Gutenberg Contributors Propose Renaming Reusable Blocks

WordPress’ Reusable blocks may soon be getting re-named, as the feature’s distinct capabilities are less recognizable from its name following the introduction of patterns.

When the Gutenberg project first took off, nobody had any idea how important patterns would become in the page building experience, or that they would be getting their own directory on WordPress.org. During a demo at WordCamp Europe 2021, Gutenberg lead architect Matías Ventura commented on how transformative patterns have been for making page design approachable for users.

“Perhaps it was a smaller part of the roadmap initially but it’s becoming a centerpiece – especially because it allows…world class designers to provide a starting point for users and users get to learn design as they are interacting with themes,” Ventura said. 

A year later, patterns have made their way to the forefront of theme design and development with an excitement that rivals the introduction of widgets in WordPress’ earlier days. WordPress 5.9 will feature pattern insertion directly from the Pattern Directory so users will be able to change their patterns as often as they like, without having to switch themes. Coming in Gutenberg 11.8, the pattern inserter will highlight featured patterns from the directory in the initial view, instead of displaying the first alphabetical category. Contributors are also considering a path for allowing themes to surface specific patterns from the directory instead of bundling them.

In light of all this activity around Patterns, Reusable blocks are in need of a renaming that is more descriptive.

 “In the end, patterns are also reusable pieces of design,” Ventura said.

“Given the nature of these [Reusable] blocks is to have content in sync wherever it’s displayed — edit once; update everywhere — I propose we change the name in the UI to ‘Synced Blocks’ and adjust the block description a little bit to clarify that.”

The UI for Reusable Blocks is confusing because it is built on top of assumptions that users know the intricacies of how they work. WordPress developer Lee Hodson summarized the problem and how the current UI leads to reusable blocks being accidentally edited:

The save reusable blocks dialog is nice but how many creators actually understand what this save dialog means? On the surface it looks as though everyone should understand the save/not save option but it’s meaning is only obvious when you understand that reusable blocks are (currently) meant to either (a) not be edited or (b) edits to them are meant to affect all instances of the same block and (c) that reusable blocks can be converted to editable blocks (and not everyone immediately understands the difference) when edits to reusable blocks are meant to be independent of the block’s template.

I feel that a nice idea (reusable blocks) has been very badly implemented and many creators are blissfully unaware of its pitfalls until they realize their ‘template blocks’ have been overwritten.

Several contributors participating in the renaming discussion concurred that “Synced Blocks” would be a better name for the feature. This suggestion is the frontrunner so far. The conversation is still open and consideration of this proposal has been added to the Reusable Blocks Improvements tracking issue.

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10 responses to “Gutenberg Contributors Propose Renaming Reusable Blocks”

  1. Jb Audras says:

    As the author of the Reusable Blocks Extended plugin and as a fervent user of reusable blocks and patterns, I can tell this sounds like a good change.

    Reusable Blocks is a king feature. The king is dead, long live the king!

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  2. Edith says:

    100% agree! The “reusable block” has caught me out before as I assumed it would save styling options but I didn’t realise it also saved content / text. My intention was to create a pre-styled block a client could “re-use” with different content and boy, was I wrong. Renaming sounds great, especially as reusable blocks are a great feature once you know how it works.

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  3. Yui says:

    What about “My blocks” ? It emphasises them belonging to personal (or site) library of blocks, somewhat personal to user.

    We’re using this term in russian WordPress translation instead of ‘Reusable blocks’ , there been some discussions about renaming that or finding another term, but ‘My blocks’ has also good point.

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  4. Jakob says:

    I think “Synced” blocks makes sense. As a developer, “Global” makes sense to me, but that nomenclature is not as obvious outside of that world. Maybe “Site-wide” blocks or something to that effect?

    Not sure what the best way to communicate that “This block can be put on multiple pages, and updating the content in one spot also updates it across the site“

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  5. Mr. Nobody says:

    To me “Synced” is too developery to be helpful. Sure, it accurately describes the technical process but a good name is one that doesn’t need an explanation. It’s like a joke you have to explain, it’s not funny anymore.

    I like Yui suggestion of “My Blocks”. Sure, it’s a bit vague but I think it really captures the feature. Its a block or collection of blocks that I’ve set up.

    I’m also curious if there is any data on how people use that feature. I’ve never used it for it “syncedness”. I treat it more like a custom pattern generator. I save a snippet that I use a lot. Add it to a new post and then convert it to a regular block. To be honest, I don’t see much value in a block that is synced. That almost seems like FSE territory.

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  6. Otshelnik-fm says:

    permanent block, mirror block, communicating block, twin block
    – reflects mirroring, similarity and uniformity

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  7. Mike says:

    I use it for boilerplate content, contact info, etc. email addresses, phone numbers, etc. but when I build sites for others, they rarely understand that if you change it here, it is changed everywhere.

    I vote for ‘Synced Content’ – to emphasise the content is synced across the site, not just the style of the block.

    Plus, the prompt for saving the block should be changed from: “are you ready to save the following blocks” to: “are you ready to sync…”

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  8. Randy Walker says:

    The thing about these blocks is that they’ve got content in them. Also, these aren’t plceholder/templates. If you change if one place, you change it in all others it’s used. You’re almost inserting a reference to a block that is stored elsewhere.

    What about “Content Reference Blocks”?

    (Outside of the scope of this ticket, it sounds like additional work is needed to make users aware of the synced/linked nature of these blocks)

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  9. Bobby Thompson says:

    I guess sync’ed blocks is from Notion, so some people already understand the concept due to their education.

    It’s been interesting to use both of these block interfaces side by side most of my days as they develop.

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  10. Nick says:

    My vote is for Synced or Mirror Blocks

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