Theme previews in the time of blocks

Hello! As you may have seen mentioned in SlackSlack Slack is a Collaborative Group Chat Platform The WordPress community has its own Slack Channel at, with the help of @dinhtungdu and @dd32 the theme previewer site ( now shows starter content for the following bundled themes:

I understand there may be some confusion about various aspects of this, notably why does this feel like it came out of nowhere and what’s going to happen next, so as the primary driver of this particular effort I’d like to explain the thought process here and open it up for discussion as to what’s next. The summary is: the development happened very quickly over the past week thanks to some availability, it is only for those three bundled themes right now, it is not going to remain limited forever, and there are items to move forward both in coreCore Core is the set of software required to run WordPress. The Core Development Team builds WordPress. and in the realm of theme development.

It has long been my belief, which I think many share, that the theme previewer site in today’s context does a serious disservice to themes. I also believe that between blocks, 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. patterns, and eventually full site editing, it is more important than ever to the broad success of the WordPress project for themes to showcase their ideal states and make it easier for users to achieve the same thing on their sites. Starter content, introduced in 4.7, was a step in this direction, but has languished for quite some time. I published a post on Make/Core to revisit the concept last month, which is also worth reading, but the important part to consider here is:

since we have a new default theme coming, we should consider what kind of starter content can both showcase the theme in a demo and also help new users get started with block patterns and other fun features – a walkthrough, if you will. Based on experience with starting content, we will want to strike a balance between showing users what they can do and adding too many individual pieces of content that have to be tracked down and removed if they don’t want it.

Also for reference, some priorities I originally outlined for starter content back in 2016:

  • Not adding (much) to the theme review tasks.
  • A consistent experience for users as they preview/try out themes.
  • Encouraging authors to best showcase their themes with content that inspires users, not put them off with advertising.
  • Potentially be able to teach a bit about using WordPress through that content (e.g. instructions on editing/managing multi-part homepages).
  • Provide translated/localized content in a sane way, and have a wide enough contributor base that the content is broadly understandable and not (too) culture-specific.

I think if we’re smart about how we choose to implement this, the same content can be used to populate and do some amount of set up for .org previews even in their current state.

Since this is very new and is truthfully a “minimal viable product”, I would like this to remain limited to the bundled themes with starter content for the moment. We need to monitor for its behavior on the live environment, and while this works for the teams behind those particular bundled themes, we need your feedback about your themes to make this both broadly useful and most effectively serve its purpose for users. For instance, using starter content is a part of running this as an MVPMinimum Viable Product "A minimum viable product (MVP) is a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers, and to provide feedback for future product development." - WikiPedia effort, but starter content and demo content may not ideally be the same thing.

Some points of discussion I’d like to seed are:

  • What have your experiences with starter content been like, both as users and as theme developers?
  • What has the impact been of starter content on theme reviews?
  • Are starter content and demo content necessarily the same thing for all or even any themes?
  • What other content makes sense for the theme previewer site to be displayed for all themes in addition to theme-specific starter content? (See this Meta Trac ticket for more discussion.)
  • Does it make sense to document a set of best practices surrounding starter content?