This month we continue to work on the WordPress 6.5 release. We are now three weeks away from Beta 1.
Andrea has helped improve the accessibility of some of the major new features, including the Font Library. Sergey has focused on triage and core commits, while Carolina has worked on tickets in the bundled theme component.
Our monthly updates
In the last couple months I’ve been focusing as usual on accessibility issues, mainly regarding the WordPress Gutenberg editor. As always, testing the user interface with keyboard and assistive technology takes great part of my time, together with investigating issues and debugging. I’ve also had the opportunity to propose fixes to some of the issues I reported in a series of pull requests. It’s interesting to note that in the last months, based on testing and research, a few main recurring issues emerged. One of them is about unlabeled controls (buttons, links, etc. that have no textual content or other labeling). While the root problem is certainly lack of education and expertise, I’m more and more convinced that the editor base components are part of the problem. In fact, some components are open to misuse, as their labeling is not enforced via code. I proposed to review the labeling mechanism and make it depend on a required prop for the relevant React components used in the editor. The related discussion is ongoing and hopefully will see some consensus. One more recurring issue in the editor user interface is about keyboard focus losses triggered by focusable controls that are dynamically disabled while they are focused. It appears many contributors lack the necessary expertise and do not test enough to prevent these focus losses, which are a terrible experience for keyboard users. I do believe the editor should enforce best practices via code also in this case and prevent disabling on the fly focused controls. I did propose a potential approach for a solution of this issue, which is under discussion. Lastly, I’ve been focusing on a series of visual and functional inconsistencies that I do believe contribute to make the editor be perceived as an unpolished, confusing, user interface. Consistency and predictability are key for better usability and accessibility.
Besides coding, my other activities as Roma WordPress Meetup co-organizer and delegated person to run the Accessibility team Office Hours are going pretty well. Participation to the local meetup is slowly but steadily increasing. New initiatives and plans are in the works. The accessibility office hours are now a recognized, fixed, appointment in the WordPress Slack even though participation can still improve.
For the past two months I continued triaging and reviewing tickets for the next major release, WordPress 6.5, as part of my duties as a Core Committer.
Some notable changes include:
- Add a Plugins link to the admin bar menu. See ticket #40683 for more details.
- Updating the PHPMailer library to version 6.8.1. See ticket #59966 for more details.
Besides triage and testing I have worked on addressing feedback on my Gutenberg pull requests. This includes adding a featured image option to the media and text block, a filter for the next and previous post links, and a border option for the site logo block. I had a few “allow me to hide in the corner” moments the past week as I repeatedly forgot to test my changes in the Site Editor. It happens when you are working on so many different things at once. These enhancements are not planned for WordPress 6.5 and they have a low priority.
In mid January I was asked if I wanted to be part of the WordPress 6.5 release squad. As part of the squad, I will help with enhancements and bug fixes related to the bundled themes (The bundled themes are the Twenty-series, such as Twenty Twenty-Three and Twenty Twenty-Four).
Currently there are 426 open tickets in the bundled theme component, and 22 of them are in the 6.5 milestone. Nine bundled theme tickets in the milestone are already fixed. I am looking forward to seeing what can be accomplished in the scope of this release.
- One of the first things I did together with the leads for Twenty Twenty-Four was to research and move the remaining open issues from the theme’s GitHub repository to Trac. The GitHub repository is archived and new issues should be opened on Trac.
- I have a deliberate focus on changes to the editor that may affect the themes. For example, there are changes to the global styles CSS that require careful and continuous testing. The implementation changes repeatedly because it is actively being worked on, so it has proven a bit difficult.
- WordPress 6.5 finally brings the optional “Appearance tools” theme support to classic themes. It enables options that have only been available in block themes. Including the minimum height setting and the background image for group blocks.
There are no plans right now to enable this for the classic bundled themes in WordPress 6.5, because there is not enough time to test it. But I am hoping that explorations of how to enable it without causing breaking changes will start soon.