issues experienced by users will be caused by third party plugins and themes, so make sure you know what plugins your site is using, and check to see if they’ve published anything about 4.4 support.
Choose a Good Time to Upgrade
For busy sites, there isn’t always a good time – but try and pick a time when you have the resources to best manage any downtime or upgrade issues. Also choose a time when there is less traffic on the site, perhaps in the evening for example.
I’ve always found WordPress upgrades work as expected. All of problems I’ve come across while upgrading, have been due to compatibility issues with plugins and themes. This is yet another good reason to choose actively developed, well supported, high quality plugins and themes.
If You Do Experience Problems
Try basic troubleshooting steps such as disabling your plugins and selecting a default theme to try and isolate where the problem is. Check out this handy article on common WordPress Issues and how to fix them.
If you need help, you can also head over to the official WordPress support forum, however please make sure you’ve read the welcome post first.
We’ve also got a guide to updating WordPress, Plugins and Themes if you’d like some further detail on applying updates.
Applying the Update
If you have logged into your WordPress site in the last day, you should have seen this alert:
When you click on ‘Please update now’ you are then taken to a page with further details about applying this update to the site as you can see below:
When you click on ‘Update Now’, WordPress 4.4 will be applied to your site and you know that you have success when you see this screen:
Alright! If you’ve already got to this point, you’re now ready to jump straight into the new features in WordPress 4.4.
New Features in WordPress 4.4
The WordPress REST API, known as the WP API isn’t new. In fact, it’s been available as a plugin and it has already been used in some really interesting projects for quite a while. It is however, the first time it’s been included in WordPress core.
The WP API is being introduced in two parts, 4.4 will contain the first part. From a user’s perspective, think of the WP API as plumbing that will allow developers to easily create powerful new applications using WordPress as a framework. It’s a massive milestone for WordPress and the team that have been working on it.
To learn more about the WP API, check out Ben Shadle’s introduction and guide to using the WordPress REST API.
You probably already know that WordPress has supported oEmbed since version 2.9, and the list of sources has continued to grow with every new release. Whether it’s a tweet from Twitter or a YouTube video, you simply copy the URL from any of the possible oEmbed providers available and just paste it into your WordPress editor to embed the content.
With WordPress 4.4, your website is now also an oEmbed provider.
That means you can allow others to embed content from your site directly into their site. Or vice versa, you can grab any URL from another WordPress 4.4 site and paste it into your post and it will automatically display it. Below is an example of what it looks like when adding the URL for the latest post on WordPress.org:
The importance of mobile devices continues to skyrocket, and with so many different screen sizes and devices being used to consume web content, it’s now more important than ever to make sure websites are responsive.
Developed by SitePoint’s own talented Tim Evko, this is a feature that users will benefit from immediately.
With WordPress 4.4, responsive images are now natively displayed on your website for any image (including your existing ones). This is a great new feature that will certainly enhance the user experience.
This functionality is delivered by adding
srcset and sizes support to the image markup WordPress generates.
WordPress will now automatically create a few sizes of the image in the media library and by including the available sizes of an image in the
srcset attribute, browsers can display the most appropriate image size based on the capabilities of the device. From a performance perspective, this also improves page speed.
The images below showcase the new responsive Twenty Sixteen WordPress theme. The minimalist design is based on a horizontal header with the option to have a right sidebar and several custom colour options. The theme has been designed mobile first, so users can enjoy an optimized experience on any device.
Other New Additions
An enormous amount of work has also taken place under the hood, a few of the other key changes include:
- Significant improvements to Commenting
- Term Meta API
- Improvements to Multisite
- Improvements to the Customizer
- And much more (see here for the complete list)
If that’s not enough WordPress goodness for you, here are some great resources for further reading so you can truly reap the benefits of this latest release:
- WordPress 4.4 Field Guide
- WP API – Using the WordPress REST API
- WP API on SitePoint
- Official WordPress Codex Documentation
I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback on WordPress 4.4!
Chris isn't afraid to admit it: he's a geek from way back, having worked in IT for more than 20 years. He co-founded a digital agency called Clickify, working with a great team of developers and marketers, and is also the WordPress Editor for SitePoint. Chris is passionate about keeping up-to-date with the latest web technologies and can be found at many of the tech events in Melbourne, Australia. For more details, check out his personal site at chrisburgess.com.au.