Today, Josepha Haden Chomphosy announced the results of yesterday’s “go/no-go” demo and decision on whether Full Site Editing (FSE) would land in WordPress 5.8. The site editor and global styles are not landing in the next release. However, several other features should launch and allow users to build their sites with blocks in new ways.
The following people attended the demo:
- Matías Ventura – Demo Host and Gutenberg Project Lead
- Matt Mullenweg – WordPress Project Lead
- Helen Hou-Sandí – Lead Developer
- Josepha Haden Chomphosy – Executive Director
- Héctor Prieto – Technical Project Manager
- Chloé Bringmann – Assisting with administrative and operational logistics
Ventura walked the group through the various FSE features that could be ready for WordPress 5.8, taking questions and discussing along the way. There was also a discussion afterward that focused on ideas beyond the next release.
The following FSE-related features are expected to ship:
- Improvements from Gutenberg 9.9+.
- New theme-related blocks, like Query, Site Logo, Navigation, and more.
- theme.json integration, which allows themes to define block defaults and settings.
- Template-editing mode for the block editor.
- Block-based widgets screen and customizer integration.
- New block design tools, such as duotone (SVG filters for images), layout controls, padding, and more.
“Not all of the above are currently ready but there’s some level of confidence that they can be by the time of 5.8,” noted Haden Chomphosy in the post.
This list feels like a solid compromise between launching some of the more polished FSE features and trying to force in those that are probably out of reach for a July 2021 release. The features also provide current users access to new block tools without activating a block-based theme.
The group focused on the Query block for much of the early discussion. The Gutenberg development team will likely change the block’s user-facing name to something less confusing. It also needs a bit more polishing to make things more user-friendly.
One other feature that users should look forward to is the pattern directory. While it is not ready for integration into the WordPress admin UI, it does not need to be. Users will be able to copy patterns from the directory and paste them directly into their editor. In time, it should become a part of the built-in experience.
The group seems to have made a good call on which features to include. It is easy to want to push forward and get everything into the hands of users. It can be tougher to pull back and compromise.
Full video of the demo:
I had two takeaways that stood out to me more than anything in the meeting.
Takeaway #1: Page Template Editor
In WordPress 5.8, users should gain access to the template editor. On the page-editing screen, it allows users to switch out of content-editing mode. From there, they can work on the overall template. Essentially, for this release, it would serve as a landing page builder.
This is a sort of middle ground between just the block editor and the eventual site editor. I like this route because it does not overwhelm end-users with a complete site-editing experience at once. It is a helping hand, a transition from the current phase to the next, allowing users to familiarize themselves with more advanced tools.
The template editor will work for all users too. They will not be required to run a block-based theme to access it. Because each template would be a one-off use case, WordPress can serve this up without theme authors opting into it.
Many block-ready themes have already been including an “open canvas” type of template. This would remove the need for those unless also including it for third-party builders. It would also solve the portability issue when users switch from a theme that bundles the template and one that does not.
Takeaway #2: Many Block-Based Themes
At the end of the discussion, the group was more or less spitballing some ideas beyond version 5.8. In particular, Helen Hou-Sandí shared a vision of what theme development for the official directory could look like in the era of FSE.
“Because the full site editing, like from a user-facing point of view, is not about page building all the time,” she said. “It’s about tweaking what’s there. Yeah. So I feel like the correct thing for core to do in terms of bundled themes is actually a bunch of small bundled themes.”
I have previously written about how work on Twenty Twenty-Two should already be underway instead of waiting until the last moment to piece a new default theme together for the end-of-the-year launch. The yearly default theme system has served the community well for over a decade now. I am already warming to the idea of turning it on its head and forging a new path.
With FSE, developers do not necessarily have to follow all of the rules of traditional themes. Themes like Kjell Reigstad’s Carrd-like, two-column landing page theme would be well-suited to such an experiment. Smaller, more experimental projects like this could replace the old Twenty* theme system with something new or even complement it.
Hou-Sandí also threw out a few ideas around building block-based themes via a library of CC0 images, the patterns directory, and copying/pasting things from WordPress.org. She likened it to the CSS Zen Garden era. It could even open the possibility of bypassing the theme review process since everything would be pre-vetted.
But, these are thoughts for tomorrow. For now, we are at least getting some initial FSE components.