Not just Block Themes are coming in WordPress 5.9

screenshot of a few WordPress full site editing themes

WordPress 5.9 is set to launch on January 25, and many users will be in for a surprise. The upcoming release will be the most monumental shift in how the platform works since the introduction of the block-based content editor in 5.0. Block themes, global styles, and the site editor will kick-start a new future…

What Are Block Themes? What You Need To Know Before WordPress 5.9 — WP Tavern

Keep in mind that the above article concerns the open source WordPress software and what’s described there may not necessarily be the way it will be implemented here on WordPress.com. Still, quite the tectonic shift.

In case you are already seeing red, note what it says further down in the article and continue slow breathing,

Users can keep on using their current setup without any changes at all. Accessing the site editor and global styles is an opt-in process. It requires the activation of a block theme.

Full Site Editing here on WordPress.com is currently limited to a small percentage of new site signups on the Business and eCommerce plans (finally, a trial group, huzzah!). Due to this limitation, I’ve been trying to set up a local WP install using LocalWP with the WordPress Beta Tester plugin and it’s been challenging.

Update 18 January: FSE is now open for new sites on existing accounts whose primary language is English. You can read all about it in the WordPress.com News blog announcement.

I’m especially excited that steps are being taken, at least on WordPress.org, to introduce users to Full Site Editing with a 15-lesson course prior to the release of WordPress v5.9. However, taking a course is not the same as practical experience/experimentation and, being someone who learns by doing, I’m looking forward to getting to grips with it on a test site. My biggest concern as an end-user is how CSS changes will be handled without a Customizer. (See below!)

Edited to add this excellent video from Anne McCarthy of Automattic.

As always, the information in this post is correct as of publication date. Changes are inevitable.

What are your thoughts about FSE? Are you going to try it out once it becomes available?

Published by JenT

WordPress.com forum volunteer and former moderator (2016-2021) assisting WordPress.com site owners since 2006, one answer at a time. Find me at wpcommaven.com.

7 thoughts on “Not just Block Themes are coming in WordPress 5.9

  1. Two comments:

    1) I don’t believe it will remain opt-in.

    2) I don’t believe in “improving” something before perfecting the current implementation.

    Windows has proven that building on a weak foundation gets you a weak product that needs constant patching.

    As long as it stays at the .ORG level, I’ll reserve my judgment. Once implemented on .COM, I’ll try it. But, I have to ask . . . who is asking for this? What’s the advantage to the regular user?

    Most of all, when will a competitor offer something that will draw users away from this annoying and ever-changing environment? (Soon, I hope.)

    1. Emilio-I have to disagree, at least on “I don’t believe it will remain opt-in”. At this time, you have to have a big ticket plan as well as opt-in to work with FSE at sign-up, and then you must use a block theme that is FSE capable. There are very few of those right now both on ORG or on COM. If you choose any other block theme, FSE won’t be available. In the long-run, I don’t foresee FSE being implemented across the board for the same reason we’ve had the Classic Editor plugin for a year and a half beyond what originally was advised.

      I haven’t really been able to get into the nuts and bolts of FSE quite yet. Still, being able to edit the templates of your site (or create a new one) makes for better customization for those that want it. As an example, you’ll be able to directly edit archives pages and 404 page. That’s often been requested by users posting in the forums. But again, it’s not something that most non-technical folk are running to embrace. And they don’t have to.

      Lastly, WordPress.com has from its beginning been the testing ground for features being implemented in the upcoming version of the ORG software. The only way to insulate your site from this experience is to move to a different web hosting provider and install WP. That takes technical chops that many don’t have or are interested in investing the time and energy to learn. Or move to Squarespace or Wix as hosts where page builders are baked into the application.

      Yes, it’s been an almost continual earthquake around here for the past couple of years while WP moved to being a site builder, and after WP 5.9 is released on the 25th, I really hope these major seismic shifts stop for a good long time!

      1. We have the Classic Editor block but it’s not supported very well and doesn’t work like the Classic Editor. Heck, the Classic Editor itself doesn’t work the way the Classic Editor used to work (no option for editing posts that were created with it, among other things).

