Live Q & A: Updates to Full-Site Editing and Block-based Themes

On January 29th, 2021, our latest Live Q & A took place. The fabulous Carolina Nymark, Anne McCarthy and Ari Stathopoulos answered many questions about Full-site Editing and block-based themes.

Links shared during the show:


Sponsored by Pauli Systems, LC

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Welcome, people. We’re here for the 27th live Q&A on the Gutenberg Times. My name is Birgit Pauli-Haack, and I am your host and the curator of the Gutenberg Times. I’m so happy to see so many of you today, and more and more were coming in, because I just opened up the space on Zoom, as well as on YouTube. Feel free to use the chat to let us know where you’re watching from. I’m happy.

Today’s show, we will discuss updates on the full site editing development, or short, the site editor, in contrast with the post-editor, and how it will change themes development and how users can update this site outside the posted pages.

As some of you know, we had similar discussions on the show before. Starting with a discussion among theme developers in December 2019, with Ellen Bauer, Rich Tabor and William Patton. They were rethinking themes in WordPress. Followed by an early demo of the site editor with Enrique Piqueras exactly a year ago, in January 2020. 

Then in June 2020, we had Kjell Reigstad who gave us a short demonstration on how he modified themes through the site editor. Carolina Nymark was there, as well as Eileen Violini. And they both are very knowledgeable about block-based themes. We will share those with you definitely in the show notes afterwards.

Now, we are here. Where are you all coming from? Oh, let me see my chat here.

Anne McCarthy: We have people from all over. It’s pretty awesome.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: People from all over. Excellent, yeah. From Brazil, from Norway, from California, Chicago. Hi, everyone. Buenos Aires; Nutley, New Jersey; Barcelona; Montreal, Canada. Wow, this goes around the world. Excellent.

I’m delighted to welcome back Carolina Nymark. She works on the theme team and is one of the team who brought you the default theme in 5.6, the Twenty Twenty-One. She’s also leading the effort to convert the default theme into a block-based theme called TT1 Blocks. Welcome back to the show, Carolina. Good evening, and how are you today? How is the winter in Sweden?

Carolina Nymark: Thank you. I am very well, thank you. Thank you for inviting me again. This winter’s been strange, with warm days and very little snow. But, I miss the sun. It’s very dark and gray here, still.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: All right. Well, welcome. And also welcome back to the show, the awesome Anne McCarthy, who joined the WordPress project in Spring 2020, as a developer relations wrangler. And she has been working with the full site editing FSE outreach experimental program and helps with documentation, issues on GitHub repo, and just created awesome tutorial on how to triage on the GitHub repo on the 

Hi, Anne, how are you today? It’s early. Did you have coffee yet?

Anne McCarthy: I actually have my WordPress mug next to me, so I’m very prepared for this. But I’m doing well. I’m super excited to chat with you all and I feel honored to be back on. Thank you for having me.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Awesome. Anne will also share a lot of links in the chat. Don’t worry too much about it when you miss some. We will share all the things later, after the show on the Gutenberg Times as well as on YouTube, where the recording will be placed. So you can follow up on that. You don’t have to scribble and go off to other places where the links follow. Stay here.

Our third panelist today is Ari Stathopoulos and he’s also part of the Themes Team, worked on the Twenty Twenty theme and contributes actively full-time to Gutenberg. He also successfully landed the first block-based theme in the official WordPress repo called Q.

Hi, Ari. I’m so happy to finally meet you. Good evening, and how is life in Greece?

Ari Stathopoulos:  Hello, it’s nice to be here. Life in Greece is nice but we don’t see a lot of Greece nowadays, because of all the lockdowns.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. That’s also all over the world, and yeah, so hi. I hope everybody who is on the show attending also is in good health.

Before we go into media things, I wanted to point out a few things. If you’re watching on YouTube livestream, use the chat box next to the video to post your questions or comments. And also, start with, include where you’re from, if you have any questions. Then here on Zoom, we do the question in the Q&A section, and I see somebody already had one. Victor, hi. We will get to that in a little moment. 

As a host, I have the privilege that I can ask the first two questions myself. Those are very important to me. That’s why I do the show. If you disagree, be friendly, be nice. We can disagree on a lot of things but we need to be just conscientious. It’s family-friendly, so let’s be conscious about that.

Full Site Editing

Now, I want to, now I have you here, I have wanted to ask you, Carolina, Ari and Anne, what’s going on? What excites you? Which parts of the full site editing excites you the most? Ari, you want to start?

Ari Stathopoulos: Yeah, sure. What excites me the most about full site editing is that we’re starting fresh. It’s something new that we can build good from the beginning, and we can do something better for the web in whole. WordPress is on 40% of all sites, so we have the opportunity to improve sustainability everywhere.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: All right. Carolina?

Carolina Nymark: I am excited about limitations being removed, that we can actually edit the whole page now, including the header and footer, not only the content. I am excited about barriers being removed from team development. You no longer have to know PHP or advanced JavaScript to create a decent team with a nice layout.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: All right. That’s a good point, yeah. Anne, how do you feel about it?

