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.