WordPress 4.8, code named “Evan” after famous jazz pianist and composer William John “Bill” Evans, was officially released and available for download on June 8th.
Here are some exciting new features built into WordPress 4.8 that will make your blogging experience smoother and more enjoyable.
1. Visual Editor Added To Text Widget
This new visual tab within the text widget is the feature I am most excited about. Using the text widget to add a call to action to your site can turn one time visitors into return readers and loyal customers.
Although the text widget is such a crucial tool, it’s been stuck with plain text/HTML editor for over a decade, without native support to easily add links, images, lists, or formatting. There were ways around this shortcoming, which I discuss in my post on the new visual editor in the text widget, but they each come with their own disadvantage.
Thankfully, the addition of a visual tab in WordPress 4.8 makes all of those workarounds obsolete. So switch over to the visual tab to format, link, and add images in your text widgets to your hearts content!
2. Video Widget
The new dedicated video widget will help you insert a YouTube, Vimeo, or other hosted video into your widget area. You also have the option to use a self-hosted video, although that is generally discouraged by web hosts, and can cause major load time (an important SEO factor) problems for your website.
Video is a great way to make a connection with your audience and keep their attention, but it is very resource intensive, so make sure to use a video hosting service to keep your site running smoothly.
3. No More Native Support of WMA and WMV
Another noteworthy change in the way WordPress 4.8 handles video is that native support for WMA and WMV has been discontinued. That means if you paste a link to a WMA or WMV video into your post there will be a download link, but a video player will no longer be automatically inserted. If you’re hosting all your video on a 3rd party service this won’t be an issue for you.
If you have any self-hosted videos that now appear as download links, this is a great time to make the switch to YouTube or Vimeo!
4. Audio Widget
The audio widget allows you to display an audio player in your widgets using an audio file on your server, or with a link to your professionally hosted audio file.
Although not as resource intensive as video, audio can also slow down your site if hosted on your own server, especially if you have several people listening to it simultaneously. Like video, you should use a 3rd party service to host your audio, like Soundcloud or Lybsyn.
You will need to find the URL for your hosted audio file, but it’s not too complicated and there are step-by-step tutorials on how to find the direct mp3 link on Soundcloud, Lybsyn, or other audio hosting services.
5. Image Widget
Adding images to the widget area used to be done through the text widget, or a 3rd party image widget plugin.
The new image widget in WordPress 4.8 gives a dedicated, simple widget to add images to your website.
Images are a critical component that can add credibility, grab attention, and showcase products and offers.
For example, every website or blog should have an area for visitors to sign up to receive a free gift, whether that comes in the form of a consultation, ebook, or video series.
You can use the image widget to easily insert an eye catching graphics that will be seen more often, and convert better than plain text.
6. Link Boundaries
Link boundaries do not add any new widgets or menu items, but they do add some much appreciated functionality to the WordPress visual editor.
If you’ve ever tried to add text before or after a link, you’ve probably experienced the frustration of the new text becoming part of the link when you don’t want it to, or not being linked when you do want it to.
The link boundaries feature gives you clear visual cues as to when your cursor is in the link. The entire link gets a blue highlight when you are inside of the linked area, but then turns off when you move out of it. Simply press the left or right arrow to move in or out of the link boundary.
7. WordPress News Widget
I’ve never been too big on the dashboard widgets, but there is a new one in WordPress 4.8 that I’m excited about.
The WordPress News widget tells you about upcoming WordPress events in your area, including, but not limited to WordCamps.
If you haven’t been to a WordCamp yet, I highly recommend it. WordCamps are an excellent networking and learning experience whether you have been blogging for many years, or you’re still trying to get set up on WordPress.
Keep an eye on the WordCamp News for WordCamps in your area, or check out all of the upcoming events at WordCamp Central.
What is your favorite feature in WordPress 4.8? Leave a comment below!
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