Anne McCarthy: I am very excited about the consistency of it all. I think people are getting used to the block paradigm and now we can spread it to more places, and utilize the upgrades and experience that’s been discovered just with the core editor and now bringing it out to the entire site. I think that’s going to be a huge upgrade for everyone. Like Carolina said, it’s unlocking a lot of things, and like Ari said, it’s impacting such a large part of the internet. It’s a really neat, exciting space. 

I think right now, there’s a lot of pieces and it’s hard to see how it all fits together, but I’m really excited when that vision comes into place and everything clicks in.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. And listening to you all, I’m getting excited, too. Let me start with the big picture. 

Big Goals for 2021

Josepha Haden, the executive director for WordPress open source project, just published her post, Big Goals for 2021. And on other topics, she wrote, “The goal of full site editing is the ability to edit all elements of a site using Gutenberg blocks. And this will include all in-progress features designed to help current users transition to Gutenberg, as well.”

Then she mentions that the team aims for, in April 2021, to have an MVP, which stands for minimum viable product. And the first version is slated for 5.8, scheduled to be released on or around June 8, 2021. And I saw some headlines coming by, full site editing coming in June. Yeah, we had this with the Block Editor, too, coming in April, coming in April next year. I think this is all still in flux as you said, Anne. For everybody to catch up on that, I would like to summarize just the components at the nature of block-based themes.

In theory, block-based themes use blocks exclusively for content displays, it is made for full site editing. That’s another interface, that’s the site editor. Has templates and template parts that are on HTML files. As Carolina said, you don’t need to know PHP. And it also integrates with Global Styles. That’s a new feature coming. And then it has an experimental right now, but a theme JSON file that is for all the settings and the configuration of the theme. It’s not all in the functions file anymore. It will be separated out in a separate file.

And then, there are other components for the user interface. One is a rigid screen, the navigation screen and the navigation blocks. And then the site editor to create or modify template or template parts, with a sidebar to edit the Global Styles. Did I forget anything?

Anne McCarthy: The only thing I’ll add, is that there are full site editing blocks. So, things like a pagination block or the site title block. That will also be interactions with the user, but might be easy to overlook because they are just blocks, so to speak.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Right. Yeah, the Query block is definitely the be-all for any archive and post display. The team has been working quite a long time on it.

Blocked-based Themes

The next question I have for you and be assured, we all can change our opinions when new information comes up. Ari and Carolina, you both have worked on block-based themes now. 

What would you think needs to be part of the MVP, the minimum viable product? And what could or should actually wait until version one or later iterations? Carolina, do you want to start?

Carolina Nymark: Yes, I could start. It actually is possible to create a website right now. And everything that you are used to will work. The search will work and the archive pages will work. Most blocks are already in there in their basic version. What we need to make it better is, of course, to expand Global Styles to make it easier to change font family and font sizes and colors. Not only for the paragraph block, but most blocks.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Excellent.

Carolina Nymark: It needs to be a little bit more stable, so I hope that we can do more stable testing when there are fewer changes. It needs to be a little bit more stable so I hope that we can do more stable testing and there are fewer changes.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Ari, do you have anything? What should be in MVP for you as a theme developer or as a site owner?

Ari Stathopoulos: In part, I am a theme developer. The only thing that needs to happen is for the theme JSON file to be finalized, to have a final structure. If that happens, it is a minimum viable product. That’s all we need. The navigation screen, the widget screen, and all these things, they are not exactly for full site editing themes. They are to help theme authors transition to full site editing. They are not required for FSE.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: All right. Anne, what do you think?

Anne McCarthy: I feel like a lot of it is, for me, the magic of it is template editing and that experience. I’m biased on that because that was the first call for testing, I think combined with making that a really smooth and clear experience. I think one of the biggest things with full-site editing, to get right for an MVP, is understanding when you’re actually editing the full site, when you’re going to global. Whether it’s Global Styles, you’re editing a full template. Making that experience both really smooth and clear with the right amount of friction design-wise, I think will be really necessary for an MVP. Because otherwise, it’ll lead to frustration if someone accidentally edits their entire site, they didn’t want to. I think that piece is really key. But later iterations, what comes to mind for me is, moving from just usability to delightful, having it be actually exciting to use and really fun. 

And like Ari was saying, creating more on-ramps, so allowing people to adopt aspects of full-site editing, like Global Styles, for example. But not necessarily needing to opt all the way in. I think the more we can have on-ramps and the more people can use these tools that people have spent so much time on, the better. Because more and more people will get excited, more and more users will then have access to the tools, and we all win.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: All right. Yeah. From the testing, there was quite some confusion going back and forth. Yeah, I can see that. There are certainly some things that need to be better, definitely.

New Releases

Anne, going from the maybe, into the later, to the more concrete, what will land in WordPress 5.7? I know there has been a little bit of confusion out there. Maybe you can clear that up a bit.

