How Gutenberg Full-Site Editing Will Reshape the WordPress Landscape

WordPress has been growing at a rate so phenomenal, it’s almost crazy. From a blogging platform, it became a framework of choice for all kinds of websites. And with WooCommerce, it even permeated the eCommerce industry and took it by storm.

And there’s still no stopping!

With the newest features like Gutenberg and REST API, WordPress has literally stunned its community and dumbfounded the people who thought WordPress will soon meet a fateful death.

But one thing is certain at this point: things won’t remain the same as they are now. The WordPress landscape is changing and the next few releases could have a huge impact on the WordPress community.

While there are a number of things planned in the roadmap ahead, one particular point of focus right now is the full-site editing feature of Gutenberg.

What Is Full-Site Editing and What Does It Look Like?

Ever since Gutenberg was released, it was certain that it won’t stop at just being a block editor for the post content area.

Hence, Gutenberg has got the WordPress reins for now and it’s leading it towards a future where your site is made up of little blocks that can be customized and pieced together to create an experience you desire.

It’s like playing with Lego blocks – you move the blocks around, attach them wherever you want and ultimately create a structure from your wild imagination.

Except that in the Full-Site editing experience of Gutenberg, each of those individual Lego blocks would also be customizable. It’s like interactive Lego blocks where you can choose the color of each block along with other things like their shape and size.

I know, it’s incredible and it’s going to be a game changer, no doubt.

But how will it actually work?

Check this demo to get a taste of what full-site editing will look like.

Basically, it will be a block based structure where everything on your site is converted into blocks. The navigation menu is a block; the sidebar is a block; headers and footers are blocks.

For example, you are building some landing page on your website and you want to change the position of your Main menu or add some additional link to it.

With full site editing, doing that would be as simple as pointing and clicking to customize the menu structure of the Navigator block and dragging it around wherever you want.

Editing WordPress

You can create columns and rows and nest more Gutenberg blocks within them for a full-blown website development experience.

Some notable features that will be rolled out with full-site editing are:

Global Styles

With Global Styles, a user can overwrite the theme’s default CSS with a simple settings panel and create a web experience they have imagined – without writing any CSS code.

Currently, changing your website style means writing some custom CSS. That’s where learning some basic CSS becomes essential when developing a website on WordPress.

But with Global Styles becoming a part of the core WordPress platform, it will provide a Customizer-like experience where you can choose options for CSS attributes like line height, font, text colors, etc. and see the change in real time.

Block Directory Search

Now, this is the part where it gets the most interesting.

Block Directory search lets you install ‘blocks’ or wordpress plugins directly from the page you’re are working on and inline the block you’re editing.

So, if you want to add a particular functionality in the block you’re editing and if it is not currently installed, you can use the Block Directory search to search for the block you need and install it right there and then.

Add title WordPress

Dynamic Blocks

This whole idea would have flopped big time if these blocks served static HTML instead of dynamic php from the server. I mean, who would want to trade powerful dynamic content of WordPress with static HTML. Nobody, right?

Well, blocks in Gutenberg will be of two kinds – static and dynamic. So you can render content dynamically from the server.

An example is the WordPress Latest Posts block. This block will update everywhere it’s used when a new post is published.

Reusable Blocks

Another great feature is the ability to reuse and repeat blocks across your site.

I remember building a website a couple of years back with a page builder plugin. Every page on the website had to be structured in the same way.

For me, it meant, doing the same repetitive task of structuring and styling the pages in an identical way. At that point, I wondered if there was a way to clone the design or make a template so it could be reused and repeated across the site without having to redesign from scratch.

And that’s what reusable blocks in Gutenberg are for.

‘Simplify’ is a small word for what Full-Site editing will do to website development in WordPress. If it rolls out well, it would mean a renaissance for both the end users and the theme developers.

How Will Gutenberg Transform The User Experience?

For one, the users who bloated their site with page builder plugins like Elementor or Beaver Builder will not have to do so as the functionality of full-site and block based editing will be built in the core platform itself.

For the end user, the full-site editing feature will lead to a simplified experience where they can create any kind of layout and design they can imagine.

They can convey ideas and information the way they want without any compromises or having to understand the technical side of things.

The user can add and edit functionality more easily via a unified, coherent and consistent mechanism of blocks. They won’t have to traverse complex navigation menus or visit separate sections in order to change the behavior of the site. The user can manipulate everything directly in place from one single interface – the block.

In the end, it means developing websites and building pages will be much easier for non-dev users.

But what’s most interesting about the whole feature is this proposed idea outlined in the github documentation:

Ultimately, any WordPress user with the correct capabilities (example: `administrator` WordPress role) will be able to access these templates in the WordPress admin, edit them in dedicated views and potentially export them as a theme.

This particular part of the project will have far-reaching effects on the WordPress community. It means anyone – even people with no coding experience can create themes and even contribute them to the community.

A free directory of customized themes doesn’t seem like a far-fetched idea now.

But that brings us to the next question. What impact will it have on theme development? Will themes even exist?

How Will Gutenberg Transform Theme Development?

Frankly, this is not an easy question to answer. Although there has been an initial documentation for theme developers, nothing is set in stone.

Ever since its release, Gutenberg created some ripples in the WordPress development community especially theme developers. People wondered what the future of themes looked like. Will themes be reduced to a style sheet or will they cease to exist?

The essence we got from the whole proposal is that theme developers will have to adapt to the changes and make bends to make the system work for them.

While previously, a ‘no-coding-experience-required’ was a selling point for theme developers, it won’t be so unique now. And so, theme developers will have to scratch their brains and come up with unique selling points for their themes.

But one thing is clear: with a coherent system in place, there’ll be lots of opportunities for what can be done and how far the WordPress platform can be stretched.

All In All…

Gutenberg is all set to reshape the WordPress landscape – nothing will be the same as we know now. While end-users will find it much easier to build sites and pages without tinkering with technicalities, the developer community will be able to unlock more opportunities in creating experiences and functionality that are impractical at this point.

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