WordPress announced that the Widgets Screen part of the WordPress 5.6 release will be pushed back to version 5.7. This comes after WordPress decided to drop the navigation screen to focus on the widget screen feature.
WordPress 5.6 is the last major release for 2020, scheduled for December 2020.
While this seems like a major setback to lose two important feature, there is an even bigger feature packed into 5.6 and this change makes it more likely to be included.
Widgets Screen Feature
WordPress Widgets is a major part of WordPress. The widget block was so important for WordPress 5.6 that the developers decided in early October 2020 to remove the navigational editing screen from WordPress 5.6 in order to devote more focus on getting the widgets screen finished.
With less than two months until the release of WordPress 5.6, it was decided to remove the widgets screen from the next release and push it back to WordPress 5.7.
WordPress 5.7 is currently scheduled to be released on March 2021, so this gives the WordPress team about five more months to get the widget screen ready for publishers.
Widgets Screen Not Close to Being Ready
The WordPress announcement cited the features lack of readiness for the decision to remove it from the 5.6 release of WordPress:
“At the current stage of this project a bulk of that work is done, but more focused testing revealed notable concerns for overall usability (including customizer interactions, some confusions between block & legacy widgets, and UX disparities between the old and new screens).”
Comments by the WordPress development community indicated that the widgets screen is in very bad shape and will need a lot of attention before it can make it into the WordPress core.
One lead developer called it a subpar experience:
“…the subpar experience of the separate widgets screen. It also is very jarring to visit the customizer after having added blocks to widget areas because of the way blocks are displayed and handled in that context, and users should be able to flow between whatever works for them freely, not be forced into one or the other without benefit to them.
So, when we come back to this again, let’s keep sight of what it means to keep users feeling secure that they can get their site looking the way they want with WordPress, and not like they are having to work around what we’ve given them.”
Another lead developer expressed relief that the widgets screen was being pushed back.
“I breath a sigh of relief, because the new widget screen needs a lot more testing out in the wild before it becomes the new default widget screen in core. We need to get it working properly with the user interface, user flow and functions testing it in the Gutenberg plugin.”
A third lead developer commented on the “quirky” user experience of the widgets block and agreed that further time was needed:
“It’s true, we, as users, want *everything* to be WYSIWYG as much as possible. The Customizer’s “instant preview” kind of helps, but still feels quirky and hacky (and is far from being WYSIWYG).”
Is WordPress 5.6 Diminished? Not Really.
What was set to be an exciting release featuring a new widget screen and a navigation block editor is further diminished by the loss of both features.
The good news is that this frees up the WordPress team to focus on making WordPress 5.6 compatible with the PHP 8 which is currently scheduled for release on November 26, 2020.