Category: Various posts

Does WordPress Need 1,000s of Block Themes in the Era of Full Site Editing?

This article was taken from the site:

“I have so many design ideas in my head that I am about to make it my mission to singlehandedly fulfill [Matt Mullenweg’s] vision of 5,000 Full Site Editing #WordPress themes in the directory,” tweeted Brian Gardner earlier today.

Daniel Schutzsmith responded:

I’m just not seeing the need for more than one theme for FSE as long as I can override the look of it.

Would appreciate someone explaining why one theme like @frostwp COULDN’T just be the standard.

Making more themes feels like it defeats the concept of FSE altogether.

It is not the first time someone asked whether more than one block theme is necessary. In 2019, Rich Tabor proposed adding a base theme to WordPress itself, one upon which others would be built, if at all.

Even that was not the first time someone had pondered similar one-theme utopias throughout the platform’s history. Many framework-style parent themes have all made a run for it.

Let us assume for a moment that WordPress has reached a state where all themes no longer need custom PHP and CSS code. We are nowhere near that point yet, but we can imagine such a day might be possible in the relatively distant future. In this ideal world, templating, styling, theme-supported features, and plugin integration are neatly packaged into something configurable from the admin. In practice, users could control any aspect of their site’s front-end through the interface.

The problem is that someone still needs to make those customizations, and not everyone has a knack for design. One person’s ability does not automatically translate to all other users.

Perhaps a more crucial point is that not everyone wants to customize their site’s design. Some people simply want to find something that suits their style and move along.

There are alternative routes for arriving at the same destination, but themes are currently the only reliable vehicle.

Schutzsmith tweeted the following in response to Jamie Marsland, who likened the notion to asking Picasso for the canvas instead of the finished painting:

Themes and swapping out the whole thing is an old way of thinking. Sure a theme could = painting but I’m saying why can’t we just swap out the theme.json and get the same result? Why the need for themes at all when all we need to change is theme.json.

That is a future that I would not mind striving for. It is not insurmountable, but there is an uphill climb that WordPress will undoubtedly struggle with. Without a standardized CSS toolkit in place, switching theme.json files simply does not work. If WordPress tackles that problem, it takes us one step closer.

But theme.json only represents settings and styles. It says nothing about the structure of a website. Pre-configured templates are still necessary. Right now, that job sits squarely on top of the theme author’s shoulders.

If and when a well-designed user experience for full-page patterns lands in WordPress (related ticket), the template argument becomes less relevant. With such a system in place and enough variety from the pattern directory, some users might not require themes to handle this.

Starter templates or page patterns selector for inserting full-page content into the WordPress editor.
Starter page templates proposal.

The only worthwhile argument I have for multiple — even 1,000s of — themes is the promise they make to the user: install this thing, and you get this result.

For example, a pizzeria owner installs WordPress on their site and begins looking for a design for their online presence. This is likely someone working all day in a hot kitchen and comes home exhausted at night. However, they hop on the computer to update tomorrow’s specials or tinker with a new homepage layout for a few minutes. Everything about that experience should be catered to their use case. As an owner, chef, spouse, and parent, they need to quickly get things done and spend the rest of the night with their family.

This and 1,000s of similar scenarios are why themes are as important today as they ever were. Not everyone has the privilege of time, the skillset, or the inclination to piece their sites together.

When done well, block themes offer a controlled experience that cuts out all the cruft. They feel like they were built for an audience of one while being flexible enough for public release.

Schutzsmith later tweeted in the thread that he liked Elementor’s Kits. These are predesigned website designs that span multiple industries.

Pattern category types, which are not currently in WordPress, could evolve into that role. The Block Pattern Explorer plugin enables the feature, but themes must add support for the types to appear.

In the following screenshot, I have created a “Profile Cards” type in a theme of mine, but it could be industry-specific:

Block pattern explorer opened to a specific block pattern category type.
Block pattern category types.

It should be as easy as locating an industry-specific type and finding patterns for the pizzeria owner. A theme can offer that by either packaging patterns or pointing to those hosted in the directory.

I could see this evolving into more of a kit-like solution.

I disagree with Schutzsmith’s conclusion of needing only a single theme but not the questions he is asking. Our design community cannot simply say that themes should be “this one thing” because that is what they have always been. Its members need to continually ask: What is a WordPress theme?

The answer may be different to various groups of creators and users. If someone can get everything they need from the pattern directory without switching from Twenty Twenty-Two, maybe themes are irrelevant. If a creator simply likes building global style variations (theme.json files), WordPress should make it easy to use them on a wide range of sites.

However, many users will still need turnkey design solutions, and themes can be the best way to facilitate that. I do not know if that is 100, 1,000 or 5,000, but we will see how it goes.

