6 Recent WordPress Changes You May Have Not Noticed

WordPress changes. They happen. Often. Unless you read the changelogs, most people are unaware of them. Even if you do read the changelogs, some still can go unnoticed.

Let’s play a game. Spot the difference: Find six things that are different in your WordPress post creator.

The old WordPress toolbar
The WordPress 4.7.x toolbar


Do you see them? If you don’t, it’s okay. One of the five recent WordPress changes caused a lot of laughter when we finally noticed it. Five of the WordPress changes are to the user interface which affects user experience. The sixth change is an SEO feature. Still don’t see them?

WordPress Change #1: Removal of Justify Text Button

There is a lot of speculation as to the reasons behind this, ranging from, “justifying text is a bad practice,” to, “hardly anyone was using it, so why keep it?” There are some cases in which justifying text is the thing to do. But those cases are few and far between. Overall, the biggest reasons for not justifying text is that it’s hard to read and it doesn’t not behave well with responsive design. As mobile-first design is the thing to do, why give a tool — one that is hardly used — that goes against best-practices?

One final possible reason for its removal: A lot of people didn’t know it existed to begin with. It’s amazing how many people are not aware that there is a second line to the formatting bar because they don’t poke and hover over the buttons to see what they do. If you are one of the people who are unaware of the second formatting bar, click the button to the right of the “ABC” spellcheck button.

Goodbye, justify text button. I don’t think you’ll be missed.

WordPress Change #2: Removal of Underline Text Button

The underline text button used to live to the left of the justify text button. Just like justifying text, underlining text is bad design practice. It’s ugly and difficult to read. If you are want to emphasize text then it should be in italic. Bold is sometimes an option, and sometimes bold and italic but italic is the best choice.

You may be thinking, “But, hyperlinks! They’re underlined!” This is true. Most WordPress themes’ CSS contains code to add an underline text decoration to hyperlinks. Sometimes, it’s just a change in colour with a different colour on hover. This is an area that is up for debate. In 2014, Google got rid of hyperlinks in search results. When we design a new theme, we start without the underline on hyperlinks and then get feedback from the client. We use underlined hyperlinks after doing an experiment on click-through rates (CTR), and saw that CTR dropped when we removed them.

WordPress Change #3: Horizontal Line Button Moved

We’re not really sure how many people have even noticed this button exists, never mind that it’s been moved from the top formatting bar to the bottom one. One of our clients has, GeekDad and GeekMom, has over 200 writers. Every now and then, one of the editors will suggest flipping over to the Text (HTML) tab to add <hr> tags to separate content. When it is pointed out that there is no need to manually add the code because the button exists, it’s actually quite interesting. It allows us to know a couple of things:

  1. How people are using the WordPress Visual editor; and
  2. What things we need to add to our ever expanding “Tips and Tricks” guide — not only for our clients, but also our newsletter subscribers and our newly created FAQ and Knowledge Base.

WordPress Change #4: Strikethrough Button Moved

This is another button that has moved from the top formatting toolbar to the bottom. Just like with the Horizontal Line move, we have to wonder if this is because people rarely use it. WordPress doesn’t capture data about how people are using self-hosted WordPress. They rely on surveys — which only a handful of people ever fill out — and feedback; most of which ends up coming from developers.

WordPress is always encouraging people to subscribe to their Make WordPress blogs so that users know what is going on with WordPress and as a place for users to easily provide feedback. Unfortunately, there are more developers than regular users who tend to participate on this level.

WordPress Change #5: Paragraph / Heading / Preformatted Dropdown Menu Moved

When we finally noticed this change — which was today as we were preparing to write this post — there was a lot of laughter. Why? Because we write a lot of personalized formatting tutorials for our clients. Each of our clients have different workflows, so we write quick tutorials to suit their needs as questions come up.

A recent tutorial was about how to prevent ads from showing up in blockquotes. We wrote the tutorial from muscle memory, starting the how-to with:

This tutorial requires that you have both formatting bars visible. If you do not see the second row of the formatting bar, click the “Toolbar Toggle” button that is to the left of the “ABC” spellcheck button, or ‘Shift+Alt+Z’.

Why did we write these sentences? Because there is a section in the how-to about highlighting text and then changing from “Paragraph” to “Preformatted.” Not that long ago — WordPress 4.6.x — we had to bring attention to the second toolbar with almost all of our clients when they would ask how to add headings. The “Toolbar Toogle” step became such a part of memory, that we didn’t even notice when this menu was moved, even though we use it in almost every post we create.

This WordPress change is our favourite because it really was in the top five for, “I didn’t even know that existed!” comments from clients, and this is one of the most important features when creating a post or page. It would be even better if the second toolbar was open by default.

WordPress Change #6: Stop Words Automatically Removed from the Slug

This is an excellent addition to the build-in SEO tools that WordPress has. WordPress is truly an excellent CMS when it comes to SEO and the makers are constantly improving on its structure and code to make it even more SEO-friendly.

Before this change, every single word you entered into the title would be included in the slug. If you use Yoast SEO, you may have noticed a flag for stop words in the slug. This would lead to having to click the “Edit” button in the permalink structure area. So, WordPress fixed that, making one less thing to do when creating a post.

Before this change, the slug for this post would have been: 6-recent-wordpress-changes-you-may-have-not-noticed

Now, the slug (before shortening it to be even more SEO-friendly) is: 6-recent-wordpress-changes-may-not-noticed

We shortened it even more for better SEO: 6-recent-wordpress-changes

What do you think of these changes? Let us know in the comments below.

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