Released on 25 January 2022, WordPress 5.9 offers a taste of what the future holds for the world’s most popular content management system.
The WordPress team isn’t afraid to make big changes. The 2018 release of Gutenberg, their “Block Editor”, revolutionised the way WordPress content is created. 5.9 hints at a similarly seismic shift. The impending 6.0 version is likely to see a move away from PHP templates to a new, forward-thinking approach to building the web.
Here at Fellowship we’ve been getting familiar with WordPress 5.9 and its new “full site editing” approach. This looks to blur the lines between the traditional “front end / back end” approach that most CMS users are familiar with.
So what is “full site editing”?
This isn’t a new concept to WordPress. There have been a host of popular third-party plugins offering the opportunity to edit content in a more “streamlined” way. Mostly by making the admin area look and behave more like the public-facing view. This makes it easier to see how your pages and posts will look and gives you more control over your website content.
Typically, WordPress themes have been built by developers such as ourselves, to enable clients to maintain and upload their own content in a more structured and defined way. This removes the distraction of formatting, allowing them to focus on quality content. Full site editing aims to give everyone access to (almost) everything straight off the bat. The idea is to give more power to website administrators, taking the ideas behind the “block editor” – which until now has been restricted to the content of pages and posts – and applying it to the entire site.
What might this mean for the future?
For us at Fellowship, as bespoke WordPress theme developers, the way we need to build WordPress themes is going to change. Theme developers are being encouraged to move away from traditional PHP templating and to utilise full site editing by creating themes built from a library of blocks. These are reusable and can be dropped in wherever the website administrator wants. This signals a shift towards creating reusable and dynamic blocks, allowing specific chunks of functionality to be inserted into a variety of different locations across the entire site.
For users this streamlines the editing and management process. It also offers advanced functionality in a way that can be more easily implemented than in previous versions of the system.
Will my existing website stop working?
Absolutely not! The full site editor is designed to be fully backwards compatible and will only function on themes that are specifically built to accommodate it. Older WordPress themes that do not carry that support will continue to function exactly as they do now.
Older themes can be upgraded to support full site editing. (The complexity and work involved will depend on how and when each theme was originally created.) New themes can still be developed using the “traditional” methods.
5.9 signals the direction in which WordPress is heading, offering developers advanced notice of the next big update to WordPress’ core functionality. When it is released later this year, WordPress 6.0 will place greater emphasis on this new way of building themes, with a view to placing as much functionality and flexibility within the website admin as possible.
Full site editing opens up new options for customisation in WordPress and brings with it the possibility of greater control for users. Deciding when the time is right to make the switch from classic themes to block themes is something that should be carefully considered.