Seven weeks ago, WordPress Theme Team contributors came up with several ideas to improve the visibility of block themes on WordPress.org. These included the ability to tweak the popular themes algorithm to further highlight block themes, and/or add a new “Block” menu item next to Popular and Latest on the homepage. from the theme directory.
The directory is struggling to grow because only editor-compatible themes on the site offer access to everything WordPress has to offer in the new block paradigm. Yet the 94 block themes available represent less than 1% of the 9,761 themes in the directory.
It’s an interesting time in the history of WordPress where the theme a user selects can severely limit the ability to take advantage of the latest WordPress features. This is why some contributors propose that block themes have more visibility in the directory. This has a direct impact on the adoption of FSE and therefore its improvement, as the people using it are the pathway to higher quality feedback that will shape its future in WordPress.
After five weeks, the ticket went silent, following a recommendation from lead WordPress developer Dion Hulse that redoing the front page of the directory would probably be the best way to resolve the needs communicated in the ticket. Two weeks ago, the discussion was reignited when WordPress theme developer and theme team contributor Dumitru Brinzan commented with strong opposition to the idea of promoting block themes:
It goes against everything which has been discussed on the role of themes for the last 10 years at least.
In the past, there have been many cases where a new tab with themes, different algorithm, different order, different X, Y, Z have been appropriated.
Each time, the authors of topics heard the same song: it is not the role of .org to promote or market a particular product. It is not the role of .org to make the theme repository look like the plugin repository.
The logical request to remove the twenty default themes from the Popular tab fell on deaf years.
But now there’s a shiny new toy (that isn’t even ready or wanted by the general public).
And suddenly, people with a vested interest in having their themes highlighted are pushing this “new” idea.
It’s a spit in the face of the hundreds (if not thousands) of theme authors who have contributed to .org so far.
Sarah Norris, contributor to the Automattic Sponsored Themes team, submitted a PR that adds a “Block” tab to the theme directory’s filter list. It filters themes using the full site edit tag, which is currently buried in three clicks for those who know how to apply the filter.
“These types of themes are more commonly referred to as block themes, so by adding this tag we are reducing confusion between these terms and clarifying how to filter by block themes in the directory,” Norris said.
Hulse concluded that PR was “the easiest route here, having the most impact today,” but wondered if “blocking” was the best term to use.
Christian Zumbrunnen, another participant in the discussion, suggested that classic themes should also be given a label, such as “Classic”, which could be changed to “Deprecated” in the future.
“And another question: why would my non-FSE themes created for the block editor be relegated to the ‘classic themes’ category?” Brinzan said. “Why specifically favor ESF themes, while qualifying them as ‘block’ themes? My classic themes work perfectly with blocks. Why create more confusion under the false pretense of making things “easier and clearer”? »
The difference here is that while most themes now support block editor for content, very few include full block-based site editor support. Brinzan argues that contributors should strive to create a more efficient search and improve the theme browsing/filtering experience:
The whole repertoire needs to be improved. It’s not right (or fair) to prioritize one type of themes, when many of them are not even production ready.
Directing all WordPress users to an unfinished and clumsy product will do no one any good. WordPress is not known for its sleek user interface, and that will make matters worse. WordPress users are not guinea pigs to impose Gutenberg and FSE at every step. Let this process take its natural course.
WordPress theme developers face the inevitable task of updating their themes to be FSE compatible to stay relevant in the new era of using blocks to modify every aspect of a WordPress site. Themes that don’t support the full range of platform functionality soon become the last vestiges of a bygone era of WordPress themes.
Hendrik Luehrsen, who agreed that full site editing themes should be easier to find, said he was wondering how to do this without “downgrading the rest of the themes or creating an Osborne effect”. This notion, which is based on the fall of Osborne Computer Corporation, particularly affects consumer electronics products where premature announcement of the imminent release of a technologically superior product can hurt sales of existing products.
The Osborne Effect may not be applicable in this case, since WordPress has already shipped FSE to those who want to take advantage of it, and Block Themes, the successor to legacy WordPress themes, is already here.
Automattic Sponsored Themes Team Contributor Jeffrey Pearce urged contributors to reach consensus and reminded them that the solution can always be iterated on later.
“It’s important to stress that block themes can only get better with better exposure through use, which seems to be what most people here agree on,” Pearce said. “The solutions in this ticket do not seek to demote classic themes, but rather improve the discoverability of block themes instead of the current filtering approach.”