Anne McCarthy: Yeah. I’m really glad you asked about this, and that this is something we’re touching on, because I think 5.6 for a long time was seen as the FSE release and for a while, widgets was going to be in there. I think it’s really important to talk about 5.7 so that there’s clarity on what’s coming in there. Because it’s really easy to think, well, if it wasn’t in 5.6, it’ll be in 5.7.

But this is actually a shorter release cycle, so because the timeframe was so short, there aren’t any major features landing. Meaning, the widget screen or full site editing or navigation, but it is still jam packed with a lot of stuff. There’s actually going to be seven releases of Gutenberg that will be updated into WordPress Core, which is a lot. There’s actually a version in WordPress page that I need to update to include this because I just found out this week.

But yeah, there was going to be a ton of additional blocks, refinements for the UI, tools for themes and design. There’s still work being done on the widget screen but that doesn’t necessarily affect the 5.7 release. And there will be an update to jQuery, as well, so keep an eye out for that. It shouldn’t be as jarring as the previous release, so it shouldn’t be as major of an update, but it still might impact different plugins and themes. And then work on auto updates will also be done.

I also want to mention, even though this isn’t a user facing update, there has been a ton of work to get a V1 in place, so a version one for Global Styles, which is a big deal. And so they’re landing a V1 for 5.7. I will drop a link that actually talks about what that will include. But it’s important to note that this is solely concerning the theme JSON structure and won’t actually impact users. But it sets the foundation to eventually impact users, so it’s important to keep an eye on it, especially for this audience of theme authors. It’s a good thing to note, so I’ll drop that in the chat.


Birgit Pauli-Haack: Awesome. We did a whole go around the thing. We have now three sections, three questions in there. Marchek Parmovsky, he sent in a question why Emile, that I would like get out of the way a bit, is how will full site editing change the WordPress theme ecosystem? What do you think, Ari?

Ari Stathopoulos: It’s unclear. Nobody even knows what the ecosystem is, exactly. Things will change, and we will not be building things the way we do now in three years. But, there are a lot of things that themes can and should do, to remain unique and have their place. They just need to be creative, that’s it.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. I like that you said, nobody knows what the theme ecosystem is now. I think we went in WordPress quite far away, that the theme is actually packing a lot of things in there. Or quite a few people have made the theme to be all in make all. And things that should be in a plugin are actually part of the theme. 

And what excites me a bit about the full site editing is that, that will all be separated. The plugin does what plugins do, and themes do what themes do. And you are not taking your whole site down and lose content and functionality when you switch out the theme. And I think that’s definitely something.

Anne, you want to add to that question?

Anne McCarthy: Yeah. I’m not a theme author, so fair warning, but from talking with different people and watching different talks about full site editing and themes, there seems to be a lot of excitement around full site editing allowing themes to be easier to maintain and to unlock more experimentation. And actually giving theme authors the ability to focus solely on design. Not solely, but mainly on design and creating really beautiful experiences and including things like patterns. I mean, everyone’s talked about this, that patterns are really going to unlock amazing stuff. And I’m sure Carolina can talk about that with Twenty Twenty-One.

But yeah, I see it as opening up to be easier to maintain, focused on design, and I do think it’s important to mention that themes are not going away. They actually are a really important part of full site editing. I’ve heard some concerns in the community about this causing themes to no longer be necessary, but I actually think it becomes a very important part of creating this experience and allowing it to work in a seamless beautiful way.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. I think patterns are widely underutilized right now. And yes, you’re right, Anne, I love patterns. I also love gradients, but that’s a different story.

We now have five questions there. I think we need to get going here. 

Victor Cane was the first one, and I value him at 11:02 but I’m going to cut down the whole thing. I’m not going to read it all. His question is, “Given the need for structured content modeling for nontrivial websites and apps, will we be seeing support for custom metafields or custom post types, without being dependent on third-party plugins and their overly complex and heavy approaches? I’m particularly concerned about editing of metafields.”

Anybody want to take that question?

Carolina Nymark: I think that you were about to say is that, it is unknown. We don’t know yet.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah, that’s totally….

Carolina Nymark: Yeah, unfortunately.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: … true, yeah.

Carolina Nymark: Sorry, so no answer.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: No answer. I think it’s more the plugin territory rather than a theme territory. I think that gives us also, because metafields yeah, you can certainly display them but that’s all a theme does. So, it’s kind of an interesting question. I think we need to think about that, Victor, for later on.

Now, Bud Kraus. Hi, Bud. Question is, “How will full-site editing be rolled out in a way that will not break counter themes? And if the classic editor is still being used, what will happen in those cases?”

Anne McCarthy: I can touch on that a bit. For full site editing to work, you actually may be using a full site editing theme. It’s not like it’ll suddenly break your site. There also will be other on-ramps, like we talked about, whether that’s the widget screen or there’s actually some cool experiments or how you can have an in-between hybrid theme. But that’s something that I also want to say, for the outreach program, we’re specifically trying to make sure it doesn’t break things. 

