When you have an established website, changing themes can be an adventure because sometimes things go pear-shaped. When I switched last month from an older Premium theme to a free block-editor style theme, Hever, I combed my site from start to finish looking for issues and discovered that some earlier posts had formatting problems, even though they looked perfectly normal in the Editor. Fortunately, there were very few such posts, some custom CTA buttons, reblogs and lists that were previously made in tables, and they were relatively easy to fix. I hope I got it all, but if you do come across any odd formatting on my site, please do let me know. Thanks.
One key factor in my decision to change themes was to use a theme that takes full advantage of the Block editor and stay accessible (more on that below). A distinct disadvantage of the current Block-Editor Style themes, i.e. those “Recommended Themes” that appear at the top of the Theme Showcase, is they don’t yet have a “Try & Customize” option like WordPress.com’s older themes. This means you can’t really see what your current content will look like in them unless you activate the new theme.
To overcome this limitation, I ended up exporting a portion of my site content to a test site.
If you have an established website where your Homepage is set in your Customizer’s Homepage Settings to display “Your latest posts,” you’ll find that all the regular Posts pages of the 18 Varia child themes are very similar.
- Homepage: Either a Static Front Page or the Posts page (Your latest posts) that displays at your WordPress.com site’s primary address, be that mysite.wordpress.com or mysite.com, if your site has a custom domain name.
- Static Front Page: A Page of static content.
- Posts Page: A page automatically generated by the WordPress software that displays your blog posts in reverse chronological order.
Instead of the regular Posts page, try one of the new Blog Page layouts, which pulls in your blog content and displays it in unique ways on the Homepage. These Blog Page layouts also display excerpts, while the regular Posts page may display full posts (unless you’ve consistently used the “More” tag on each of your posts). You can also fine tune that Page layout by adjusting the number of visible posts by changing the default setting for the Blog Posts block and/or changing the Layout Grid block. There are also two Blog Page layouts that include a faux sidebar, but that sidebar will only appear on that page. Set it up once and you’re done.
For those who want to use a full Block Editor style theme that has the most customization options much like the older WordPress.com themes, look no further than Twenty-Twenty (or Twenty Twenty-One). At this point, all the free WordPress.com themes and the current lot of 82 Premium themes (as of today) are Block Editor ready, but may not take full advantage of all the possible block settings like the “Recommended Themes.”
IMPORTANT NOTE: On September 1, 2021, WordPress.com retired all 83 available Premium Themes.
Experimenting (ok-playing around) with various blocks led to the creation of both a new Featured Articles page (Post Carousel and Latest Posts blocks) that on my earlier Premium theme I had to create with Custom CSS, as well as a new Index of all articles on my site (Latest Posts block and the Display Posts shortcode). There’s a whole library of new blocks and block patterns in your Block Editor to try out. Hit the PLUS sign in the blue square in upper left corner of your Editor interface and you’ll see a tab for Blocks and another tab for Patterns. (There’s also another tab for Reusable Blocks if you have saved them.)
Try it, you might not entirely hate it!
I spent a lot of time rereading the entire forum feedback thread for the Block Editor and came away with the feeling that WordPress.com users (at least those who participated in that now-closed forum thread) write content in less than straightforward ways (to me, anyway) nor may not entirely understand how the software works.
It’s true that not everyone can use or wants to use the Block Editor. Many people object to the new Editor because they believe it changes the way they write. Many people also expressed that they felt the Block Editor is too complicated. Some people also admitted that they hadn’t tried the Block Editor. Well, OK, then.
If you usually write in the MySite Visual Editor, give the following a try:
- Set up a new test site or transition an older test site to the Block Editor. (Don’t want to set up a new site, don’t have an older site? I’d be happy to add you to my Private Block Editor test site as an Author, just let me know in the comments. You’ll also be able to @ me if you get stuck.) Then,
- Open a new post or page and just start writing without selecting any block. The Paragraph block is the default block.
- Add an image? Hit Enter and type /im and an entire list of available image options will come up. Select the image format you want follow the onscreen guide.
- Want to add a numbered/ordered list? Hit Enter and start your line with a number. The Editor will automatically change it to an ordered List block.
- Want a bullet/unordered list? Hit Enter and type /list, click the List block icon, then start typing. Like the numbered list, each time you hit Enter, the block will create a new line until you hit Enter twice.
- Want your list indented more? Start your line with a Space. (Tip provided in the Editor by WPcom.)
- Want to add a quote? Hit Enter and type /quote, click the Quote block icon and then start typing. There’s also room for a “citation” at the end of the block.
- Want to add a link? First copy (Ctrl+C) the link you want to add to your clipboard and then highlight the relevant text in your post or page and then paste with Ctrl+V.
- Want to use Keyboard shortcuts? They all work as before in the old Visual Editor: Ctrl+B for Bold Text, Ctrl+I for Italic Text, etc. (Hitting Shift+Alt+H in the Editor will bring up the full list of available shortcuts.)
All the above Ctrl + something have Mac equivalents. I’m just iOS deprived.
The only replies in that long, long forum thread and elsewhere in the forums that I found disconcerting were the ones relating to accessibility. I won’t go into the firestorm that raged over on ORG about the Block Editor’s accessibility issues, but if you are programming for inclusion, accessibility must be your starting point. I made the decision a long time ago, especially after viewing this TED Talk, that any theme I use on my site must be an accessible-ready theme.
There are many valuable tips to help you make your own WordPress.com site more accessible in the WordPress.com blog post for Global Accessibility Awareness Day.
And, lastly, here we are in the second week of August still waiting to say hello to WordPress.com making the Block Editor the default editor. Looks like the transition is more involved than initially thought. Won’t you take a moment to answer the poll below?
You needn’t worry that I’ve abandoned talking about the Classic Editor, but I’ll only do so once WordPress.com makes the switch for everyone. There’s still too many open-ended questions about it that will only be answered post-implementation.
As always, the information in this post is correct as of publication date. Changes are inevitable.