Clean Blocks is a new free theme from Catch Themes that was released last week on WordPress.org. The design is suitable for businesses, agencies, freelancers, and other service professionals who require featured content, a portfolio, testimonials, a blog, and a services section.
Clean Blocks includes basic Gutenberg compatibility in that it supports all core blocks and is has a few enhanced block styles.
It may seem unnecessary to specify that it is Gutenberg-compatible, since the editor has been part of WordPress core since early December 2018. However, more than half of all WordPress users (~55%) are not running version 5.0+. Nearly 30% are hanging back at 4.9 and 25% are on even older versions.
Theme authors who create products that have Gutenberg-only features are not yet building for the majority of WordPress users. These authors are carving a path for the future of theme development. The Clean Blocks theme doesn’t really fall into this category, as its essentially enables users on WordPress 5.0+ to continue using the new editor without any styling issues. It is also compatible with earlier versions of WordPress (4.8+).
Clean Blocks recommends a collection of Catch Themes’ functionality plugins upon theme activation. These plugins handle things like galleries, infinite scroll, Instagram feeds, widgets, and additional content types. The theme includes dozens of options in the Customizer for controlling nearly every aspect of how content is displayed – from excerpt length to categories displayed on the home page to header text color. This sort of overloaded Customizer options panel is common for multipurpose style themes, and many users have come to expect it.
Check out a demo of the free version to see all the features in action.
The name “Clean Blocks” implies that the theme goes beyond the basics to customize the Gutenberg experience, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. The vast majority of the features seen in the demo are controlled by the Customizer. For example, features like Testimonials and Services are not available as blocks. While some theme authors opt to integrate features like this by pairing their themes with block collection plugins, Catch Themes has put everything into the Customizer.
Even with Gutenberg compatibility, many themes still have a disconnect between the back and frontend where certain features can only be configured in the Customizer. This fractured customization experience is one of the necessary evils for this transition time before the block editor is fully capable of handling more complex aspects of site customization.
Clean Blocks is an example of a multipurpose theme that is essentially keeping it old school in terms of content customization, while providing basic Gutenberg compatibility for users who are running WordPress 5.0+. The theme is available on WordPress.org and has already been downloaded several hundred times during its first week in the directory.