If you’re interested in making sure, across a wide range of situations, you want to help test that, I’ll drop a link to the full siting outreach program, the FAQ. We have about 199 people in it, so if you want to be the 200th person, you’ll get props in my heart forever.

But yeah, I think one of the things to underscore here, too, is I know that the timeline got released and that really got a lot of people both excited and nervous. But, Josepha actually mentioned this week in a post in a comment so I want to re-mention it here. The April due date and timeline is actually going to be where they will reconsider if the current timeline actually works. No one is ever trying to see if it’s going to break a large amount of things. There is always a point release, there’s always a next release. We’re trying to move both quickly to stay up with the internet, but also ethically. 

And so there’s a lot of things to consider there, and it’s definitely not intended to break anything in there. You will have to fully opt in, whether it’s using a full site editing theme, or what have you, with its navigation. Don’t worry that all of a sudden it’s just going to take over your site. It would be very hard to do and you will have to very intentionally step towards full site editing. I hope that puts people at ease.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. I would like to add, that the widget screen and the navigation screen, that definitely to be fully tested, because that will affect their normal theme, I would say, their old theme. No, I don’t have a word for that yet. Current themes, yes. That’s it, yeah.

All right, but I hope that answers your question of it. Emile Boyot, I hope I pronounced it right,”How would full site editing interact with themes? Should themes be compatible with FSE in order to be enabled? Or also, how would it interact with themes that already come with their own visual editors and system?”

Okay, let’s do that one at a time. Should themes be compatible with FSE in order to be enabled? Short answer?

Ari Stathopoulos: I can answer that.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yep.

Ari Stathopoulos: Nothing will change for existing themes. Everything we keep working the way it is now. If a theme is a full site editing theme, then yes, it will take advantage of FSE. Otherwise, nothing is going to change. Nothing will break. All the themes that already exist out there will keep working the way they do now.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Excellent. That would also answer the second question that Emile had, how would the themes interact with themes that have visual editors and systems? If they don’t opt in for full- site editing, nothing changes.

Ari Stathopoulos: Okay.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: And would such themes have to disable FSE? No, if they don’t opt in, they don’t have to disable things. So, really cool. I guess we got that answered. Excellent.

Kristin Aus has the question, “Will FSE and global styles be unavailable for non-admin users? Please say yes.” Yes. Nobody knows. We go for the….

Anne McCarthy: I can touch briefly on that, but more from a larger perspective. One of the things that keeps coming up is actually just user roles, which makes perfect sense, because you have everything from template editing to Global Styles and editing the header. There’s a lot of things that are yet to be figured out. And one of the things Mathias, who’s the project architect of Gutenberg, talked about in a status update, which I will drop a link to, if you want to see it. 

He basically said, “We’re starting really wide. Customization is just wide open right now, and then from there, we’re refining.” It might seem like, oh my gosh, all this stuff is going to be wide open. That’s on purpose. We want to see the full breadth of things, and then from there, create flows to actually make it include everything, from user roles to just a really pretty experience and a really easy, obvious, I’m editing my full site kind of vibe.

Right now, it’s more, “Oh, yeah, this button does edit everything on this site.” It’s not always clear that, oh, it just edited everything, oh, every user has access to this, all that sort of stuff. User roles and everything from template locking. Maybe there’s a template you made on your site, and you don’t want someone else to set it. 

There are open GitHub issues about that. It’s in progress, but this is definitely on people’s minds. We definitely don’t want all of a sudden, everyone have access to editing everything. That would be very anti-WordPress, I think. I think WordPress has always had really great user roles.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Right, yeah. Anybody want to add to that? Okay. 

There’s also the Block Editor itself for the pages and posts. There is already a place where you can lock templates, where you can lock which blocks can be used for sub-blocks and these kinds of things. The mechanics are in place. They just need to be widened and adopted.

RN Weeks has pretty much the same question, “As a designer and site manager, will there be the ability to lock the theme block?” A lot of clients are older, and yeah, we get your concern. But yeah, it’s definitely thought about. And I think we answered that.

And then there’s a comment, not really a question. Genesis works towards its own starter theme. I’ve been struggling through the learning curve with my senior development. I’m interested in learning more about potential on-ramps, Global Style patterns, custom post types, will be huge for us. Links and resources for newer developers, including how to participate in the release process, will be helpful. 

Definitely join the FSE outreach program. There will be a lot of documentation. Before we got live, we said, “Okay, documentation is going to be really huge.” And then, I broke out in hives. How will we ever master that? But we do it like we do everything, one piece at a time, and that’s how we eat an elephant.

Michael Weichert, “How long will themes not using FSE will be supported?” And he feels that’s answered now. Excellent. But then he has another question. “If I’m developing a block plugin to display a gallery, should I implement this using the query block as an inner block? And then have different blocks as children for the query block to control how the images are displayed? Or is the query block not meant to be exposed to end users?”