        The block editor used to be opt-in, and then the block editor was implemented across the board, and now one has to jump imperfect hoops to use the Classic Editor or Classic Editor Block (not to fire them up, but to do what we used to be able to do).

        I’m using the block editor almost exclusively because it has fewer bugs, and because I keep being told what I want to do is no longer supported in the Classic Editor (essentially).

        And yes, depending on what is in store for us lowly users, at some point I might move. But, even there, the process isn’t friendly. I’m told I can move content to another site, but, in practice, it would require me reformatting/ tweaking over 3,100 posts, and that’s if everything moves over, which is something I highly doubt.

        Had I been a bit more prescient, I would have started with my own site in the first place, but for now, I’m left to impotently shake my fist at the implacable and uncaring WP sky-gods. “Curse you, WPSGs!”

        I keep hearing that we’re the testing ground, and I can buy that for the free version. I’m less sympathetic to the idea when I have to pay for the privilege.

        But, OK . . . I know what I’m facing and the reality of it. But, like religion, politics, and broccoli, while I don’t like any of them, I get some relief by complaining about them.

      2. Well, there you go https://wordpress.com/blog/2022/01/17/get-early-access-to-full-site-editing/ FSE is available as of yesterday on any new site on an existing WPcom account whose language is set to English. The announcement was in my email this morning my time (where it is currently 5℃ outside).

        I will be more than happy to test the issues you mentioned in the Classic Editor, keeping in mind I can’t turn back the clock and access the Calypso version of the Classic Editor. Just let me know what they are. If too long to list here, send me an email. But you should be able to edit old posts in the Classic Editor. If you hover your cursor over the post title in the WP Admin dashboard, you should see that “Classic Editor” option appear below it.

        As my discussion prompt says, “Kvetch or Kvell, it’s all good!”

      3. I appreciate your generous offer, but — literally — hours have been spent with support (in aggregate). Invariably, it ends with “thank you for documenting this, and I’ve forwarded it to the developers, but, understand the Classic Editor is not a priority and we’ll get to it sometimes before the Sun goes Nova.”

        As for old posts, let me clarify.

        You can edit them in the Classic Editor, true, but you can’t copy them and have them open in the Classic Editor. They open in the Classic Editor Block with associated limitations and a few formatting quirks when it comes to images.

        This matters to me because I had/have a number of templates I (used to) use for quickly creating posts. I can edit the templates in the Classic Editor, but then I can’t reuse them because once I publish them, they become saved versions of the post and unusable without changing the post.

        I used to copy my templates to create a new post, but, again, they now don’t open in the Classic Editor even if they were created with the Classic Editor.

        This comes into play for things like my projects. The posts for projects (or series like documenting the cruises I went on) often have the same intro and ending.

        I used to set up templates so that I only need to copy them, add the middle part, and publish them, saving me a lot of time and providing continuity. That now can only be done (somewhat easily, but only minimally useful) with blocks.

        And just to beat a dead horse, neither the Classic Editor Block nor the Block Editor (really, one and the same) offers the same ease of composing the post as the actual Classic Editor (even their latest version which is itself not as good as it used to be). Many more clicks, more fiddling (because of all the ‘great’ options I don’t need), and more issues with images and galleries.

        I’ll admit that I’m getting pretty good at navigating the block editor, but it’s still more clicks and more things to remember to do than the original editor. Meaning, more opportunities for missing/screwing up something.

        Finally, that’s all on me. If I only gave in to what WP thinks I should do, how WP envisions a post to look, and the suggested WP workflow, well, then, it would be smooth sailing.

        So, you see, it’s all my fault. I freely admit that.

      4. I spent a few minutes with the Classic Editor today and I see what you mean. Using “Copy post” the post is directly converted to a Classic Block when you open it, which you can then choose to “convert to blocks”. It even says in the Classic Editor Deprecation FAQ, “Your existing content is preserved in Classic Blocks. A Classic Block is a slimmed-down version of the Classic Editor.” OK-then, nothing to see here, moving along.

        I suppose rather than “Copy post” as one used to doing, wouldn’t it be possible to open the Classic Editor post and copy its content and then paste that into a new Classic Editor post? It seemed to work on my test site. But then, I don’t know how complex your templates are.

