What to Consider when Building a Theme in a Full Site Editing World

Episode 14 May 06, 2021 00:24:41
What to Consider when Building a Theme in a Full Site Editing World
WP Review
What to Consider when Building a Theme in a Full Site Editing World
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Hosted By

Joe Casabona

Show Notes

There’s a lot of concern around full site editing and what that means for themes and theme creators. Are they even worth building anymore? Should all themes just be a blank slate? Will we only need a hand full of themes now? NO! In-fact, good themes will be more important than ever now. Given the amount of flexibility the block editor and full site editing offer users, have well-designed themes with all the right guideposts is imperative. We’ll talk about that, plus top WordPress stories from the past 2 weeks.

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Episode Transcript

Hey everybody. And welcome to WP Review a show that looks at WordPress news offers, opinions, and brings you new and helpful tools to build better WordPress websites. My name’s Joe Casabona and I am the host of this podcast. I’ve been using WordPress for 16, 17 years at this point. I’ve kind of lost track, of 2004. And I’m really excited to continue to bring this show to you fortnightly. This podcast this week is brought to you by a couple of my own projects. The first is creator courses. Creator courses is where I create courses to show you and other people how to use and make websites without code. And I’m currently working on a big update to my Gutenberg course. That’s going to include Full Site Editing, which we’ll talk about in a little bit. So if you’re interested, go ahead and check out the courses over at [creatorcourses.com]. Pick one up. Anyone that you buy gets you lifetime access to all updates forever and ever, and ever. I also want to let you know about a new course I have out on the LinkedIn learning library. It’s all about WP-CLI. I’m really, really excited about that. I learned a lot in recording the course, and I know you will too learn how to manage WordPress from the command line, how to automate tasks and do things faster than clicking around in the dashboard. You can check out that course. You can become a LinkedIn learning member, or you can buy it ala cart over at [wpreview.io/cli]. Okay. Now let’s get onto the review. So the top stories from this week as I kind of cherry-picked them, I’ll just actually, I’ll say right up top that right after the last episode came out two weeks ago there, I was made aware of a discussion happening on the make community blog about whether or not we should allow WordPress derivatives. So themes or plugins, companies that make themes or plugins who run negative ads against WordPress. That discussion is now closed. And I had some very strong opinions about it in my newsletter. And I commented, I left a comment asking for clarification that I don’t really feel like I got over on the actual discussion. But I think it’s worth looking at, maybe once we have a thrilling conclusion. Definitely, once we have a thrilling conclusion, I will cover it here. But I think it’s a dangerous path to go down banning or disallowing companies to advertise at WordCamps or sponsor WordCamps because we don’t like their ads. After all, anything built on top of WordPress can’t be a competitor, in my opinion. If step one is to install WordPress, you’re not competing with WordPress, you’re contributing to the ecosystem. But that’s all I’ll say about it here. If you’re interested, you can sign up for my newsletter over at [buildsomething.email]. And I will add that to the onboarding sequence for people who sign up there. So, let’s get to the actual top stories from the past week or so. Gravity Forms 2.5 is out with an overhauled UI and a focus on accessibility. I had the opportunity to test this out this week, and I’ve got to say the UI is much, much better. it is easier to use. It’s clearer. It’s more intuitive and it looks a lot like the Block Editor. Meaning that we have a more unified UI throughout all of WordPress. You don’t have to learn a new UI just to build forms in WordPress versus using the Block Editor with Gravity Forms. Now, you can look at how Gravity Forms work and understand how to build the forms very quickly and easily. So I like this. I’m wondering if the UI will continue to evolve as the Block Editor changes. A quote here from James Giroux, (I’m going to say sorry if I’m saying that incorrectly, James). He’s the community experience manager at Rocket Genius. James says “The native WordPress editor experience is changing a lot and things are continuing to evolve there. One of the things we’ve worked really hard on with the latest release is to be as consistent as we can with our UI without being completely identical to the editor.” And I think that’s a good thing, right? It’s very close, intuitively close. But it’s not going to change with every