The highly anticipated release of WordPress 6.4 is just around the corner, set to launch on November 7th. This new version of WordPress is creating quite a buzz in the tech community, thanks to its impressive lineup of over 100 performance improvements.
With a continued focus on enhancing Core Web Vitals, this update is poised to be a game-changer in the world of web development.
A Steady Rise in Performance
In 2021, WordPress recognized that the performance of its core Content Management System (CMS) was its responsibility. This realization prompted the formation of the WordPress Performance Team, which set out to revolutionize the platform's performance.
Their first step was the introduction of the Performance Lab plugin, a tool designed to ensure that every change made to WordPress would not introduce any bloat or performance bottlenecks. The results of their efforts have been nothing short of impressive, as evident in the performance metrics of real WordPress sites cataloged in the HTTPArchive Core Web Vitals Technology Report.
At present, the statistics are compelling. With WordPress Core Web Vitals performance over the last few years showing a steady upward trend, it's safe to say that the Performance Team's endeavors have not gone unnoticed.
Performance improvements are undoubtedly a top priority for all WordPress components under development. As an illustration, the default theme, TwentyTwentyFour, included in WordPress 6.4, was found to perform 70% worse than its predecessor, TwentyTwentyThree.
To delve deeper, tests were conducted to measure Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), a Core Web Vitals metric that gauges how long it takes for a webpage to load and when the user can view the largest block of text or image.
Additionally, Time to First Byte (TTFB) and LCP were examined together to determine how quickly the site delivers the first “byte” of data to the browser and how long it takes for the browser to render the markup, revealing inefficiencies in the code.
The results were eye-opening. For the home page, TwentyTwentyFour (TT4) exhibited an LCP that was 58.8% slower than its predecessor, while client-side performance (LCP-TTFB) was 93.5% slower. Similarly, server timing (wp-total) lagged behind by 71.8%. For singular posts, LCP was 3.9% slower, client-side performance was 40.1% faster, and server timing was 42.3% slower.
This discrepancy was largely due to the fact that TwentyTwentyThree (TT3) was streamlined and designed for extension, whereas TT4 was full-featured and sought to make extensive use of the site editor tools. Nonetheless, it was essential to include TT4's new features.
One developer commenting on this said,
“TT4 is not adding any features in itself; it's merely using patterns and adding a few block styles, so anything we find here to fix is liable to benefit every single block theme that's out there, not just TT4, which I think it's fantastic.”
However, the WordPress core contributors managed to achieve a 7.67% faster loading time with the new default theme, a significant improvement over its predecessor. Although TT4 is more complex, it still narrowed the performance difference considerably.
Over 100 Performance Improvements
WordPress 6.4 isn't just about incremental changes; it's a major overhaul aimed at enhancing the user experience. An announcement regarding the test version of WordPress 6.4 highlighted that it will include more than 100 performance-related updates.
These updates range from improvements in template loading for Block Themes and Classic Themes to the use of new script loading strategies such as “defer” and “async” in core, blocks, and themes. Moreover, new functions will be introduced to optimize the use of autoloaded options.
Streamlined Script Loading Strategies
One notable change in WordPress 6.4 is how it handles script loading. The platform will now utilize the “defer” and “async” attributes in frontend scripts, making your website load faster. Scripts with the “defer” attribute will load more efficiently, as they will be moved from the footer to the head section, ensuring faster execution.
Eliminating Attachment Pages
In previous versions, WordPress created standalone pages for every media file uploaded, leading to a surplus of thin content pages. This practice has been discontinued, resulting in cleaner and more efficient websites.
Template Loading Enhancements
WordPress 6.4 introduces changes in how templates are loaded to address performance issues. This includes new caching mechanisms, the removal of unnecessary checks for theme file existence, the elimination of repeated file lookups related to themes, and the addition of modern performance enhancements for older themes.
These updates will significantly improve loading times and overall website performance.
Optimal Image Loading
WordPress 6.4 also brings optimizations for image and iframe loading. It introduces attributes like “lazy loading” and “fetch priority” to enhance the loading process, making web pages load more swiftly and efficiently.
Efficient Autoload Options
In a move to boost website speed, WordPress 6.4 introduces new options functions that allow plugin developers to control which options are automatically loaded. This reduction in unnecessary loading of options results in improved server performance and faster loading times for your WordPress site.
Reducing Redundant Styles
This release also addresses the loading of styles on websites. Styles are essential for defining a website's appearance, and third-party developers can now manage how styles are loaded to prevent redundant code from affecting performance. This optimization is a significant win for performance-focused developers and users alike.
Object Caching for Improved Performance
Object Caching enhancements in WordPress 6.4 significantly improve website efficiency. By optimizing data storage and reducing database queries, these changes lead to a smoother user experience. Object Caching ensures that the required resources are readily available, similar to a chef having salt within easy reach while cooking rather than repeatedly fetching it from the cabinet.
WordPress 6.4's commitment to performance improvements is unmistakable. The platform's dedication to enhancing the Core Web Vitals experience extends to all aspects, from the core CMS to themes and plugins.
These performance enhancements are clearly reflected in the statistics, with a consistent upward trajectory that promises an even better WordPress experience with the release of WordPress 6.4 on November 7, 2023. WordPress users can look forward to a more efficient and faster web experience.
What is WordPress 6.4, and when is it being released?
WordPress 6.4 is an upcoming release with over 100 performance improvements, set to launch on November 7, 2023.
What are Core Web Vitals, and why are they important?
Core Web Vitals are a set of user experience metrics that measure website performance. They are crucial because they directly impact user satisfaction and search engine rankings.
How has WordPress improved its default theme in version 6.4?
The default theme in WordPress 6.4, TwentyTwentyFour, has undergone significant improvements to enhance its performance, making it faster and more efficient.
What are some of the key performance enhancements in WordPress 6.4?
WordPress 6.4 introduces script loading optimizations, removing attachment pages, improved template loading, image loading optimization, new autoload options functions, and reduced redundant styles, among other enhancements.
How will these improvements benefit WordPress users?
These improvements will result in faster loading websites, improved SEO, and a smoother user experience for WordPress site owners and visitors.