        And after spending time with the Classic Editor, I also felt like I was boxed in. Image insertion is limited to single images or the old-style Galleries; no access to Pexels free image library and no ability to easily adjust font sizes without using different headings, which is an accessibility no-no.

      5. On opening the classic editor and copying stuff . . . yes, you can do that, but you lose all the formatting. I’d have to go in and reformat everything the way I like it.

        On the old-style galleries . . . first of all, the old-style tiled gallery is the same as the new block tiled gallery (as far as I can tell. That’s the only gallery I like using (boring or not). And, if you look at my older posts . . . few to no galleries.

        Galleries showed up in my posts because of changes to how photos are loaded. Now, I’ve come to find galleries useful, but still, my preference is individual photos, and they are clumsier and more click-intensive to insert with the Classic Editor Block and the Block Editor. A post with 40+ individual photos and writing takes me multiple hours to prepare. Not so in the past.

        The way I compose my posts entailed me writing something, then dragging a photo from a file to where I wanted it when I wanted it. For one, editing, copying, moving stuff around was faster and better in the Classic Editor (for me).

        Also, it had a better interface to the options available with the photos (fewer clicks). Can’t do that now with the Classic Editor Block because it creates a new block, usually not where I want it. That means I have to first load the image to the gallery, then insert it, then format it. As for editing, hitting “Enter” creates a new block. If I want to continue with the same block, I have to hit Shift-Enter. But then, editing that block, moving stuff around is a pain because of how the mouse movements default to the beginning of the block when you move stuff around. There are other quirks that literally makes it easier to copy the whole block and delete stuff.

        You can still insert photos by dragging in the Classic Editor (I think), but, again, that means I have to recreate the beginning and end of each post, so, pretty much, I don’t use the Classic Editor, and not just for that, but for other glitches that show up since they ‘deprecated” it.

        On the formatting of text . . . the extent of my formatting was using the bold, italic, strike-through, color options, and inserting/assigning links to phrases or words. All are more difficult to do in blocks (more clicks because you have pull-down menus), and I mentioned the pain with editing/formatting stuff within the block.

        Sure, there are a lot of options there . . . which I don’t use. Once again, “increased functionality” that I don’t need or use, resulted in a loss in ease of use (meaning, it takes longer to do what I used to do for no additional benefit to me).

        One thing that might help is if all the most used options were available on the floating menu (without having to click, find the option, click again, choose the option, etc.). I was hoping, and suggested, the option for sticky menus at the top of the page.

        The option is there, but all they did is move the block menu to the top (which makes it more inconvenient, not more convenient). I would prefer the sticky menu have all (or as many as possible) menu items shown, much like the classic editor visual editor menu which had the most used items as single clicks

        The only advantage to the sticky menu over the floating menu is that it doesn’t cover part of your work and it doesn’t go off-screen as you’re editing (opening menus while at the bottom of the page has the menu literally open outside the boundary of the window, which you then can’t see or use). On a narrow window, they can also go off to the side and you only see half the menu.

        Finally, the images . . . I exclusively use images from my PC, so I have no need for Pexels.

        So, to reiterate. Lots of new options, most not geared to what I do, and all slowing down what I do.

        I want to be clear.

        My complaint is not so much with the changes, but with the insistence that WP is doing this to help me create better content. Instead, what they are doing is helping some people (giving them what they want) while deprecating the experience for other people (taking away functionality they used to have or making existing functionality be more difficult). If they committed to keeping both users happy, I wouldn’t complain.

        They add features to “spruce up” and making stuff “visually exciting”, which is fine, but not if it degrades the experience.

        I suspect the ability to distract people from the quality of the content — by sprucing it up and making something with little or no substance visually appealing — will ensnare a fair number of people (it’s the way of the world, these days). After all, it’s what I do with my photos when I’m bored and lazy and want something quick. I add ‘pizzaz’ to them.

        But, at some point, the balance of users enthusiastic with the new stuff, versus users annoyed with the changes, might come back to bite them.

        Same as it would be for me if all I did was make weird variants to existing photos. Heck, it might have already happened since I don’t produce anywhere near the quality of content as I used to. but, boy, it sure looks nice … or so WP insists.

Comments are closed.