Massive Changes On The Way With The WordPress 5.9 Release 5 Days Away!

Are You Ready For Full Site Editing?

The idea of Full Site Editing (FSE) in WordPress is as old as the Gutenberg/Block Editor itself. But this concept is about to become a reality in WordPress 5.9 which is set to release to the general public in less than a week from now. Are you ready? Excited? Overwhelmed? I’d love to hear you’re thoughts!

The struggle is real for many WP DEVS, designers, and marketers out there who are reluctant to even look into things like Block Themes and Full Site Editing as much of their workflow was perfected around ideas and concepts from a generation ago. Many are just now wrapping their brains around child themes and action hooks and now many of these WordPress staples are either being transformed or phased out completely. Now we’re expected to understand Block Patterns and ditch our favorite page builder or design Plugin for Gutenberg, which has seemingly spread throughout the WP workflow either like a virus or a breath of fresh air. So which is it?

Block Themes, Are They A New Tool Or A Total Paradigm Shift.

With WordPress 5.9 we get the all new 2022 default theme that is completely built on a block foundation! When I first dug through the files I noted many more differences than similarities from the “old” way of building WP themes. PHP files are mostly replaced with HTML and most of the code is geared toward interfacing with the Block Editor. Essentially we’re seeing WordPress finally and quite substantially take over the “design” aspect of WP web design, something that was for so long left to Themes and Plugins. And though the Block Theme still affects the design of the site, it’s now more about configuring the Block Editor and less about directly designing your posts and pages.

So how do we feel about this? I think for many this is so different from what we’re used to that it can make us a bit nostalgic for the “good ‘ol days” of WordPress when the majority of the design and functionality was delegated to themes and plugins and the WP platform itself stayed focused on providing a solid foundation for your website. But I think the idea is to empower the everyday user, to lower the point of entry for WP site development while possibly maintaining, if not increasing the quality of what we produce. Time will tell if this becomes a reality.

What Are Your Thoughts?

I must admit that for a time I was quite reluctant to move forward in this block filled direction. Yet once I started really playing with and learning all I could about this inevitable WordPress paradigm shift I couldn’t help but see so many opportunities and mostly positive changes. But there are going to be growing pains for sure. What about you? Do you see this as a good thing, a positive direction for our beloved website building platform? Or does this make you look for the exit sign as you Google “Best WordPress Alternatives 2022”? Let me know your thoughts!

I’ll be sharing more of my own thoughts and ideas on this soon, but for now I just wanted to hear from you all as your insight has always been my best resource for how I can provide value in the WordPress community. 🙂

WordPress 5.9 RC1

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14 comments on “Massive Changes On The Way With The WordPress 5.9 Release 5 Days Away!”

  1. Gutenberg Blocks is a virus. It needs to go away. I will not budge from the Classic Editor. On some sites and on some pages within a given site I use page builders such as Beaver Builder, WP Bakery or Divi.

    1. There’s definitely a part of me that just wonders why we have to “fix” something that wasn’t broken. The “classic” way of developing websites with WordPress just made sense and has been a thing for over a decade now. So yeah, I hear you. I do, however, see this change as inevitable and something that will eventually have to be embraced or it will become an exit point from WordPress.

  2. I didn’t like the thought of Gutenberg for FSE and always thought they should have concentrated on making it the best Tiny MCE replacement first. The transition is taking very long and is ongoing, but lately, I am coming around to it. The native Interface is still very limited and geared towards writers and casual tweakers (some colors, placing patterns) although as it stands most styling will come from block themes. Hence, development of these requires a build pipeline and in numerous instances not the old PHP tweaking, but additionally using and learning react. Coming from a pure developer stance, it is an inconvenience, but it might be a manageable task to learn to go forward and for building block themes for clients. The reality is that WordPress is a much more diverse place these days and specially with the years of missed development and specially convenience that page builders brought to user, aspiring regular designer with growing web skills and marketing people. Many have chosen universal themes or builders to feel at home building multiple styles and layouts without having to manage a new block theme per job. In my opinion, the base Gutenberg blocks and current interface don’t offer enough settings for these types of people, and frustration will kick in quickly. On the other hand exploring Cwickly, a Gutenberg based universal theme, gave me hope that there will be solutions embracing everything the new Site builder has to offer, but rather using an atomic design principle. For me, that turned it around. Then, knowing that there are tools out there like Pinegrow also helps with its recent additions to build blocks. Finally, time will tell, and just having the huge install base given that Gutenberg is in core and pushed to every WordPress instance will make it the predominate way people edit sites in the future. If that gravitates back to some universal themes that are used over and over again for pages or if people actually start tweaking individual block themes is to be seen. I think, as we are talking about WordPress, many users calling themselves “web designer” demand and GUI to tweak a page and won’t buy into using a text editor and theme.json … so my bet is on universal themes paving the way.

  3. How will this affect the way I create and theme sites using Dynamik? I hate the block editors, my sites are all using Classic Editor. I am also not a fan of the Customize tab in WP and prefer to edit right in Dynamik.

    1. Thankfully with WP 5.9, as long as your theme is not a block theme then WordPress will function just about the same as it always has. So Dynamik, for example, should function as it always has. 🙂

      1. That is great news because I use Dynamik-Gen on a couple dozen websites. It gives me all the customization abilities I need.

        I agree with Deborah Carney that the Theme > Customize area is confusing and redundant at times (depending on theme). I like to style everything in Dynamik.

        I do not want to be bullied into submission, or made to exit WordPress CMS, by the confusing, ill-conceived Gutenberg block editor that lacks the finesse and depth of TinyMCE. WordPress text editing and styling should be an experience similar to MS Word, Apple Pages or TextEdit RTF.

        When doing multi-column layouts using a page builder, the GUI should be similar to QuarkXPress or InDesign.

        I am still amazed that after all these years HTML has not been made to support tab stops. I do understand the challenge, though.

        Tables still remain a challenge. They don’t look good with a vertical orientation on a smartphone. I do use some table plugins that help to achieve responsive tables, but they require editing the table in the WordPress backend, in the table plugin.

  4. I welcome these changes. I like to use Kadence Elements-Templates together with Kadence blocks, I think it is similar workflow how FSE will work. It is a good way how to create views and layouts with custom post types.

    1. I agree that we have been doing this kind of thing for a little while now, with 3rd party Plugins and custom themes. Now it’s fully working it’s way into WP itself. I definitely see positive potential, especially knowing that the WP DEV community will eventually (mostly) embrace it and really start producing quality block-based tools and resources.

  5. If the block paradigm is the new technology and Dynamic is (now) by definition the old technology, where does the new paradigm leave Cobalt Apps in the “new world order”?

    1. I like your logical ordering of your question. 😀 Thankfully for not only Dynamik, but the vast majority of other 3rd party WP DEV tools, WordPress will still be fully pre-FSE compatible as long as the theme doesn’t enable the FSE features. So if it’s a non-block theme then WordPress will operate as it always has, with some nice refinements included with 5.9. But yes, it appears that this is likely a paradigm shift that over the coming years more and more DEV shops will have to follow suit or get creative.

  6. For many years the development paradigm of application software has been a “model, view, controller” pattern. The model is the database, the view is the theme, and the controller is zillions of lines of PHP in the WP CMS. The concept is to break out the code into its general functionality for understanding and maintenance.

    What it looks like WP is doing via the new Gutenberg / FSE paradigm is to merge the view within the controller. I don’t see the value in this.

    Eric is a more experienced WP developer than I am so perhaps he can comment (or correct me) on this.

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