Array Launches Free Gutenberg-Ready Atomic Blocks Theme on WordPress.org

Mike McAlister and the team at Array Themes have fully embraced Gutenberg and are one of the first shops on the scene with a free WordPress theme designed specifically to work with the new editor. The Atomic Blocks theme is now available on WordPress.org with minimal styling and seamless support for all core content and media blocks.

The theme allows users to control the width of the content area to create full-screen posts and pages. It supports full-screen images, videos, and galleries, showcasing the new editor’s wide alignment styles for content. Atomic Blocks includes Customizer options for uploading a logo, customizing the font style, setting body and title font sizes, and selecting an accent color.

Check out the theme’s demo to see the blocks in action: https://preview.arraythemes.com/atomicblocks.

The theme also seamlessly supports McAlister’s new Atomic Blocks project, a collection of page-building blocks included in the accompanying Atomic Blocks plugin. It currently includes blocks for creating a post grid, call-to-action, testimonials, inline notices, sharing icons, author profiles, accordions, customizable buttons, drop caps, and spacer/dividers, with many more blocks planned.

“I knew Gutenberg was going to be a game changer from the second I saw it and started hashing out product ideas in October 2017,” McAlister said. “To me, it felt like a very natural evolution and transition for WordPress into a more forward-thinking content creator. All of the tools outside of WordPress are evolving and becoming better and easier to use and WordPress is starting to feel quite dated in comparison.”

McAlister said his team is building Atomic Blocks into a full-fledged content block solution that will include a commercial version in the future.

“We have a long list of blocks that we’ll be releasing into the plugin in the coming months — everything from eCommerce to email marketing to full-page layouts,” he said. “There will definitely be a commercial version of the plugin for those extra awesome blocks that will take your site to the next level.”

McAlister is keeping Atomic Blocks separate from Array Themes but plans to cross promote between the two. He also plans to update the Array themes collection to support the blocks found in the plugin.

“Atomic Blocks aims to solve a different problem in a different way than the traditional WordPress themes you’ll find on Array,” McAlister said. “By launching it separately from Array Themes, it gave me the opportunity to diversify my projects a bit and create a dedicated marketing stream for a Gutenberg solution.”

Many products in the Array Themes catalog are already working with the new editor, but McAlister and his team intend to provide more in-depth support for specific Gutenberg features in themes where appropriate.

“We’ve stayed fiercely committed to beautiful design, simplicity, and core coding standards and practices to ensure wide-spread support and compatibility with our themes,” McAlister said. “While this has served us well, we are all ready for a core-supported solution to providing a better experience for our customers. Gutenberg will solve this problem by providing a cohesive, unified way of extending content creation with a core user interface. Gutenberg is quite extensible as is, and will only grow more capable with time.”

McAlister said one of the most challenging aspects of launching Atomic Blocks has been keeping pace with Gutenberg’s rapid development, requiring the team to follow multiple conversations across various WordPress core development discussion channels.

“I followed Gutenberg development closely during the second half of last year and then started developing Atomic Blocks for Gutenberg early this year,” McAlister said. “You have to follow the Github repo, Make blog posts, and Slack conversations closely to keep up with the changes, deprecations, and feature additions. Luckily, now that features are being frozen, the code is churning less and things are starting to stabilize.”

In order to keep up with all the news and changes, McAlister started the Gutenberg News site to collect helpful resources, tutorials, and code snippets he found. The site contains more than 200 links to resources for both beginners and developers.

McAlister predicts that Gutenberg will bring a greater separation between the roles of themes and plugins in the site-building experience.

“The demand for themes will certainly begin to change more drastically in the long term,” he said. “Traditional WordPress themes will still be desirable for a number of years, simply due to the number of sites out there and the solutions needed to build them. Eventually, much of what can be provided by a theme will be provided by blocks via a plugin instead. Themes will still be responsible for providing a degree of styling and functionality that will remain critical to the site-building experience, but they will take a secondary role to content blocks.”

Gutenberg will inevitably change the landscape of the theme industry, but McAlister sees it as a chance to reach customers in a new way.

“Theme designers and developers should be excited about this opportunity and not feel threatened by Gutenberg,” McAlister said. “This is a fantastic opportunity to learn a new set of skills, attract a new segment of customers, and start pivoting to a block-based product model.”

16 Comments


  1. The theme is not very interesting, but the plugin is. It adds things like recent posts grid, no need to use (nested) shortcodes and the whole thing visually rendered, immediately, in the editor.

    Both the built-in blocks of WordPress/Gutenberg and the ones added by this plugin works fine in other themes, just add CSS to make them more beautiful.

    Bye, “Shortcodes Ultimate”, welcome a future “Blocks Ultimate”, this Atomic Blocks plugin and competitors of them. Bye complicated, incompatible page builders, welcome WordPress native content format and content blocks.

    Especially happy for end users who will be able to make complex posts/pages without codes, it be html or shortcodes.

    Thanks to McAlister for showing how easy and elegant it can be. This was an eye-opener for me.

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Knut! The theme doesn’t look like much on the surface, but that’s sort of the future of WordPress with Gutenberg! The theme simply needs to be a solid foundation that provides quality styles and supporting functions for the blocks. Blocks is where the magic happens, but we’ll always need a theme to provide that base support.

      Holler at me if you give the theme a try and have some feedback, happy to include that in future updates!

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  2. This theme looks great! I’ll definitely tear the code apart and see what I can learn. Great Job Mike!

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    1. Hey Felix,

      I’d love to hear your thoughts once you take a look! The repo for the theme can be found here. We’d love any feedback!

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  3. Looks awesome Mike, good work. Love the simplistic approach, nice and clean and tidy.

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  4. We are already running the theme and the associated plugin on our test site. Thank you Mike!

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  5. This is an awesome theme, have used it for a while for testing purpose, Loved it.

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  6. The theme does look good and the case for Gutenberg is compelling all the way up to speed testing the atomic blocks:

    1. testmysite.thinkwithgoogle.com 8 seconds to load the site using 3G, estimated loss of visitors, 28%;
    2. gtmetrix.com PageSpeed Score F(38%), YSlow Score D(63%), fully loaded time 3.4 seconds, Total Page Size 2.62MB, 78 requests;
    3. developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/ Mobile Page Speed Average, Optimization Medium 64/100, Desktop Optimization Low 29/100.

    Pingdom was too busy this morning to test, but it usually doesn’t differ that much from the other tests.

    It should be noted that the demo is SSL, so that’s not an issue. Now I know that these demo sites are not often optimized in any significant way, but let’s face it, they all should be if they want to make a sale.

    I’ve experimented with over one hundred themes (many of them premium) and this is one of the worst ever even for a demo.

    If you really want to sell Gutenberg, I would submit that you really need to get those timings up to snuff or come the next version of WordPress there are going to be really agitated natives coming for you with pitchforks and torches.

    I’d really like to see this succeed, but it seems that there are those who want to snatch defeat from success.

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    1. Hey Douglas,

      Thanks for your thoughts. As you mentioned, themes are typically not optimized heavily out of the box. There are some things we can do on our end, but providing minimized assets, asynchronously loading assets, and caching are not optimizations that can be provided out of the box, and for good reason. These are optimizations reserved for each developer to choose how they to implement them on their own sites.

      There are countless articles that explain why chasing a PageSpeed score isn’t the best way to approach optimization. That said, we’re definitely committed to ongoing optimization and will continue to make improvements as we find them.

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