How Full Site Editing in WordPress Will Impact Web Design

Earlier this year, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of WordPress. The phenomenal success of our favorite web platform is a testament to its open-source roots and a massive community of users, contributors, businesses, and friends. And nothing in this 20-year history has engaged the community quite like Gutenberg.

What is Gutenberg?

Not long after its 10th anniversary, the WordPress community realized it had a problem. WordPress was not keeping up with the modern web. Themes, originally meant to add style to a blog, became these huge, monolithic collections of styles, page builders, and custom functionality. They were brittle, opinionated, and server intensive, but they served a very important purpose: content. Try to make a complex page layout with rich content, and you’ll quickly see the limitations of the classic WordPress editor.

Gutenberg is the initiative to rethink how content is managed in WordPress completely. It was introduced in WordPress 5.0, along with a multi-year, four-phase roadmap:

  1. Easier editing
  2. Customization
  3. Collaboration
  4. Multilingual

Phase 1 was about content blocks

Instead of editing a page in one large form field, constantly toggling between WYSIWYG and code, the Gutenberg block editor broke individual content elements into blocks. A page title is a block. A paragraph is a block. An image. A video. These can be rearranged, saved, and reused. Accessible text can be added to images without leaving the editor and going to the Media Library. A header hierarchy and word count can tell you immediately if you have an SEO problem.

Phase 2 was about expanding this experience to the full site

In Phase 2, the Gutenberg block editor — now called the editor — was expanded to the entire theme. This is called Full Site Editing (FSE) and was essentially completed earlier this year in WordPress 6.2. FSE includes block patterns, the block directory, and block themes.

We’re back to the original intention of a theme as a way to style a site. Block themes have global styles and style variations. Want to switch from a light theme to a dark? Want to create a unique style for April 1 or an 80s throwback? Style variations make this possible.

FSE is the future of WordPress

As of this writing, we are days away from WordPress 6.3, which will officially bring Gutenberg into Phase 3. The goal is to make building a website a collaborative effort, the same way that you can share a Google Slides presentation with multiple people and build it simultaneously. Phase 4, years from now, will introduce multilingual into WordPress core, allowing us to build sites for a global audience in ways we can’t even imagine today.

To Blockly Go Where No Theme Has Gone Before

We admit it, the initial rollout of Gutenberg was rough. Those of us who were early adopters were left with a bad taste and were hesitant to dive back in, but the writing was on the wall. A couple of years ago, 3 Media Web formed a team to redefine how we build websites, and earlier this year, we identified a few good candidate projects and rolled out a few block themes. We’re ready for the next batch of sites, the final two phases of Gutenberg, and the next 20 years of WordPress!

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