Ari Stathopoulos: Well, the query block is not meant to be exposed to end users. It will be used to build blocks on it. Imagine something like variations of that block. The latest post block will be a variation of the query block. Galleries can also be a variation of that.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. Excellent. The gallery block I think is now going through another iteration instead of having….

Anne McCarthy: I just dropped a link to that, yeah.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: … separate themes?

Anne McCarthy: Yeah. I just dropped a link to that refactor. I’m working with the developer, Glen, who wrote this PR to do a call for testing. If that’s of interest, just keep an eye out on Make Core, because this definitely needs to be tested, because it is a pretty big refactor.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: All right. Well, thank you, Anne. 

Right now, the questions are through. We got two more questions from email. I’m just trying to find them. I’m scrolling a little bit through much of the screen. Han Homer sent in, “Is an estimate of arrival time for full site editing, and not just in the Gutenberg experiments?” And that was pretty much answered with Josepha’s post, that MVP will be in the Gutenberg plugin, in April. And then from there, it might be in June, but there’s a lot of testing going on.

I think that, from the timeframe, if I have this in mind, the beta for 5.8, which is feature freeze also for Gutenberg, would be sometime in May. If not early May, so mid-May, so six weeks before release, or seven weeks before that. Between the MVP in April and what goes in, in 5.6 is actually just a month in between. Is that what you’re also seeing, Anne?

Anne McCarthy: I think that’s right. There’s so many dates in my head right now, though, and time is moving really strangely, but I think that sounds generally right, to me at least.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: And then Jhon also has the question, “I have already played with block patterns that are available in WordPress. It’s a great way of designing sections and layouts.” Yes, it is. “The next item on my list is the experimental theme, JSON. What are the other key components that will shape the block-based theme?” And I think we answered that, but we can reiterate that.

There was also a question about the theme templates and template parts that are in the theme right now. It’s supposed to be HTML files. Has the team thought about making them also available in PHP or from PHP? And what’s the thought about it?

Ari Stathopoulos: It’s actually not concrete what file type will be used for these files. While we are on the experimenting phase, it is using HTML as the file type because it’s just easier to see the limitations before it is decided if we allow PHP or not. And how that will happen.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Do you want to add something, Carolina?

Carolina Nymark: No. It’s just that we are also waiting for this answer. I would like the answer sooner rather than later, so that we can start, for example, writing the documentation.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. Right. Kimmie Villo, “Is Gutenberg the present engine for WP right now, or does it still require a plugin? And if plugin is required, is Gutenberg live install ready for use on any website?”

Anne McCarthy: I can jump into this one, if that’s helpful.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yes, please do.

Anne McCarthy: Yeah. I’ve actually seen this confusion come up a lot, because people will look at, “Oh, there’s only 300,000 installs of Gutenberg, but there’s, I think it’s five million, ClassicPress installs. But I think at the end of the day, one of the things that you have to realize is, the plugin is more of a delivery mechanism for the latest and greatest features. And that includes beta things. I actually don’t recommend using it on a production site unless you actually want to super plan for the future. And you might also be a plugin developer or what have you, where you want to test things out and tweak things and stay up to date on the latest. But if you’re an average end user, you don’t need to include it. 

I say you don’t need to include it, because each WordPress release bundles Gutenberg releases, bundles the stable features and includes them in the major releases. As long as you’re staying up to date to the latest of WordPress, you’ll actually benefit from all the work that’s done on the Gutenberg, and you don’t actually need to use it on the live site. 

And in terms of present engine, I’m guessing you mean a driving force for WordPress. And I would say it’s one of many. There are a lot of other projects that go on within the WordPress world, that impact many other parts of the site. It’s kind of like auto updates or jQuery. There’s tons of stuff that happens there. It is an engine in terms of the editing experience, which is what a lot of users interact with, but it’s not the only one. There’s a whole car that’s in place driving things forward into the future.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Well, thank you. Yeah. And I also found one in the chat window. Jhon Escobar had a question, “What is the future plan for the theme JSON file? I think it’s becoming a monster and that will be cumbersome to manage in the future, divide and conquer.” That’s this first question. Any ideas? You’re welcome, Kimmie. Nobody knows, right?

Ari Stathopoulos: Right now, it is a big file. It’s huge, but that’s because we’re still experimenting with its structure and how things will be built. We put everything in there. If you open, for example, a full site editing theme, and check that file, it has styles for all blocks. Not everything is necessary. Most of these things will not be needed. It can be as simple as 20 lines, doesn’t have to include everything. Right now, it’s a place where we put all the things. And since we’re experimenting with themes, we test everything, which is why they are monsters.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Good point, yeah. Thank you. Anybody wants to add something? Okay. Then, I go to….

Carolina Nymark: I only….

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah, go ahead, Carolina.

Carolina Nymark: I only wanted to suggest that you actually get involved and express your concern on GitHub in the tickets that are for the Global Styles. Because everyone needs to be heard now. We need every team developer and even site creators to get engaged and express opinions, and help us test things.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Good point, yes. Jhon Escobar has a second question, “The customizer will be obsolete in FSE. Is there any plan to de-incorporate it into WordPress?”