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Koji Launches New Block Plugin for WordPress

Koji, a popular “link in bio” platform that provides apps to the creator economy, has launched a WordPress plugin for the block editor. The San Diego-based startup has raised $36.1M, most recently securing $20M in a funding round led by Jump Capital. Koji has attracted 150,000 users since its official launch in March 2021. It offers a way for creators on TikTok, Instagram, Twitch, and other social media platforms to monetize their followings.

“WordPress, along with the bloggers and creators it supports, is a cornerstone of the modern creator economy,” Koji CEO Dmitry Shapiro said. “This integration is a massive addition to the power and extensibility of WordPress, giving bloggers a frictionless and intuitive way to incorporate Koji mini apps in their content strategies.”

The new plugin introduces a Koji App block that gives users access to Koji’s app store and 200+ web-based mini apps. The apps offer a wide array of interactive functionality, such as e-commerce, games, video guestbook, calendar scheduling, NFT storefronts, billboards, and more.

Koji App Store in the Block Editor

Although the plugin’s description page says that it allows users to “embed any Koji app,” it’s not explicit about how that looks on the frontend. The app store launches in an overlay where you select and customize the app. In testing the plugin, I found that when when you insert the app into your WordPress site, it just shows up as a black button that says “My Koji App.” You can customize the button’s color and text, but that’s about it. The button launches the app in a lightbox-style overlay on top of the page content.

Koji App display on the frontend

The image above is a screenshot of two buttons that Koji inserted representing a Tip Jar app and an Ask Me Anything app. There is no way to differentiate the two besides editing the text.

The screenshots on the plugin’s details page show how the app is launched over the content, but it doesn’t show what users see on the page before they click the link.

I was not particularly impressed with this first version of the plugin, as it seems to misrepresent what it actually does. The plugin places links in plain black buttons that will launch an iframe of the Koji app on the page. It doesn’t make much use of the block editor’s customization features, nor does it provide any kind of visual preview of the app on the page. Even a small thumbnail preview would be far superior to a plain black button.

The plugin says that embedding these apps allows users to “sell downloadable files, sell custom video requests like shoutouts and birthday greetings, embed games that can be played by visitors, and more.” It does make it possible for users to do these things in the iframe popup, but the plugin doesn’t provide any kind of preview for these apps that would compel a visitor to click on them.

The Koji Block plugin offers a nominal integration between the Koji platform and WordPress, but misses an opportunity to display visually appealing previews within content. For an app platform with hundreds of colorful, interactive apps, the plain black button method of displaying them is uninspiring.

Koji collects fees on apps with e-commerce capabilities. If you are looking to collect donations or sell products on your WordPress site, there are many more homegrown (and visually appealing) ways to do so. This plugin is best-suited to creators who are already heavily using the Koji platform and want a simple way to link to an app from WordPress.

Avant-Garde Is an Experimental Block Theme With Well-Designed Patterns

Block themes continue to trickle into the WordPress theme directory. Classic design submissions still outpace them by margins that make it look like blocks are not even in the race yet. However, some designers seek to pioneer this still-foreign space.

Brian Gardner is not new to this. His latest theme, Avant-Garde, plays on the block system’s strengths without forcing it into something it is not capable of yet. It also does not hurt that Gardner leans into minimalism with his designs. The simplicity of the block system plays back into his strengths, too.

Homepage screenshot of WordPress theme with a logo, title, and menu in the header.  It has a large intro section with the words "Chicago, Innovative WordPress Design."

Reading through the code and browsing Avant-Garde’s design elements almost feels like taking a master-class in block theme development. Other than a typo where “Primary” is misspelled in the color palette (fixed in version 1.0.2), it seems to be doing everything right. It is vying for my coveted favorite theme of 2022 award, but we still have nearly a full 10 months left before the year is out. A lot can happen in that time. However, Avant-Garde raises the bar for those that follow.

There is one thing I am not fond of, so let us get this out of the way. The content area of single posts and pages is split into two columns. The title and meta are aligned left with the content to the right.

Single blog post.  The title, author, and date are on the left.  An image and text content on the right.

Single post view.

I like the willingness to break from the mold — it is titled Avant-Garde, after all. However, I never felt comfortable with the right-aligned content, even after tinkering with the theme for a week. Center or left-aligned is more natural.

I know I will sound like a broken record, but this is why I enjoy using the site editor. If I find a theme that covers 80% of what I want, I can customize it. Even as a designer and developer, this was often more trouble than it was worth with classic themes. Every theme developer had their in-house design system to figure out. Blocks always follow the same standard. Moving a column here or putting the post title over there simply induces fewer headaches.

So, I made a couple of minor changes to single posts. No big deal. I erased my single dislike about the theme in mere moments via the site editor, and all was right with the world.

WordPress site editor opened to a two-column single post template.
Customizing the layout of the single post template.

