FSE Program Polished Portfolios Summary

This post is a summary of the seventh call for testing for the experimental FSE outreach program. Thank you to everyone who participated, whether through testing directly or sharing the call for testing with others. 

On a more personal note, it’s so neat to see the various ways people engaged and to really feel the power of the WordPress community in these calls for testing — WordCamp Japan used the seventh call for group testing this week, a meetup in Philadelphia used it as part of their event (shoutout to @accessamy and @itsjusteileen), the call for testing was translated into Italian and Japanese (shout out to @piermario and the folks from WordCampWordCamp WordCamps are casual, locally-organized conferences covering everything related to WordPress. They're one of the places where the WordPress community comes together to teach one another what they’ve learned throughout the year and share the joy. Learn more. Japan) and three folks did write ups encouraging others to test alongside their feedback (@greenshady, @bgturner, and @bobbingwide). Plus, I had some of my coworkers go through the test for good measure! I am super stoked to see a diverse set of ways folks are exploring this program and deeply appreciate you all making it happen.

Teamwork makes the dream work. Anything I can do to make participation easier and more fun, let me know!

How far can one go?

It’s hard to compete with @greenshady’s awesome explorations at this point! Check it out below: 

Image showing a portfolio page with a banner at the top, a list of the latest work in the middle, and customer reviews at the bottom.

High Level Feedback

Here’s what a few folks had to say about the overall experience that can help frame the following detail oriented feedback. Since this was a more open ended test compared to the prior one, it was interesting to hear about the ways in which people explored things on their own and the resulting joys/frustrations that caused. 

Compared to the earlier tests, the overall experience is way more stable and polished. My biggest issue with the GutenbergGutenberg The Gutenberg project is the new Editor Interface for WordPress. The editor improves the process and experience of creating new content, making writing rich content much simpler. It uses ‘blocks’ to add richness rather than shortcodes, custom HTML etc. https://wordpress.org/gutenberg/ and FSE is still the same: lack of visual references while designing, unless I do some hovering dance on the blocks and – this time – I didn’t have a clear picture of how exactly changing some elements (site title, navigation) on the portfolio template would affect other pages, so I got a little lost between pages.

@piermario in this comment.

Generally I love the query blockBlock Block is the abstract term used to describe units of markup that, composed together, form the content or layout of a webpage using the WordPress editor. The idea combines concepts of what in the past may have achieved with shortcodes, custom HTML, and embed discovery into a single consistent API and user experience. though. Really cool that you can do that now without coding! I am looking forward to using it in projects.

@michaelsndr in this comment.

I had a lot of fun with this. And frustration. Some more fun. And…you guessed it…some more frustration….I enjoyed the process — yes, I revel in both the fun and frustration. Aside from everything that I think is broken, the overall system is pretty dang sweet. There are far more things that the development team has nailed down than there are that feel janky.

@greenshady in this post

Repeated Feedback: Switching between editing modes (template vs page/post) & various block improvements

This section is dedicated to repeated items from previous calls for testing. Once more, despite the three ways to visually distinguish the editing modes, there remains confusion around when one is in each mode. The deeper into these calls for testing we go, the more it becomes clear how valuable it will be to do things like view a template while editing content and have some good friction in place while interacting with post blocks in template editing mode.

Across a few blocks, some repeat items came up that are worth mentioning considering they were each mentioned at least two times:

Today I got lost quite often. I didn’t always know if I was editing the Portfolio Template or the Portfolio page.

@piermario in this comment.

However, once I was in the Template Editor it wasn’t clear when I was editing the template or the content itself. When I used the block navigator – I could see the post content block (which made sense) but only because I was already looking.

Automattic employee feedback. 

Some general usability feedback of the column block: I’d love a way to make the vertical margins disappear so that full-width sections that have background colors don’t show any space between them.

@bjturner in this post.

Post Title Block – no way to style text (bold, italics etc), and no way to have a totally custom colour. Do these color options come from the theme itself? 

Automattic employee feedback. 