little change in the Block Editor. That’s a ton of work. And the Block Editor changes quickly. Take it from somebody who has a course on how to use the Block Editor. My course right now is woefully out of date. So I did have a chance to play around with it. It’s very Block Editor ask. It’s super clean. And I’m excited to dive in. Now, I should say that I have a lifetime deal with Ninja Forms, and I have considered just switching all of my forms to Ninja Forms. That said, all of my forms, most of my forms are currently on Gravity Forms. So I have a month to decide if I want to keep Gravity Forms and not do the migration, or to switch to Ninja Forms. I’ll probably do a video on that over on my YouTube channel. But that is Gravity Forms 2.5. If you are a Gravity Forms user, head over to [gravityforms.com]. Download 2.5 and give it the old install. If you’re running a WordPress 5.7, you can just upload the new zip and WordPress will handle the rest for you. Next up, Jetpack 9.7 makes more features available without connecting to [wordpress.com]. I should mention that all of these stories are coming from WP Tavern. I will list them in the show notes over at [wpreview.io]. But, you know, I looked around and I looked at other news sources, of course, but these are the ones that jumped out at me the most. I love that 9.7 is making more features available without connecting to [wordpress.com]. Frankly, I have always felt that the Jetpack plugin will say significantly bent the [.org] rules by forcing people to use a [.com] account. I feel, (I’m not a [.org] rules expert so I can’t say definitively) but I feel that Jetpack gets away with more because they are an Automattic product, and there are many contributors from Automattic on the open-source project. I feel that way. But that’s not about that. That’s about how Jetpack has eased the rules a little bit. And their rules, their self-imposed rules. And they have a transparency page as well. Right? Why the wordpress.com connection is important for Jetpack is how they’ve worded it. And they talk about the benefits of connecting your [wordpress.com] account to Jetpack. However, there is a very long list of features. Most features, in fact, I say most features it’s probably, it’s almost even money there. So, there are lots of features that you can use without connecting to [.com]. The carousel comment likes a contact form, custom CSS, extra sidebar, widgets, except the Instagram widget, they say, which I guess requires the [.com] account. Infinite scroll, latex support, there’s lazy images here. Lazy images are unnecessary now because native WordPress supports lazy loading images. But lots of other stuff markdown support if you write directly within the WordPress editor. Short links stats, this is great. I’m really glad to see that stats don’t require a [.com] connection anymore. But then there is more information or more available to you if you connect to [.com]. Activity log, backups, Google analytics, I don’t know. I mean, I guess I should make a video on how to add Google Analytics to WordPress. But you don’t really need Jetpack for that, Jetpack ads. So if you, I guess if you want to generate income with your WordPress site, JSON API monitor post by email publicize, this is, I don’t, I mean, I like publicized, but I don’t think social sharing should require a [.com] connection. Scan, search, single sign-on, subscriptions, these are things that, yeah, that makes sense. Right? You need [.com] or at least you need the processing power of [.com] servers, right? Jetpack can’t guarantee necessarily that they’ll be able to do heavy-duty lifting if you have the, you know, $1 a month hosting or whatever. Video hosting, Very cool. So I’ll, again, I’ll link these in the show notes. But I’m very happy to see that Jetpack has removed the need, the requirement to connect to [.com] to use the plugin at all. And I should say, I think that the transparency page is fantastic. And I am hard on Jetpack. But I also know several people on the Jetpack team and they’re great people who are totally open to feedback. And they move fast. And I do appreciate their work. I don’t want to make it seem like these decisions should be easy, or I don’t understand why they’re doing any of this. Obviously, Jetpack is part of a larger plan for Automattic. And it’s no one, it’s no single person’s responsibility to manage Jetpack. So I know people on the team. I appreciate the work they’re doing. I’m happy to see Jetpack constantly evolve. I think that’s important to say because I think it’s easy to dump on something or someone without highlighting the good. So I think that’s really important. All right. The third story, the last story I’ll cover here. Gutenberg 10.5 embeds PDFs, Adds Verse Block Color Options, and introduces New Patterns. I’m highlighting this here because 10.5 is out. This is the second to last version of the Gutenberg plugin before the 5.8 feature freeze. And that happened on May 