There are few clear answers.
As members of the core design, editor, and theme review teams joined for the inaugural biweekly meeting that may decide the fate, at least in part, of WordPress themes, it became clear that there is no structured game plan. There are many ideas. There are several moving pieces. There are components and teams and ideas that must all coalesce and build something that has never been done before in WordPress.
There is room for both excitement and concern.
It is not necessarily a bad thing to be in an early experimental stage. However, WordPress is a mature product. It feels like there should be something more concrete about the future of one of its most integral parts — themes.
That is what these meetings are for. They are about building bridges between various teams and making some decisions. One of the problems going forward will be cutting through the noise.
Takeaway #1: there are still more questions than there are answers.
Moving Forward With Block-Based Themes
If there is one thing that almost feels like a foregone conclusion it is that we are transitioning into a future where themes will be built entirely of blocks. Even the meeting was dubbed the “Block-Based Themes Meeting,” despite some pushback that such a meeting name was biased.
This is no surprise. Block-based themes are where we are going. The real question is how that will work and what level of control theme authors will ultimately have over their creations.
Kjell Reigstad, a design director for Automattic, kicked off the meeting with an introduction of block-based themes and what the meeting would cover. “As most of you probably know, Gutenberg is in the process of expanding beyond the editor,” he said. “As we’ve already seen, Gutenberg allows for a great deal of user-customization inside of post and page content. It allows any user to create custom layouts all by themselves, and style adjustments too. These will all usually be retained even after a user switches themes.”
Full-site editing seeks to bring blocks to the entire site, which is traditionally the domain of themes. “By turning elements like the header and footer into block areas, users will have the flexibility to place any sort of content wherever they want,” said Reigstad. “It allows for a lot of creativity! They’ll theoretically be able to click and edit their header in place, or change their sites entire color scheme without needing to jump into an entirely separate interface.”
Takeaway #2: block-based themes are happening.
The Definition of Block-Based Themes
After a quick introduction of how the meeting would work, Jeff Ong, designer at Automattic, filled in the details of how block-based themes work. Currently, such themes are experimental and must be activated by ticking the full-site editing (FSE) checkbox via