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What Will Full Site Editing Look Like in WordPress 5.8

The next major WordPress release is due mid-July, and the first steps toward Full Site Editing will land along with it. Dubbed “Gutenberg Phase 2”, this new set of features will bring a entirely new ideas and workflows to the Gutenberg editor.

​How will these changes effect you? Let’s dive into the details.

What Is Full Site Editing?

What if, instead of using PHP templates, we were to build WordPress themes entirely out of blocks? This is the core idea behind Full Site Editing – a theme that includes everything from a Site Logo block, to an Author Meta block, to a Post Date block, to a block for the copyright colophon. When a theme is essentially just a series of blocks, the site’s Administrator can add, remove, reorganize, and edit their theme’s layout and design using the Gutenberg editor. It’s not too dissimilar to what Page Builder plugins like Elementor, Divi, or Beaver Builder can do today.

It’s Opt-In

When the Gutenberg editor was launched in WordPress 5.0, we suddenly found ourselves with a whole new Editor to learn. The only way of opting-out was to install the Classic Editor plugin (which remains one of the most popular plugins in the directory). Full Site Editing takes a fundamentally different approach. In fact, many users won’t ever realize that Full Site Editing has been enabled on their WordPress site.

The “Site Editor” – an alternate version of the Post Editor, designed specifically for editing themes – is only available if you’ve installed and selected a compatible “Block Theme”. Right now, there are only a handful of Full Site Editing capable Block Themes out there, so unless you’re specifically searching one out, chances are you won’t see the Site Editor any time soon.

Not Quite Full Site… Yet

With great power comes great responsibility – and WordPress powers 40 percent of the web. That’s why Gutenberg development is carefully checked against a comprehensive set of requirements – native mobile support, performance, security, responsiveness, comprehensive accessibility, and more. Add to that the careful, deliberate consideration of UX designers, QA testers, and documentation writers, and you can understand why Full Site Editing has been so long in the making. Despite well over a year of development, the project still isn’t fully ready for prime time.

​That’s why WordPress leadership has opted for a gradual roll-out. The next release of WordPress *will* include foundational back-end support for Full Site Editing, but it won’t include all the feature’s that are currently being tested in the Gutenberg plugin. Crucially, the Site Editor itself isn’t going to ship with this release! Even if you’ve selected a compatible Block Theme, you will still need the Gutenberg plugin active if you want to move blocks around.

Welcome to Template Editing

Page Templates have been part of WordPress for a very long time. Custom templates are defined by the theme, and selectable via a dropdown menu when editing a Page, typically with template names like “Full Width” or “Privacy Policy”. Traditionally, Page Templates have been a great way of defining custom landing pages – but only if you know how to edit theme files, write a little HTML and PHP, and roll your own.

In WordPress 5.8, users will have the ability to define their own custom Page Templates, without editing their theme directly. Full Site Editing will be make its first appearance in WordPress as the Template Editor. You’ll find it under Appearance > Templates. In the Template Editor you can build out the entire page – you might start by inserting a Header block, and follow that up with a Post Content block. You could try using a columns block with a 20 / 80 split to add a left-hand sidebar to the template. You have complete control, a blank canvas to build your own custom Page Template using blocks.

What Else Is New in 5.8?

As is normal for any release of WordPress, 5.8 will ship with all the stable features in the most recent release of Gutenberg – so you can expect the usual long list of bug fixes, performance improvements, and UX tweaks. We’ll also see the introduction of the Query block, which will likely become a foundational component in many of the new workflows enabled by Full Site Editing.

Other additions include:

  • – Widgets will now support blocks! You’ll be able to add an Image block or Quote block to your sidebar.
  • – Images and video will support a beautiful duotone effect.
  • – New padding and layout controls in the Editor.

What’s Next?

Once WordPress 5.8 is released in July, the WordPress contributors will shift focus to the 5.9 release, scheduled for December. The goal for version 5.9 is to include the Site Editor features that didn’t make it into the 5.8 release. This will conclude “Phase 2” of Gutenberg.

​And beyond that? Phase 3 is still loosely defined, but will center around collaboration – enabling a Google Docs inspired multi-user editing experience. Once that’s done, the final phase will take us well beyond 2022 with a focus on multilingual support in the editor

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