25th. So Gutenberg 10.7 I think the release candidate is going to be the thing that gets merged into core. And so, we’re creeping closer and closer to what the Block Editor will be like, what Full Site Editing will be like in a 5.8. So it’s cool that we can embed PDFs. I don’t know how often I’ll do that. But yeah. I mean, actually, that looks, if you look at the screenshot in the story, it looks pretty cool. However, there is a caveat here. Many mobile phones and tablets won’t show the embedded PDF. The file block makes that note. I’m sure that there’s a comment that’s like, who’s this need for making stuff as hard PDFs are a pain in the neck. The fact that we have this at all is pretty cool. So maybe you can do something like a, if you don’t view, if you can’t see the PDF, there’s a download button. Right. And it looks like that’s already the case. So I don’t know who wants to have this PDF viewer on their phone anyway? like it’s tiny and whatever. Color options for the verse block, that’s fine. And then new block patterns. So there are 15 new block patterns. There are also query block patterns which post grid large title and offset posts looks pretty cool. I think that these are going to be super powerful and necessary for Full Site Editing because we’re going to need, to be able to layout the posts in a certain way without code. So check out Gutenberg,10.5. Again, we’re marching closer to what it’s going to be like in 5.8. Okay. So the main segment for today, getting back into the actual format after going super long last time. But the main segment for today, is what to think about for a Full Site Editing theme. Now, full disclosure. This is a proposal I had for WordSesh, which I’ll talk about later, that, you know, there’s a lot of, there was a lot of Full Site Editing stuff. So this proposal did not get accepted. But I flushed out a lot of ideas and I wanted to talk about them. I’ll probably submit this to other WordCamps. But here are some of the ideas that I had kind of germinating. How theme developers should approach Full Site Editing? There’s a lot of concern around Full Site Editing and what that means for themes and theme creators. Are themes even worth building anymore? Should all themes just be a blank slate? Will we only have a handful of themes now? I think the answer to all of those questions is, NO! In fact, good themes will be even more important. Now, given the amount of flexibility the Block Editor and Full Site Editing offers users, having well-designed themes with all of the right guideposts is imperative. So if you’re a theme developer, I want to be one, I think there are a few things that you should focus on. Make sure, number one, make sure your theme is super lightweight. It should be fast and performant even on 3G. There are a lot of ways you can do that. But again, before Full Site Editing, there were other things you were probably focusing on. Like getting the design pixel perfect. Like adding in the right amount of templates to be flexible, supporting other plugins. I think now you can turn your focus to having a super lightweight, fast-loading theme. Spend time on fonts and typography. I am terrible at choosing the right fonts and spacing them correctly. People are generally terrible at this. But typography is like 80% of the design. If you have bad font choices, bad font combinations, if your line heights are bad, the site is not readable. It looks terrible. So the more that you can offer help here, the better. Pick good fonts. Pick typography. Spend the right, spend a lot of time on typography. And you don’t necessarily need a million options is number three. Make decisions. Not options. That’s the WordPress, [.org] creed, right? That’s the open-source project creed. Decisions, not options. Yes. There are a lot of themes out there like Astra and Kadence. Both of which I use. Both of which give you every option under the sun. But sometimes I just want to install themes. And now it’s going to look good and now it’s been well tested. And so good themes that support Full Site Editing should make decisions and not options. And this is the great thing about maybe what we’re doing here. Maybe instead of options, you have five themes that offer the different options you were going to offer in one theme, right? Maybe you can roll a set of themes, a series of themes. So that’s another thing to think about, right? If you’re not focusing on all of the page templates and all of the things that Full Site Editing takes off of your plate, you could probably produce themes a little bit faster if you have the right framework. Finally, well, not finally, number four is picking a good color palette. Allow some customization here, right? Because not everybody, you know, I have some brand colors I like to use. But pick a good starting point for a color palette. Again, color is, people, don’t know what complementary colors are. They try to combine colors incorrectly. They don’t necessarily know