A new WordPress era

A reflection about change and learning.
Posted in Gutenberg, the 07/09/2022.

The WordPress I know is changing fast

I’ve been developing almost daily with WordPress for the last 12 years.

During this period, I’ve learned my way around its principles. I’ve started by coping and modifying plugins and themes, pursued by creating some from scratch, extended WordPress capabilities via its constellation of hooks, coded more than a hundred websites, invented a WordPress framework to ease and speed developments, coded blueprints and generators, dove deep in its inner workings to optimize page rendering, followed, installed and maintained its different releases… Well, pretty much the life of a professional WordPress developer.

Then the Gutenberg project came along, first with the block editor. As I wrote in my Gutenberg adoption post, I was shocked because it was new, unstable, and hard compared to what I was used to. But the WordPress leads made it clear, the Gutenberg project was the future of WordPress. Gutenberg was going to stay, and was going to be a centerpiece of the platform I was working the most with, so I had two options: evolve with it, or stay grumpy on the side.

I put in some effort that allowed me to work my way around creating blocks. I still need to make a lot of progress though, and what I learned the hard way many months ago changed in the meantime. There were no npx @wordpress/create-block at the time for example. I now know how to make basic blocks, not really complex ones, and being more of a backend person, it’s still taking me a lot more time than it should to build one, but I manage.

Blocks now escape from the content editor, to become the stones of the new Full Site Editing experience. And that is moving fast. New terms, new tools, new way of working, new way of thinking, new way of storing, new way of building, new way of querying, new language… All at the service of a new editing experience. I feel it’s been changing twice as much in one year than it did in ten!

Losing ground

I’ve always been a person welcoming new features, new tools. I know software development is an ever-changing field. I don’t suffer too much from fomo, and like to balance hype with maturity and relevance towards a goal. That means that I don’t usually embark on the early adopter train, see how it goes, and when I assess a solution is suitable for production work, then I engage with adoption.

Content blocks have proven their value, and I also see potential in full site editing, even for agencies that create themes for their clients.

I’ve been following with interest different conversations that happened recently in the WordPress world, talking about those changing times, especially those :

That’s when it hit me. WordPress is shifting, and I’m losing ground. FSE is becoming the new standard, and I don’t know how to build one. I’m aware I’ve lost ground on many Gutenberg aspects, and I wish to correct that.

Catching up

I’ve decided to train myself on FSE. I want to regain the confidence I had when building legacy themes, but now with the new tools. I want to understand, then master, all the new concepts: blocks, block templates, block patterns, variable blocks, templates, template parts, theme.json, block.json, style variations, global styles, and the associated tooling.

The plan

My plan is to rebuild my current theme into a full-site editing one.

I want the editor to feel as close to the front end as possible. I want to make an extensive use of blocks, starting with simple ones, and work my way towards more complex ones.

The process

I’m aware it will be a difficult process for many reasons :

  • There are a lot of concepts to learn
  • I’m far from being a react master
  • I’m aware the documentation is criticized for not being as up-to-date as the features
  • My free time is limited

But I really want to learn FSE, and I’m probably not the only one. As such, I’ve decided to stream my journey. I will try to transform my theme into a FSE one publicly. I might even open source it or release it once done, we’ll see. If you’d like to follow along, it will happen on my youtube channel. My preferred streaming slot will be on Friday afternoons.

I hope to see you there, and wish me luck!