Anne McCarthy: I can touch on that a bit. Let me see if I can find this PR. I’m going to probably need some themers to translate it for me, because I’m not fully sure of the details. But actually saw something in the theme experiments repo, that is pretty cool. I’ll drop it in here. It’s a work in progress experiment using Theme JSON and a customizer. And these are the on-ramps we’re talking about. 

I think eventually, long, long, longterm, yes, the customizer will not play a role, but I think in the interim, it actually could play a really awesome role. For example, the team behind working on the widget screen right now. They spent most of January dealing with bugs, but the biggest thing they’re working on right now is actually creating an experience where you can use blocks in the customizer. That is their number one priority right now to get through.

it’s something users are super familiar with. It’s another one of those things where if we can get more places where blocks become the main paradigm, including all the bells and whistles that come with using blocks, the more we can get people adjusted to this block world, and prepare that on-ramp into full site editing. 

This is one of the things I’m personally really excited about in the long run, is these interim solutions to help people get adjusted. Whether you’re a user or a theme author, or what have you. But this experiment’s pretty cool. Obviously, this is highly experimental. It’s not even an open PR. It’s a draft PR. But it is interesting to look through to see what other people are doing.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Any more comments or thoughts about that? All right. Michael Weichert and Nauhuai Badiola, they have pretty much the same questions. It’s, “Any thoughts on plugins providing block patterns useful for any theme?” And the variation was from Nauhuai, is, “Do you think block patterns should be packed on the theme or/and on a plugin? Carolina, you worked on the Twenty Twenty-One theme and the block patterns coming with it. What do you think about it?

Carolina Nymark: I think that patterns can be neither plugin or a team, but there’s also a pattern directory being built. And that is going to be exciting. There’s no date yet. It’s still early, but keep an eye out for that. I hope you will be able to submit a single pattern without having a complete plugin. And everyone will be able to use that.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. That’s actually a really great, exciting, and has a lot of moving parts, but they are working on that. What I saw from the GitHub repo about that is that you don’t need to package or when you submit it, it doesn’t have to be in a plugin. It’s in the list and you click on it and then it’s right in there, in your content. And you don’t have to install anything. It’s really a fast moving new feature that will come, and it will definitely emphasize the creativity around block patterns with existing patterns. Yeah, so I’m excited about that too, yeah.

Anne McCarthy: Real quick, I just saw that there’s a question from Dominique in the chat a bit up. Do you mind if we jump to that real quick?

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah.

Anne McCarthy: I’ll read it. “As a company that generally develops custom themes for specific themes with CSS, HTML, and PHP, how can we best prepare for a future with full site editing?”

And for custom themes, they mean it’s not meant for distribution. It’s just meant for one site.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah.

Anne McCarthy: I feel like it might….

Ari Stathopoulos: Sorry. I don’t think it’s that hard. Instead of writing a full PHP file and adding the data and whatever, think of it as a group block, and inside that, a paragraph block. That’s it. Same for the header. We have a logo block. We have a site block. Everything ThemeX need is already there. It just needs some styling.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. I saw, just for those who go really deep into the theme development, Enrique Piqueras has one GitHub issue where he put every single theme tag into a list for all kind of … and then has a table with okay, we started working on this, and none of them are finished, but I think somebody needs to go through that list yet. But there are 50 or 60 different tags there to make sure that the features are actually comparable later on.

There’s another question that Cliff has in the chat. It will be really helpful to have them in the Q&A. Right now, we’re looking at two screens there. “What about bloggers who mostly want to use words and pictures? How are you thinking about the impact and timeline for them?”

Anne McCarthy: I should probably touch on this, since I work for Automattic, although it’d be fun to hear other answers. is in a unique position, because they have a controlled environment. They are able to both expose things and also hide things. And one of the things that, even with the widget screen, or various other things, there are ways to deactivate and to opt out. 

In terms of and thinking about the timeline there, it’s actually a very safe environment and very controlled, where someone’s not going to accidentally end up on a certain path. At the same time, so much of what’s happening with full site editing will really benefit these people who just want to focus on their words and pictures. 

Just this week, for example, there’s the new Blank Canvas theme, which is just a one-page super simple theme that Cal worked on and released. And that’s a pretty exciting development. I think we’re going to see more of those, where someone just wants to do their words, just wants their blog. That will be even easier with Gutenberg, because you can have a very blank canvas theme and just completely set it up like you would writing on a piece of paper and have that be your website.

In terms of timeline for them, I can’t speak to that. I actually don’t work on products. I’m focused on the more space. But, that is definitely in consideration, is both creating what I’ll call specific pathways for people to get what they want, whether it’s a restaurant site or a single-page site. But doing it in a way that stable features are being released en masse and lots of internal testing is done. There’s a lot of work that the team does to stay up to date with things in Gutenberg. And we also benefit from being able to opt out of things that aren’t ready, just like anyone else can.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. Thank you. 