to use the resources that designers have available to them to see what are good color schemes. So pick a good color palette. Allow some customization here. Maybe allow them to choose a primary and secondary color. If they have brand colors, things like that. And finally, support dark mode. Again, if you don’t have as much on your plate, thanks to Full Site Editing, you can spend time in the nitty-gritty details area. And the fact that in CSS, we can now check the media query is called the preferred color scheme. The fact that we could see if a user has dark mode enabled and then change the CSS based on that, I think your theme should offer that. I remember building that before in the before time, before dark mode came to iOS and before there was a media query for it, we had to use JavaScript to switch out the style sheet. So you click on a button that says dark mode, JavaScript kicks in, says, oh instead of using light .CSS used darkness. You don’t need to do that anymore with dark mode. Heck you can have custom CSS properties, right? The native CSS variables, and just change them with a media query. Not just. Nothing’s as easy as just. But or at least for developers. For users, you should make it as close as possible but support dark mode now that we have the bandwidth to do that. I’ll probably build my own WordPress theme out in the open. Maybe I’ll make it a course. Maybe it’ll be a course for LinkedIn. I’m now, I’m just brainstorming on the air. But those are a few things to think about. Make sure it’s super lightweight. It should be fast, performant, and accessible. Of course, spend time. I didn’t mean for that to be like, an afterthought, but a lot of accessibility comes with the actual content of the website and not necessarily the theme. But you should have accessibility built-in. And full site editor does have accessibility built-in. So make sure your theme is super lightweight. Spend time on fonts and typography. You don’t necessarily need a million options. Make decisions for the user. And if you have a bunch of different options you want to try, you can create your own little theme framework and build out a different theme for each of those options instead. Pick a good color palette with some customization and support dark mode. So those are a few things that theme developers should think about as they approach Full Site Editing. All right. And I like to wrap up here with a theme plugin or event of the week of the two weeks of the fortnight, I guess. And I want to tell you about my friend Brian Richard’s event. WordSesh.com. It’s totally free. It’s got two events, essentially from May 25th to June 1st. It’s got the sessions from May 25th to May 27th. And then it’s got a couple of a few workshops from May 28th to June 1st. So again, it’s totally free. Go to WordSesh.com and sign up. It’s got a great lineup of speakers. A few of the sessions that I’m excited for. Alberto Medina’s talk on better page experiences. He works, He’s a developer advocate at Google. I got to interview him for my client’s podcast, Next-level Ops. But, so Alberto is a wealth of knowledge and his talk is going to be very good. Next up is, Danielle’s Zacaaro’s talk. I hope I’m saying that right. They are going to be speaking on how to build, how the Block Editor makes it easier to build custom websites. I think they’ll probably cover a bunch of really good concepts there for anybody. You know, the no-code revolution is happening, and Gutenberg and the Block Editor are a part of that. And I suspect Danielle will cover some of those things. And then Daisy Olsen’s workshop, Build Your Own Block-based Theme. We just spent a good portion of this episode talking about what theme developers should think about in this brave new Block Editor-based, Full Site Editing-based WordPress world. So Daisy’s workshop is definitely going to be one to tune into. And you can do it for free. Did I mention that? It’s free. WordSesh.com. It’s free. All right. Thanks so much for listening. For all of the show notes, you can head over to [wpreview.io]. All of the episodes will be there. This show comes out fortnightly. If you want to learn more about WordPress and how to build WordPress websites with or without code, you can check out creatorcourses.com over on [creatorcourses.com]. You’ll find courses for the Block Editor, Gutenberg, for freelancers on how to build online courses, how to build a podcast website. There’s even an HTML and CSS, and an intro to PHP. But, there are lots of great resources out there. And of course, very soon the Gutenberg course will get updated, and a new Full Site Editing course will be added as well. So [creatorcourses.com]. Finally, if you want to get this added to your podcast player of choice, you can subscribe over at ;wpreview.io/subscribe]. Thanks so much for listening. I really appreciate it. Until next time. I’m Joe Casabona, and I will see you out there.

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