Development for WordPress 4.3 is well under way, with the core team already working hard to hit the proposed release date—tentatively penciled in for 18 August 2015.
As the weeks and months progress, we’ll get a better idea of what’s in store for the WordPress core in 4.3. We’ve already discussed better passwords, but today I want to focus on changes to the WordPress Customizer.
WordPress 4.2 introduced some small improvements to the Customizer by allowing you to quickly and easily switch between your installed themes. The improvements to the Customizer won’t stop there, however, and the next few versions of WordPress will see the Customizer play a more important role in the configuration and setup of websites.
This starts with WordPress 4.3, with a number of proposals aiming to improve the Customizer’s effectiveness by adding new functionality to the WordPress core. Let’s take a look at the new functionality in turn.
WordPress users currently build and manage their menus from the WordPress admin. In WordPress 4.3, however, the familiar menu-building process receives an overhaul.
WordPress 4.3 will see users able to manage their menus directly from the WordPress Customizer. This will be achieved by merging functionality from the Menu Customizer plugin into the WordPress core.
The benefits of a new, modern custom menu building UI are clear: WordPress users can preview their menus before they’re published, allowing them to test out different approaches and improve navigation in a safe environment. In fact, you’ll be able to preview your proposed changes as you make them, in real time.
The current Menu screen will still exist in 4.3, but could be phased out as early as WordPress 4.4, with all Menu links pointing straight to the Customizer.
If you want to learn more about the proposed changes, Nick Halsey discusses the proposal in more detail over on the Make WordPress Core blog.
Customizer Partial Refresh
The WordPress Customizer isn’t particularly efficient in its current form. When changes are applied in the Customizer, you have to wait for the entire page to reload to preview them.
Expect to see Customizer efficiency improve significantly in 4.3, thanks to the introduction of partial refreshes. This means the Customizer will only refresh the parts of the preview that needs refreshing. For example, if you want to see what your website will look like with a different header color, the Customizer will only reload the header section of the page.
As you can imagine, this will cut load times significantly, allowing users to get the most from the Customizer functionality.
You can currently test out this partial refresh functionality before it’s added to the core by installing the Customizer Partial Refresh plugin.
When you play around with settings in the WordPress Customizer, you have two options: click Save to commit them to your database, or close the browser and lose them forever. Unfortunately, WordPress currently doesn’t offer a middle ground.
All this is set to change in 4.3, however, with the introduction of Customizer transactions—this feature is dependent on the successful implementation of the Customizer Partial Refresh function, though.
The logic behind Customizer transactions is simple: Every time you make changes in the Customizer, WordPress will create a new wp_transaction post, which is given its own UUID post_name. This will effectively allow you to save draft versions of your proposed settings, in the same way that you save drafts of your posts.
This will enable WordPress users to retrieve their proposed changes at a later date. The changes are only applied to the live website by committing them to the database via the Publish button. In such a scenario, the old settings could still be accessed and re-applied if you change your mind.
This also opens up the possibility of scheduling setting changes, too, in the same way that you can schedule posts for publishing at a later date.
To read more about Customizer Transactions, you can view Weston Ruter’s initial proposal by clicking here.
Almost two years ago in version 3.6, WordPress introduced a post locking feature. This prevented two users from editing a post at the same time, which would see one person’s hard work completely lost—the last user to hit save would see their changes overwrite the changes made by the other user.
Well, 4.3 will see a similar feature applied to the WordPress Customizer: Customizer locking. Again, this will prevent concurrent Customizer users from overwriting the other users’ changes.
Multiple users can still access the Customizer, but individual settings will lock. With more features expected for the Customizer in future, facilitating multiple users will become increasingly important, and Customizer locking is a great starting point.
This was another proposal outlined by Weston Ruter, with more details available here.
It’s clear that the core team is committed to making the Customizer an important component of the WordPress experience. It’s expected that anything that could utilize live previewing will be added to the Customizer at some stage.
This commitment is clearly visible in the proposals for WordPress 4.3: I’m expecting the most extensive set of Customizer improvements since it was introduced.
The proposals I’ve heard so far seem to be positive, though—there’s no denying that the partial refresh, Customizer transactions, and Customizer locking will improve the Customizer’s usability.
Adding a menu builder to the Customizer is more open to debate, in my opinion. I think it will be a welcome addition to the Customizer, but, from my personal perspective, I don’t want to see the existing menu builder in the WordPress admin completely replaced.
Either way, I look forward to seeing how the Customizer proposals develop, and, as always, Torque will keep you up to date!
What do you think to the changes to the Customizer due for WordPress 4.3? Share your thoughts in the comments below!