Dominique had another question, that’s more a rhetorical question, I think, but we definitely can talk about it. Is, but will we turn into designers instead of developers, then? As developers, we can always … And Victor, in the chat wrote, “As developers, we can always learn, react, and create custom blocks from scratch, plus we can make plugins.” Any thoughts on developer versus designer kind of thing?

Ari Stathopoulos: There is definitely a shift in themes, and they will be more designer-centric. But that’s because themes used to have things that they were not supposed to have. You never needed to be a developer in order to be a theme.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Thank you.

Ari Stathopoulos: That is just clear now.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Mm-hmm.

Anne McCarthy: I’ll also add that I’ve heard people describe it … again, not a theme author, so please correct me, that instead of spending time developing something for a theme that might be unnecessary now, you can now focus on things like custom blocks or custom patterns. Or more unique experiences that build on top of what you would normally build or spend time on in the theme.

It’s shifting your attention from the basics to really cool bells and whistles. I think that that’s the exciting part, is rather than spending all this time building all these different templates and tweaking them and all that sort of stuff, now the user has control and you can focus on creating other delightful experiences.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: I’m also very happy that those people, if they’ve changed agencies, that have a custom build theme, what they run into is, they are not able to just switch out the theme and keep all the functionality in it. At one point, a wanted thing, because the person probably wanted to lock them in and keep get back to them. But it also restricted the freedom of site owners and experience different designs on their site, without losing the functionality that they put in there before.

Michael has quite a few more questions in there. And thank you, Alicia, for talking about ACF and the custom blocks and do that. That definitely is something that will not be touched by the theme, although with the display of the custom field, there will be some PHP involved later on.

Michael has a question, “Should a theme developer expose hooks, WordPress Hooks now when using FSE? Or are hooks becoming a thing of the past for customization? AE plugin wants to programmatically customize an aspect of a theme template.”

Yeah, that’s a good question, Michael. Thank you. Do we have an answer yet, or are we not there yet?

Ari Stathopoulos: I don’t quite understand the question. I mean, why would a theme want to customize a theme template which is user editable? The theme just provides a preset for the template, and users then customize those templates. What kind of customization would a plugin need to do? 

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Well, I can’t….

Ari Stathopoulos: The filter’s in the output, so of course before things are printed on the screen, there will be a filter. I think we cannot avoid that. But other than that, I have no idea, because I don’t understand the question.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Okay. Maybe Michael can elaborate a little bit. Kimmie asked again, “Is that presently possible to putting blocks within blocks?” Ari? You mentioned that’s the blocks.

Ari Stathopoulos: Yeah. I mean, when you put a paragraph inside the group logo, inside the column, that’s what you do. You put the block within a block, so it’s definitely possible.

Anne McCarthy: That’s what we call nested blocks.

Ari Stathopoulos: Yeah.

Anne McCarthy: You’re going to see a lot of that. You might have a subscription pattern, and it’ll pop in, like “Sign up for our latest newsletter,” and all of it, it’ll be the sign-up box, the header, the paragraph. All of it will fit into one experience, and you shouldn’t feel the pain necessarily of nested blocks because that experience right now is kind of painful. But that’s one of those experiences where you’ll see blocks within blocks, and it’ll be pieces coming together to create a holistic visual experience.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. Thank you. Marcio has the question, “Considering the great amount of page builders, plugins out there …” Well, only five, right? Sorry. “In your opinion, should FSE of a feature parity with them, is FSE too limited? Users will probably continue to rely on third party plugins to create a complete website, as they offer a lot of functionality.”

Ari Stathopoulos: Different audiences, different products. Not everything is for everyone.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Right, yeah.

Carolina Nymark: Exactly.

Anne McCarthy: Well, I too … Oh, sorry, go ahead. You go.

Carolina Nymark: If you’re already using something that works for you, keep using it. If it’s a page builder that you like, or your clients like, just keep on using it.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: All right, yeah.

Anne McCarthy: I’ll add briefly, that I think with the page builder discussion, one of the things that keeps coming up is, oh, full site editing should replicate all the things that are there. And that’s not the case. Full site editing in Gutenberg in general, the in general, is meant to cover a certain general use case. It’s not meant to cover everything. And I think we will actually see in the future the advent of plugins that will actually create more specific experiences, whether it’s opening up more customization or less. And I think that’s where determining how user roles are handled and locking things down. All of that will end up determining what plugins are used in addition to Gutenberg to alter your site.

I see that as the same as using a user role plugin, just with the way WordPress was a couple of years ago. You’ll see the same advent of things coming up, just in a Gutenberg version.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. I think the bigger question is, not so much to replace the Page Builder, it’s probably more the peaceful coexistence. And we have seen that were quite a few conversations had with the Block Editor for the post and pages, and that’s where a year after, or two years after, there is quite a good co-existence in moving from one to the other. Yeah, once it’s settled, what’s actually going to be in the full site editing, we are very, very early in that stage. 