Where Avant-Garde gets things right is its patterns. It bundles 14 in total, and one is of the homepage design from the demo. Users do not have to piece it together; just insert and customize. This is the primary reason I have called for a separate full-page pattern feature in the past.

My favorite block pattern in the theme is for creating a portfolio:

Three-by-three grid of square images in a portfolio-style layout.
Portfolio pattern

It is merely a Heading, Paragraph, and a three-by-three grid of Image blocks. It feels like something anyone should be capable of building, but the simple elegance combined with on-point spacing is sometimes more complex than it looks.

I am also warming up to the list-style Query pattern as someone who enjoys writing from time to time and does not want to worry about finding the perfect featured image:

List of blog posts.  Each post is broken into three columns with the date on the left, the title and excerpt in the center, and tags on the right.

List-style Query pattern.

Avant-Garde includes a couple of alternative Query patterns for a grid and a one-column post list for those who prefer something different.

I rarely get to point to footer design as a positive attribute of themes. Far too often, this section is tacked on as if it had no right being there in the first place. However, Avant-Garde has not one but two footers that say, “Hey, do I have your attention?”

The first is the default, which includes the text “Design with courage.” in large lettering:

Black footer with white text.  Large spacing at the top.  On the left, text reads "Design with courage."  On the right, there are links.
Default footer design

The alternative is a business-friendly, full-width lead-in for visitors to contact the site owner:

Hero-style, full-width black footer with white text.  It has a button to contact the site owner.
Contact-style footer

Avant-Garde has a short pattern for displaying copyright text and links for those who prefer a footer that seeks less attention.

The theme does not include many custom block styles. A few fill-type and outline Button options can be replaced when core supports borders on the block. A “no margin” style for Paragraphs handles a missing WordPress feature.

Its more unique options include shadow and full-height styles for the Group block. It also offers framed images, which are showcased in the portfolio pattern.

Overall, I want to see more themes like Avant-Garde land in the directory. The design does not push against every boundary — though it does experiment plenty. What makes it a solid choice is the attention to detail. The little things matter, such as selecting the right photos for the demo and not leaving the footer design as an afterth

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WPExperts Acquires Password Protected Plugin

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WPExperts has acquired the Password Protected plugin from WordPress developer Ben Huson, author of nearly 20 plugins on Password Protected was by far his most popular one with more than 300,000 active installs. The acquisition is hot on the heels of the company’s purchase of the Post SMTP plugin two weeks ago, another product with more than 300k active installs.

Password Protected gained a large user base by providing a simple plugin that doesn’t try to do everything. It allows an administrator to set a password to protect their WordPress site. It includes just a handful of options, such as toggling access to feeds, allowing REST API access, and disabling password requirement for administrators.

The plugin’s users often request the ability to add a login logo, and the plugin keeps it simple by recommending compatible plugins like Login Logo or the Uber Login Logo plugin.

“I’ve not had much time to dedicate to the Password Protected plugin over the last couple of years,” Huson said regarding the sale. “I do use it myself and check for compatibility issues, but have not necessarily been pro-active in updating its compatibility flag in the WP repository.”

Huson said he has always tried to keep the plugin simple but with lots of hooks so that it would be extensible and ready for paid add-ons or a pro version in the future.

“I regularly got emails from people interested in acquiring the plugin as it has a good user base on the WP repository,” he said. “One of my main concerns in the past was that I wanted to have confidence in whoever takes it on.” Huson checked out WPExperts portfolio and said he had no worries the team would be able to take the plugin forward and develop it further.

Despite the success of Password Protected’s tightly controlled feature set, WPExperts founder Saad Iqbal said he plans to introduce some updates with an aim to produce a commercial version in a few months. He shared a few of the features they have in mind:

  1. Make this plugin more developer-friendly by adding more actions and filter hooks so the dev community can easily play around.
  2. Display option to redirect to the login window. If someone with an admin role visits the protected page, we can display something like: If you are an admin of this site, please click here to login, or if you are an existing user, click here to login.
  3. We can add support for more user roles apart from the Administrator, as it is currently, to make it more flexible.

Despite gaining a much larger team to support the plugin, users are not always happy when a tool they have embraced changes hands. A plugin that was once the pet project of one developer, has now joined a larger agency that will soon be looking to monetize the software. After WPExperts’ last acquisition, one reader commented that “takeover by an agency is usually the death knell for plugins,” as the new owners seek to add “unnecessary features” to a plugin that was previously focused in terms of development. Users do not relish the prospect of getting new banners and calls in the dashboard to pay for a Pro version.

In response to these concerns, Iqbal said WPExperts maintains a system for ensuring each plugin has adequate coverage.

