Hallway Hangout: Discussion on Full Site Editing Issues/PRs/Designs (1 June)

This is a summary of a Hallway Hangout that was wrangled in the #fse-outreach-experiment channel as part of the FSE Outreach Program. Thank you to everyone who joined in!


@ndiego @annezazu @elmastudio and a Marcy joined us for a time.

Video Recording:


Briefly touched on two recent blog posts to be aware of:

What’s missing and what’s stopping people from switching to 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. themes

  • Responsiveness continues to come up with Ellen sharing how she built their own system to handle this for now, knowing that they can always switch over. She believes this is one of the main reasons people are holding back from switching to block themes.
  • We chatted briefly through intrinsic responsiveness ideas related to this and how that’ll ease much of these tensions in time.
  • Onboarding to the FSE experience was brought up, particularly around how confusing it is that the BetaBeta A pre-release of software that is given out to a large group of users to trial under real conditions. Beta versions have gone through alpha testing in-house and are generally fairly close in look, feel and function to the final product; however, design changes often occur as part of the process. label still exists since that seems to imply it’s not usable. There’s an open discussion around removing the beta label (in time) on this exact topic.
  • The question came up around “How do we get folks to use block themes if there’s a beta label?” and how difficult that can be.
  • @poena has a post on switching over to a block theme, Ellen is working on a post for a 10 step process, and there are clear areas that can be improved to ease this process from a technical point of view in CoreCore Core is the set of software required to run WordPress. The Core Development Team builds WordPress. (see “Ease switching to a block theme/between block themes” in this post).
  • People are very confused about when to switch in general though, even if folks like Ellen are building things that are ready to go for production sites.

Communicating the value of FSE

  • Nick has done some hardcore testing with folks who are new to the site editor and when watching them go into the experience and they change the typography of paragraphs but then can’t with headings! Why? We need to take a look at consistency across the tools we’re providing people. People get very frustrated and confused when one block has controls and another doesn’t. 
  • Block themes truly is a better experience for getting a design into WordPress but the confusion added is a bit sad for the project that it gets a rough reputation.
  • Right now, it feels like more of a communication issue to the end user around what they should actually do and what they can do with consistent communication. Figma does this well.
  • This has come up in DevRel for WP Engine. When you’re talking about the basics of how to do XYZ, this should be on Learn and in docs. When you’re talking about the cool, cutting edge stuff, we need more of that. “Here’s how to learn the basics of creating a block theme but here’s how to take it to the next level.” 
  • We discussed how if we can standardize block settings across all core blocks but allow agencies to turn on/off easily that’ll be huge for the user experience.

Patterns and opening up tooling

  • We spent some time chatting about issues for unifying the pattern modals and patterns as sections work since having consistency in the interfaces for patterns and in the larger editor can really help folks take advantage of what’s possible.
  • In many ways, it feels like users can rely on patterns and/or learn by doing over time as they explore more tools. As a result, exposing those tools doesn’t feel as risky as a pattern can guide the experience and, if they do want to dive in more, they can have access to the tools outright.
  • We discussed how valuable locking is when it comes to patterns as a way to curate and guide the experience more.
  • We went back and forth on the question of “How do we get people excited about what’s possible rather than worrying about folks breaking things?”

Difficulty with terminology

Naming of bock themes and the theme directory

  • We talked about how there have been different names for block themes, like “full site editing theme” or “block-based theme”. This is causing confusion and also differs from what shows up in the Theme Directory.
  • We discussed how difficult it is to find block themes in the directory since the tag you have to use is “full site editing” , which both isn’t intuitive and hard to find.
  • This led to questions around having a separate menu item for themes or improving the filterFilter Filters are one of the two types of Hooks https://codex.wordpress.org/Plugin_API/Hooks. They provide a way for functions to modify data of other functions. They are the counterpart to Actions. Unlike Actions, filters are meant to work in an isolated manner, and should never have side effects such as affecting global variables and output..
  • Ellen shared how it’s unattractive to put free themes in the directory – “who clicks on FSE to filter?” Discoverability is so low – it’s not featured enough. She shared that they don’t put any effort into free themes. 
  • We all felt that the entire theme directory was due for an overhaul but were curious about what some quick solutions could be for now to make it more attractive and interesting to add block themes there.
  • Perhaps there could be a block label in the section below:
Image of the theme directory filtering showing the number of themes, a popular, latest, and feature filter label.

Limitations of the pattern directory

  • In talking about the theme directory, we discussed how neat it would be to find patterns associated with different themes, partially as a way to entice people to download that specific block theme and improve the user experience.
  • Ellen brought up how it’s not possible to add patterns to the pattern directory that use third party blocks. This sometimes prevents submissions for block themes who have specific blocks for their theme. 
  • We discussed how the pattern directory is overwhelming for users yet also limited: you can’t use named variables for color palette + can’t use third party blocks + no curation. 
  • The crux of the problem is t hat block themers are creating blocks to fill gaps with core right now which then limits what can be added to the pattern directory.
  • We discussed how there perhaps could be a filter to allow for third party blocks vs Core blocks. For those who want to venture into needing third party blocks, they could then opt in by filtering to show those.
  • @shaunandrews recently shared a post about pluginPlugin A plugin is a piece of software containing a group of functions that can be added to a WordPress website. They can extend functionality or add new features to your WordPress websites. WordPress plugins are written in the PHP programming language and integrate seamlessly with WordPress. These can be free in the WordPress.org Plugin Directory https://wordpress.org/plugins/ or can be cost-based plugin from a third-party dependencies so some of that thought/design could likely be re-used there.
  • Nick shared how for the new feature in 6.0 where block themes can feature specific patterns from the directory, it’s still not granular enough. It would be nice to be ale to disable all patterns but then bring in a few from the directory to feature. There’s an issue open for this topic already!
  • We ended the call talking about how these dynamics often fragment the community  – people building premium themes or patterns rather than using the Core pathways. This then moves everything away from Core distribution channels and harms the community/branding/experience of WP.
  • Ellen described it as feeling like you’re building against something.
  • We ended the call talking about how important it is to share feedback, engage in discussions, and help influence the direction of where things go so we can get to where we need to.

#fse-hallway-hangout, #fse-outreach-experiment, #fse-outreach-program