What I’ve learned so far in developing a theme suited for Gutenberg

ExtraPress Gutenberg theme homepage template

Gutenberg continues to be a hot topic in the WordPress sphere. And with the news that the new editor might be rolled out with WordPress 5.0 in August, I decided it was time to try and create a premium WordPress theme that relies on Gutenberg.

Now, of course the general idea for this theme, which at the moment is called ExtraPress, came earlier this year, and it’s created out of my journalistic background (as this is a clean newspaper theme). But with Gutenberg being the talk and basically the future of WordPress, I decided to see if I could create such a theme to be ready when the new editor came out.

So far, I have the homepage template, the single post templates (a normal and a longform template) and the page template complete. In that short amount of time, I’ve touched Gutenberg a lot and have learned a lot more about the new editor than I new before.

So I thought I would give a few thoughts about developing a theme for Gutenberg as the talk of the new editor continues.

Blocks, blocks everywhere

So right off the bat, the biggest thing I’ve discovered in trying to make a theme for Gutenberg is the shear number of blocks that are needed to make it run well. For example, the homepage features nine blocks that a user can choose from (well technically they could choose from any number of other blocks, but they won’t work as well).

At first this seems like a massive undertaking, and it a lot of ways it is. But I’ve found that blocks make it easier to separate and organize code. Where normally I would have a front-page.php or page-home.php file with a bunch of code and HTML that gets confusing quick, I now just use the normal page.php file and have the blocks do all the work. And if I need to fix or change a block, I just go directly to that block (which is inside a functionality plugin). So it makes it much easier to keep code organized.

And at this point, I so familiar with blocks and how they work that it’s not really much of a pain to create another block. Like any other bits of code, I just reuse what I have and modify it to meet my needs. And honestly, that makes it much easier.

Greater customization ability for the end user

And all of those blocks mean the site owners have more control over the look and feel of their site. And it makes it easier for them to stand out in the growing see of websites.

For example, as I mentioned before, ExtraPress will have at least nine blocks to be used on the homepage in any order. This opens up the possibilities for users to create their homepage that’s unique to what they do. And that’s before we get to the color aspect of it all. And then there are plans for blocks for a sports page and so on and so forth.

This shifts the power of the design more in favor of the end user. Yes, the fonts and the default styling and the layout of each of the blocks are still in my control, but the user can create more customizations without touching a single line of code.

Of course, more customizations doesn’t exactly mean better sites. We’ve all seen the sites that use page builders where the site owner has done some rather interesting things to their site. And we all cringe when we see it and move on. These blocks aren’t going to change that.

But it is what it is, and it still gives more customization power to the user, which 

There’s still a lot to be explored

I’m still very early in this process of creating a theme for Gutenberg. And to be honest, I still think there’s a ways for Gutenberg to grow even after it’s rolled into WordPress 5.0.

But what I see now is that there’s so much potential in this. I think as developers, especially theme developers, begin to play with Gutenberg and their ideas of what it is change, we’re going to see some really cool things come out.

We can create really cool things and allow our users to change them to fit their needs. We can add functionality that was there before. And we can make it more intuitive for first-time users. The potential is there.

There’s still a ways to go with ExtraPress. There are still more blocks to create and features to add. But so far, building a theme with Gutenberg has me excited for the future.

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