“We have developed small team clusters for managing this kind of traffic,” Iqbal said. “So each team manages a couple of plugins, backed by strong support and business analyst teams, which keep track of all the issues and feature requests to be addressed. This makes sure nothing gets overlooked.”

WordPress 5.9.1 Maintenance Release

WordPress 5.9.1 is now available!

This maintenance release features 82 bug fixes in both Core and the block editor.

WordPress 5.9.1 is a short-cycle maintenance release. The next major release will be version 6.0.

You can download WordPress 5.9.1 from, or visit your Dashboard → Updates and click “Update Now”.

If you have sites that support automatic background updates, they’ve already started the update process.

For more information, browse the full list of both Trac and GitHub changes in the release candidate post, or check out the version 5.9.1 HelpHub documentation page.

Thanks and props!

The 5.9.1 release was led by Jb Audras and George Mamadashvili.

Special props to @sergeybiryukov for running mission control.

Thank you to everyone who helped make WordPress 5.9.1 happen:

Albert Juhé Lluveras, Alex Lende, alexstine, André, Anton Vlasenko, Ari Stathopoulos, ArteMa, Ben Dwyer, BlogAid, Carolina Nymark, Channing Ritter, Chris Van Patten, Colin Stewart, Daniel Richards, David Biňovec, David Smith, Dion Hulse, Dominik Schilling, Eddy, Ella van Durpe, Erik, Fabian Kägy, Flinim Asso, gadhiyaravi, George Hotelling, George Mamadashvili, glendaviesnz, Greg Ziółkowski, ianatkins, Ian Belanger, ironprogrammer, itsamoreh, Jb Audras, Jeff Ong, Jeremy Herve, Joe Dolson, Joen A., John Blackbourn, Jonathan Desrosiers, Jorge Costa, Juliette Reinders Folmer, KafleG, Kapil Paul, Kjell Reigstad, linux4me2, Lukman Nakib, manfcarlo, Marius L. J., mgol, nidhidhandhukiya, Nik Tsekouras, Omar Alshaker, Paolo L. Scala, Pascal Birchler, Paul Bearne, Pavlo, Petar Ratković, Peter Wilson, Petter Walbø Johnsgård, Phil Johnston, Piotrek Boniu, ravipatel, Riad Benguella, Robert Anderson, Rolf Siebers, Sergey Biryukov, stacimc, Stephen Bernhardt, Sven Wagener, Team Staatic, Tim Nolte, Tonya Mork, webcommsat AbhaNonStopNewsUK, WebMan Design | Oliver Juhas, wpcharged, wpsoul, Yunus Ertuğrul, and Rafi Ahmed.

Thanks to @estelaris, @pbiron, @ironprogrammer, @bph, @abhanonstopnewsuk and @threadi for their help to test the release package.

A New WordPress News

In June 2021, @beafialho in collaboration with @pablohoney floated the idea of giving WordPress News a new look. Today, those ideas become a reality—we’re excited to share that redesign of WordPress News is live!

The new design leans on the aesthetics of jazz, intrinsically connected to WordPress and which ultimately translates its uniqueness, historic significance and future potential. Among other improvements, the new design leaves more space for content and includes new typefaces for better readability. It also uses a color palette intended to reflect the evolving Gutenberg language.

The revamp of the WordPress News page includes the header and footer of the page. We also shipped those two global elements to all pages of However, there’s more work to do within the header to improve the information architecture. This new design is just the first, small step to modernize and improve the site iteratively. Any further discussion on future redesigns will occur in the #design channel on Slack.

Take a look around and subscribe to WordPress News if you haven’t already. If you see something in the design that doesn’t look right, please submit an issue on GitHub.

WordPress 5.9.2 Security & Maintenance Release

WordPress 5.9.2 is now available!

This security and maintenance release features 1 bug fix in addition to 3 security fixes. Because this is a security release, it is recommended that you update your sites immediately. All versions since WordPress 3.7 have also been updated.

WordPress 5.9.2 is a security and maintenance release. The next major release will be version 6.0.

You can download WordPress 5.9.2 from, or visit your Dashboard → Updates and click “Update Now”.

If you have sites that support automatic background updates, they’ve already started the update process.

For more information, browse the full list of changes on Trac, or check out the version 5.9.2 HelpHub documentation page.

Thanks and props!

The 5.9.2 release was led by Jb Audras, with the help of Jorge Costa on package updates, Sergey Biryukov on mission control, and David Baumwald on backport commits.

In addition to the release squad members mentioned above, thank you to everyone who helped make WordPress 5.9.2 happen:

Alan Jacob Mathew, Alex Concha, André, Anton Vlasenko, David Baumwald, ehtis, Jb Audras, Jorge Costa, Peter Wilson, Sergey Biryukov, Tonya Mork, and ironprogrammer.

Props @davidbaumwald and @sergeybiryukov for peer review.