All hands on deck. 2021 will be the year of the Site Editor.
Anne McCarthy announced the official start of the Full-Site Editing (FSE) Outreach Program last Friday on the Make Core blog. The program is primarily geared toward end-users. With few channels for average users to communicate with the development team, this offers an opportunity for them to provide direct feedback.
This announcement comes on the heels of Matias Ventura’s full overview of the FSE project. In the post, he laid out where specific FSE features currently stand and what needs to happen to bring the project to fruition.
The FSE Outreach Program was expected to begin earlier in the year. Josepha Haden announced it on May 1. However, there was no movement for most of 2020. An early version of FSE was also expected to land in WordPress 5.6, but that was too lofty of a goal for a feature that will essentially change everything about front-end development on the platform.
The official launch of the program should coincide with the release of Gutenberg 9.6, which is expected to ship within the next week. The program will focus on specific features and flows related to full-site editing. According to the program FAQs, participants could be asked to volunteer for up to three hours per week. However, it will also be flexible enough for anyone to participate, regardless of their available hours.
The program is also starting small, limiting feedback to more common user experiences. It is still experimental at this stage. Easing participants into such a testing program seems like a smart approach.
Right now, the Site Editor can sometimes be a painful user experience. While it is already possible to put together some interesting layouts, at least as a labor of love, there are many missing pieces. Workflows are odd. Expected features for a design tool are nowhere to be found. Someone might look at it today and think there is no way it could be a viable core feature next year, but the development team continues to polish the experience with each Gutenberg update. The Site Editor is not production-ready yet, but it is time to get serious about testing and feedback.
Those interested in volunteering for the program should have a WordPress Slack account and join the #fse-outreach-experiment channel. McCarthy said she will also post an update on the Make Test blog with further details for participants once Gutenberg 9.6 is released.
The First Focus Area
The first feature up for discussion is a new template editing mode inside the post editor. It adds a new “Template” option in the post-editing sidebar that will allow users to jump between editing their post and editing the template that outputs that post. It is a marriage of the post and site editors. Underneath, both are run by the block system, so there is little difference in the experiences.
Long-term, it makes sense that users should be able to switch seamlessly between both editors. I worry that we may be jumping the gun a bit on this feature since the Site Editor is still at a rough beta stage. However, it does not hurt to get some early feedback on what the workflow should look like.
“Please keep in mind that this is the program’s first iteration,” wrote McCarthy in the post. “We’re starting with this first item and expecting the outcome to be a comprehensive list of issues that the Gutenberg team can work on as capacity allows.”