The release of WordPress 5.4, scheduled for March 31, 2020, brings a number of new features, bug fixes, and security improvements which impact the user experience.
As an organizer for two WordPress meetup groups, I’ve heard from many WordPress users, designers, and developers who are excited about the numerous updates included in WordPress 5.4.
Sadly, one feature I was looking forward to, native lazy loading images, has been postponed to the WordPress 5.5 release.
While we wait for the official release this week, a reminder that as with any major WordPress release, make sure you’re prepared to test the new version on a test site before applying the changes to any live site.
Which is why I want to highlight an important change that impacts WordPress users using the Block Editor.
When WordPress 5.4 is released, the Block Editor will have fullscreen mode enabled by default.
Read on to learn about the change, how it impacts your content editing, and your website.
Block Editor FullScreen Mode Enabled by Default
With the Block Editor fullscreen mode on by default, the administrative tools that display in the right sidebar and top of the dashboard on desktop are completely removed.
For some people, this removes what they consider to be a cluttered editing experience.
The feature can be disabled by selecting the three-dot menu, referred to as the More Tools and Options menu, on the right sidebar on desktop and unchecking the Fullscreen Mode option.
The change is not without controversy.
The fullscreen mode feature was added after code freeze, which caused a lot of discussion among people contributing to the WordPress 5.4 version.
In addition, the change causes usability and accessibility issues, as the WordPress Accessibility team noted in their fullscreen mode statement.
Note: many WordPress plugins rely on the WordPress admin bar that displays across the top of the dashboard.
Without that bar, there is no direct access to those plugins. And no access to log out of WordPress from the admin bar.
My Thoughts About the Change
As a former software release coordinator, I was shocked that such a major feature was added after code freeze.
In my opinion, it was a poorly made decision, based on usability research that no one provided access to. What could have been seen as a positive change for the user is tacked on in the middle of a release.
With little information provided to users about the change. And no planning for permanently saving the settings in the WordPress database.
Given the usability and accessibility issues, I’m flabbergasted at the decision.
Making the change so late in the release cycle impacts not only theme developers but everyone who does WordPress support.
Users will have no idea where to find the option to disable the change. In my experience, the three-dot menu in the sidebar is not something many WordPress users access.
The changes are only browser-specific (read on for more info) and users will get frustrated with having to make the change in every device and browser they use to edit WordPress content.
What You Need to Know About the FullScreen Editing Mode Change
Whether you approve of the fullscreen editing mode change or not, it’s in WordPress 5.4.
Here’s what you need to know:
- Fullscreen mode is enabled by default
- You can disable fullscreen mode using the More Tools and Options menu
- If you disable it, be aware the change is not permanent and not saved to your User profile settings.
That’s right. The change is saved locally in the browser you’re currently using. Use another browser, use incognito mode, or another digital device to edit your content, and fullscreen mode is enabled by default.
- For anyone using the Classic Editor, there is no change to the editing experience
With Block Editor fullscreen mode on by default, many users will find a less-busy interface for editing content. However, the change is not without issues for users who prefer to control the editing experience or want a more usable, and accessible editing experience.
Users can disable the fullscreen mode, but they’ll need to do that on every browser and device they use, since the fullscreen mode setting is only saved locally within a specific browser.