1. carolina nymark

    If I had counted the number of hours spent on the buttons and search block in Twenty Twenty-One, it would probably be as many hours as I have spent on some complete themes.

    It is not supposed to be this difficult 🙃

    But there are so many different settings to test and design for.


  2. Franci Hoffman

    Artistic themes are a joy to me. It’s like going into your closet and having your outfit already picked out for you. It’s enough having to keep up with the changes in Gutenberg and then to have to piece together a theme could be even more frustrating. I appreciate your addressing this topic and am breathing a sigh of relief.


  3. Ari

    Thank you for the article Justin!

    I agree that artistic themes are important, and it’s what themes should do.
    However, in its current form, Gutenberg & Full-Site-Editing are evolving extremely fast. An FSE theme could add opinionated styles for buttons, write 100 lines of CSS to add just the right shadows, border-radii etc, only to see their awesomely-styled buttons become the cause of bugs in a future release of the editor. At some point, the buttons get a border-radius control, then they might get a shadows control, or even hover/active-state controls. If/when extra controls get added, themes will be able to simply define their value in the theme’s theme.json file and styles will be auto-generated. Users will be able to tweak these values from global-styles in the site-editor.
    So if a theme adds a bunch of styles now, while FSE is fluid/unstable, they run the risk of spending tens of hours on something that will eventually be doable with a single line in a JSON file – not to mention the opinionated styles will probably conflict with the future auto-generated styles from the editor.
    For example a theme can now add customizer controls so that users select font-families. Writing that customizer control will basically be dozens of wasted hours to write the control, JS, applying the resulting CSS, loading webfonts etc… this will all be part of global-styles out of the box eventually.
    And that is why I previously said “Theme authors should avoid the trap of designing an FSE theme having in mind what the editor currently does. Instead, theme authors should strive to build something having in mind a vision of what the editor will eventually become.”

    Until some APIs and implementations solidify, FSE is a constant learning experience and we shouldn’t rush to build the next big theme… not before the foundation is stable.


  4. Mark Root-Wiley

    This is a late reply, though it’s one that’s been stuck in my mind since reading this post. I am doing my best to follow guidance and best practices, but I continually get stuck on one thing: What about sites that need to implement strict look and feel standards?

    For example, what about an artistic theme with sharp angles that shouldn’t have rounded buttons? This isn’t just about theme author preference, as many sites have brand guides or other visual standards that may mean certain editor features or settings should never be used. To stick with rounded buttons, what about a brand that has a precise rounded corner for all buttons?

    It seems like blocks should be the perfect way to build a site with preset visual components, but the user-facing settings and controls that often can’t be disabled (drop cap and border radius being two good examples) give every content editor the ability to easily break component guidelines.

    (Block Styles and Block Variations are awesome features for enabling easier/better ways of cohesively rolling providing alternate styles that exist within a set of visual guidelines. For instance, Default Button and Rounded Button.)

    With Global Styles, will theme authors be able to globally set styles and disable user-facing settings to override those styles? Without that ability, I have a hard time seeing how theme authors building sites that implement brand standards have any choice but to constantly fight off and attempt to disable the editor in order to implement a consistent look and feel for their site. At least that’s been my experience over the past two years and by far my biggest frustration with the block editor. I hope this can be useful feedback and food for thought.


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