WordPress 5.6 – here’s everything you need to know!

Back in 2018, we discussed everything that the WordPress 5.0 update included. But behold – the latest WordPress 5.6 release is here!

It brings a variety of new features, plus a shiny new default theme. We’re really excited about this release, so let us tell you more about what’s new…

WordPress 5.6 new features

Twenty Twenty One – The new default theme!

A new faster, accessible and SEO-friendly default theme is one of the huge new features in the WordPress 5.6. release. 

Block patterns were introduced in WordPress 5.5 and the new theme in WordPress 5.6 uses these block patterns really well. Allowing you to quickly build a complex layout, this is a great new feature in the update.

The theme has a few different patterns that you can use, all of which you can adjust to suit your own brand needs.

Showing the new WordPress 5.6 release theme layout called Twenty Twenty One.

Automatic updates

Updating your site and plugins can sometimes feel like a bit of a chore, but it is an essential task to keep your safe and secure.

WordPress can already update minor versions automatically, but in 5.6 the team have gone one step further. The WordPress team have worked hard to help make this process less tedious by providing automatic updates. Not only for the minor versions, but by automatically updating to major versions too.


If you like the sound of that, you’ll need to opt-in and activate this feature in the WordPress Updates screen. It’s worth noting here that automatic updates of major versions has its pros and cons. So think about how this might affect your site before you activate the feature.

View of the WordPress Updates tab where users can opt-in to automatic version updates.

Application passwords

Sometimes there are times when you may need to give an external site/application access to your site. Application passwords in WordPress 5.6 provide a way for external sites/applications to access certain parts of your WordPress site. Application passwords allow them to get into your site and can be easily verified, without the need of sharing your password.

To do this, you can generate access keys and share them with whoever needs access. Plus, revoking them is also just as simple; just use the ‘revoke’ button. 

The access keys are easy to use and understand, as they all use a similar format. We think that a lot of plugins will adopt this feature, so its worth making a note and keeping an eye out for this one!

View of the account management area within WordPress.

Lots of Gutenberg updates

The block editor makes editing a lot simpler for anyone out there who isn’t from a developer background. Therefore, it’s been welcomed by many, including us and many of our clients.


The WordPress 5.6 update has introduced a whopping 7 new Gutenberg releases! You can expect to see improved support for video positioning in cover blocks, improvements to block patterns, better dragging and dropping of blocks and enhancements to keyboard navigation.


But that’s not all… It also has lots of performance and accessibility enhancements too.

Beta support for PHP 8

This one is probably more for the developers out there… As you may or may not be aware of, PHP 8 has just been released (which is a big deal if you are a developer!).


For non-developers, this is the latest version of the programming language that WordPress is written in. It brings some great features that will help developers to use more modern code practices.

In WordPress 5.6, the CMS is ‘beta compatible’ with PHP 8. There is still some work to do for WordPress to be classed as fully compatible with PHP 8 and before developers can really utilise all of the newness it will bring. However, this is great news for those trying to push forward with new and exciting features and stay ahead in their industry.

Test your site in WordPress 5.6

As with any big update, we always recommend testing the new release of WordPress 5.6 on your staging environment, before updating your live site.


A big update brings lots of fixes, improvements and changes. A lot of the time, these will work with no issues. However it’s impossible to test the update with all versions of every plugin and any bespoke code, so updates could break some plugins or themes that you currently use. 


Therefore, we highly recommend testing the update thoroughly on your test site, before rolling it out to your live site.

Are you ready to update to WordPress 5.6?

The update brings so much more, but these are just a few of the amazing new features. If you’d like to hear more of the nitty gritty details and more of the new features, then have a read of the WordPress 5.6 Field Guide. Or for more information on how this new release was put together, our friends at Yoast.com have put together a blog on the road to WordPress 5.6.

If you’re an existing customer, it’s likely we handle WordPress maintenance for you, so sit back and relax in the knowledge we will be updating you to WordPress 5.6 in due course.

If you need help with updating your WordPress site, then feel free to get in touch; we’d love to help and have a chat about how you can utilise the latest update.

If you’d like to have a chat about how we can help you, get in touch and we’d be happy to discuss!

Get in touch using the form below and we’ll be in contact to discuss your requirements.