And also judging it from the MVP against a fully fledged Page Builder, is probably setting yourself up for disappointment if you have expectations that that would replace it right away. Page Builders had a two-year development on-ramp already and they only have to think about their own users, not about the other 40 million or 100 million users that are in WordPress. There are different aspects of that, that definitely need to be discussed and talked about.

Anne McCarthy: I think there’s also an interesting point that I heard at a meetup group I was at recently. Where, if you’re making the decision of educating a client about the core editor or a page builder, the more sure thing is the core editor. That’s where tons of people are contributing time. And I’ve heard from a lot of people that, since 5.0, they just immediately were, “Nope, this is bad,” and they haven’t looked at it since. 

So, if you’re one of those people and you’re thinking about starting up a client site soon, spend some time with the Gutenberg editor, spend some time with the core editor, and see if it actually fills those needs. Because I think you’ll be surprised at how far it’s come. 

And I think a lot of people maybe haven’t looped back to see what’s happening. And you might find it’s easier to make the decision to educate someone on the core editor now rather than educating them on a page builder and then eventually having to have them go and learn the core editor experience. Just something to think about. I am not in that position, so I get that’s it’s a tough thing to decide between.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah. Good point. We have two more questions from Michael. “Is the plan still to adjust the widget screen to use blocks and allow widget areas to use blocks? And that’s speaking more broadly. Will innovation still occur with WordPress technologies for non-FSE themes?” It’s an all-in-one question there. Ari, what do you think?

Ari Stathopoulos: Yes, the plan is to allow blocks in the widget screen, and things will continue to evolve for, let’s call them classic themes. Yeah. And they will also serve as stepping stones for full site editing themes, when and if they decide to transition to that.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Thank you. There wasn’t a whole lot of innovation for non full site editing themes for many, many years. I think the customizer theme also was actually a new feature for themes, but it has evolved of course, yeah.

And then, Michael’s question is, “You mentioned a block pattern directory in the works. Will premium paid block patterns be published for sale there?”

Anne McCarthy: I’m going to go with, no.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: I would say with no, too.

Anne McCarthy: Yeah. And I’ll drop a link to … there’s the block plugin directory, as well. And so, I think a lot of that is going to mimic what happens with the pattern directory. There’s guidelines in place that are actually pretty strict in the whole scheme of things. They are meant to be contained, because you don’t want to have clutter in the directory. It should be a pretty refined experience. 

There are guidelines that I’ll drop, but I imagine there will be a similar, no up-sale, no over-the-top branding kind of stuff that comes in place with the pattern directory, as well. And that doesn’t stop anyone from creating premium patterns, but that’ll have to be through a different delivery mechanism.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: All right. Okay. We are at the two minutes before the hour. I think that’s pretty much all the time we have. We actually went through all the questions there, which I find remarkable. Thank you so much. You did a fantastic job answering them. And the questions were very pointed and very good questions for everybody. Thank you so much.

Last Thoughts

At this point, I only have two more questions for our panelists. Do you have any announcements that you couldn’t get in before because we were moving so fast? And that you want the people to keep in mind? And, if people want to get in touch with you, what would be the best way?

Ari, you want to start?

Ari Stathopoulos: I don’t have any announcements. Keep your eye on the GitHub issues. And, people can get in touch with me on the WordPress Slack or Twitter.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Excellent, thank you. Carolina?

Carolina Nymark: No announcements, and I’m assessed to reach on the WordPress Slack, and my username is @poena.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: All right. Thank you. Anne?

Anne McCarthy: I am going to actually have an announcement, which is the full site editing outreach program. I’ve been digging around, trying to figure out what we can test next, but you heard it here first. 

More on Full Site Editing

We’re going to do a mail grab where people can submit questions, and I think this will actually be really helpful with the documentation that we talked about. 

So, getting everyone to submit questions about full site editing, like we did here. Birgit, I might need to get a lot of these questions that were submitted, because I’d love to get a more official writeup. But, get a list of questions, get some answers for everyone. And then start using that to inform everything, from marketing to documentation, to potentially future GitHub issues.

Keep an eye out for that. If you want to be a part of the program, it’s full site editing outreach experiment in Slack, and I am going to drop my information for how to get in touch with me. I’m not on social media, despite being a millennial, so much easier to get in touch on Slack or the email.

Birgit Pauli-Haack: Yeah, wonderful. Thank you so much. It was wonderful to have you. And so, the last question, and it’s a question on everybody’s mind, will there be a recording? Yes, it will be available just minutes after I close this, on YouTube channel, which is

And we will have a whole post, with transcript and all the resources and all that, in the next week or so on the Gutenberg Times as a blog post. If you’re signed up as a subscriber on the Gutenberg Times newsletter, you will hear it there first. 

Thank you all for coming. This was a wonderful show with a lot of people, and thank you all so much. And I’m so excited, I’m going to test some of the block-based themes again. You take care. Bye.

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