As a user, template editing is a great tool when you have a good visual understanding of what your post or page content will look like in the context of the full site. The issue is, when in the post editor I don’t know that, unless I am checking “Preview” as I create/edit my content. Has any thought been given to how we could improve this experience so users are more aware, as they’re editing, of how their content will be displayed on the site (depending on the template used)?

Automattic employee feedback. 

Query LoopLoop The Loop is PHP code used by WordPress to display posts. Using The Loop, WordPress processes each post to be displayed on the current page, and formats it according to how it matches specified criteria within The Loop tags. Any HTML or PHP code in the Loop will be processed on each post. https://codex.wordpress.org/The_Loop. Block & Related Improvements

Since the Query Loop Block featured heavily in this call for testing, it’s no surprise it was also an area of both great praise and criticism. On the whole, there was loads of excitement around this powerful block with folks keen to have access to it with WordPress 5.8. Outside of that though, the following items were raised for the Query Block itself and some of the related blocks used within it: 

Tied to the above issues, there was repeated frustration around deeper customization and limits of the nested blocks within the Query Loop, especially if someone wanted to go well beyond what the current patterns offer. It’s also important to note that this test was done without this PR merged for the Query Loop block, which makes the Post Blocks uneditable within the Query Loop block itself ahead of WordPress 5.8. 

The next section of template testing consisted of adding a Query pattern and customizing it. I have a love/hate relationship with queries in Gutenberg right now. The Query block itself works well. It has a solid balance between advanced usage and simplicity for the most part. I am amazed at what the development team has done over months upon months of iteration.The downfall is that the Query block is merely a wrapper. It is only as good as its weakest sub-block.

@greenshady in this post

There’s a bit of a confusion point in the Query Block with Items per Page. Despite having multiple published posts only one appeared by default. I found the controls in the Block Toolbar to increase, but also found it a bit cumbersome to toggle between the Block Toolbar and Block SidebarSidebar A sidebar in WordPress is referred to a widget-ready area used by WordPress themes to display information that is not a part of the main content. It is not always a vertical column on the side. It can be a horizontal rectangle below or above the content area, footer, header, or any where in the theme. to refine the underlying query.

@dryanpress in this comment

Query Block: Block outputs nothing on the frontend when there are no posts to show. Generally, it requires to show something that tells visitors that there are no posts or some custom message.

@sagarnasit  in this comment

General Usability Enhancements

As people explored template editing mode, the following items came up as areas that would make the experience more intuitive going forward. Many of these were repeat items but it felt important to call these out separately, in particular the quotes describing the current experience. While some of these areas have design explorations in place for potential inclusion in the future, this section captures the current pain points: 

It appears that I didn’t save the template since it’s showing a 404, even though the title says “portfolio.” I think what confused me was the “Publish” button in the upper right corner. Coming from a WP background I think I understand that “Publish” meant to publish the page template I was editing, but on initial use, I was hesitant to push the button because my context was the original page that I had created, not the page template I was editing.  

@bjturner in this post.

While in Template Editing Mode, I clicked the Preview button, clicked Preview in new tab and didn’t see the addition of the navigation block or other template changes. If this could work that’d be great, but if these won’t be available to preview outside Gutenberg due to how Templates are saved and stored, that preview dropdown item probably shouldn’t be available inside Template Editing Mode.

@dryanpress in this comment

If I create a new template, the new template is not available in the drop-down selector until I refresh.

Automattic employee feedback. 

When saving the template change, if I uncheck all the items that appear, the Save button gets defunct. If we are allowed to uncheck one of those, I think we should be allowed to uncheck all items too.

Automattic employee feedback. 

The Update option isn’t available once I’ve switched alignments on the block. I needed to alter the post title to trigger the Update option. 

Automattic employee feedback. 

When you’re creating a new template, for each existing template part that you insert, you have to remember to set the same attributes for the template part as used in other templates. Attributes that will need setting include the Width and Colours.

@bobbingwide in this comment

#fse-outreach-program, #fse-testing-summary, #full-site-editing