The New WordPress 4.4 Explored

WordPress 4.4 – Clifford – is here! But what does that mean for you?

Good question. After all, it’s not always obvious how new WordPress updates will affect you, but it is important that you know.

With that in mind, in this article we will cover all of the key features you will find in the latest version of WordPress, including improved responsive image support, embedded content, and the REST API. Then, most importantly, we’ll explain why these new features should matter to you.

New Features for End Users

Let’s start by taking a look at what end users can expect from this latest version of WordPress.

Responsive Images

One of the biggest downfalls to ‘true’ responsive design is that scalable images still take up a lot of unnecessary bandwidth when being loaded on mobile platforms. To compound that problem, integrating responsive images within WordPress has historically been problematic.

Which is why the news that responsive images are now supported by WordPress 4.4. By using srcset markup, WordPress websites can now offer up small images to small platforms, and big images to big platforms.

As an end user, this feature is included in all of your posts automatically, so there isn’t anything you need to do for this to start taking effect. Simply update to WordPress 4.4! (If you’re a developer and want to learn more about hooking into this new feature, read this.)

WordPress Post Embeds

WordPress 4.4: Embeddable Posts

You’ve been able to embed YouTube videos, Instagram images, and more into your WordPress posts for a while. With WordPress 4.4, your WordPress posts will be externally embeddable for others in exactly the same way. This may not sound particularly exciting at first, but consider for example an e-commerce website; your products are now easily embeddable for anyone using oEmbed.

This same logic applies to any public post type available on your website, which makes your website and your content incredibly shareable.

While they were at it, the WordPress developers added a few more services that are now easily embeddable into your own posts: Cloudup, Reddit Comments, ReverbNation, Speaker Deck, and VideoPress.

(If you’re a developer and want to customize the output of these embeds, learn more about the necessary hooks and filters here.)

New Features for Developers

Now let’s see what’s in store for developers. End users should keep reading too, as WordPress is developing at an astonishing rate, and the new features below will certainly impact on you down the line!

The REST API

The core integration of REST API into WordPress is easily the biggest feature added in 4.4 – bringing WordPress one giant step closer to being a genuine application development platform.

REST API means that you can turn your website into an application by providing the content from your WordPress installation as data for applications. This can extend to mobile apps, third party software, and so much more.

Right now, only the infrastructure has been added as the first part of a multistage rollout, but you can learn about what’s coming down the line by checking out the official REST API plugin and the REST API documentation.

If you’re a plugin or theme author, you can already start building – here’s a good tutorial for getting started. You can also read this in-depth case study on using the API in a ‘real’ environment.

If you want a good look at the vast possibilities of REST API, read this.

Term Metadata

In other news, terms now support metadata! This enables you to store more meaningful data for your terms in the same way that you can store metadata within your posts.

Smashing Magazine recently published a great breakdown of how to implement this new feature from a developer standpoint. Theme Hybrid also introduced these concepts from a different perspective and suggested alternative use cases.

Better Access to Comment Data

The WP_Comment class has been added to improve how you interact with comment queries. This should make creating custom comment templates a much smoother process. Maybe we’ll even start seeing some innovation on the comments front!

The WordPress 2016 Theme

Twenty Sixteen is a great spin on WordPress’s annual theme release.

TwentySixteen Homepage

The typography in particular is stunning, clear, and crisp:

TwentySixteen Standard Format Post

It is designed to perform mobile-first and comes with just enough customizer options to make it your own.

TwentySixteen post with image

You can learn more from the official theme release here.

Conclusion

In this short and sweet review, we addressed the key new features present in WordPress 4.4. You now know your stuff.

So what next? Well, you can experiment with embedding your content (try it with your e-commerce if you have one!) and include more embeddable content in your posts. You should also keep your eye out for bigger and better features coming into WordPress themes and plugins thanks to the REST API and term metadata. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, you could take the new 2016 theme out for a spin.

Which feature makes the biggest difference to you? Let us know in the comments section below!

About the Author

Tom Ewer is a professional blogger, longtime WordPress enthusiast, and the founder of WordCandy.

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