Mel Choyce-Dwan, the Default Theme Design Lead for WordPress 5.6, kick-started 10 tickets around two months ago that would bring new features to the old default WordPress themes. The proposal is to add unique block patterns, a feature added to WordPress 5.5, to all of the previous 10 Twenty* themes. It is a lofty goal that could breathe some new life into old work from the previous decade.
Currently, only the last four themes are marked for an update by the time WordPress 5.6 lands. Previous themes are on the list to receive their block patterns in a future release. For developers and designers interested in getting involved, the following is a list of the Trac tickets for each theme:
- Twenty Twenty – 5.6
- Twenty Nineteen – 5.6
- Twenty Seventeen – 5.6
- Twenty Sixteen – 5.6
- Twenty Fifteen – Future release
- Twenty Fourteen – Future release
- Twenty Thirteen – Future release
- Twenty Twelve – Future release
- Twenty Eleven – Future release
- Twenty Ten – Future release
If you are wondering where Twenty Eighteen is in that list, that theme does not actually exist. It is the one missing year the WordPress community has had since the one-default-theme-per-year era began with Twenty Ten. It is easy to forget that we did not get a new theme for the 2017-2018 season. With all that has happened in the world this year, we should count ourselves fortunate to see a new default theme land for WordPress this December. WordPress updates and its upcoming default theme are at least one consistency that we have had in an otherwise chaotic time.
More than anything, it is nice to see some work going toward older themes — not just in terms of bug fixes but feature updates. The older defaults are still a part of the face of WordPress. Twenty Twenty and Twenty Seventeen each have over one million active installs. Twenty Nineteen has over half a million. The other default themes also have significant user bases in the hundreds of thousands — still some of the most-used themes in the directory. We owe it to those themes’ users to keep them fresh, at least as long as they maintain such levels of popularity.
This is where the massive theme development community could pitch in. Do some testing of the existing patches. Write some code for missing patterns or introduce new ideas. This is the sort of low-hanging fruit that almost anyone could take some time to help with.
First Look at the New Patterns
None of the proposed patterns have landed in trunk, the development version of WordPress, yet. However, several people have created mockups or added patches that could be committed soon.
One of my favorite patterns to emerge thus far is from Beatriz Fialho for the Twenty Nineteen theme. Fialho has created many of the pattern designs proposed thus far, but this one, in particular, stands out the most. It is a simple two-column, two-row pattern with a circular image, heading, and paragraph for each section. Its simplicity fits in well with the more elegant, business-friendly look of the Twenty Nineteen theme.
It is also fitting that Twenty Nineteen get a nice refresh with new patterns because it was the default theme to launch with the block editor. Ideally, it would continually be updated to showcase block-related features.
While many people will focus on some of the more recent default themes, perhaps the most interesting one is a bit more dated. Twenty Thirteen was meant to showcase the new post formats feature in WordPress 3.6. According to Joen Asmussen, the theme’s primary designer, the original idea was for users to compose a ribbon of alternating colors as each post varied its colors.
“The alternating ribbon of colors did not really come to pass because post formats were simply not used enough to create an interesting ribbon,” he wrote in the Twenty Thirteen ticket. “However, perhaps for block patterns, we have an opportunity to revisit those alternating ribbons of colors. In other words, I’d love to see those warm bold colors used in big swathes that take up the whole pattern background.”
This could be a fun update for end-users who are still using
that feature that shall not be named post formats.
There is a lot to like about many of the pattern mockups so far. I look forward to seeing what lands along with WordPress 5.6 and in future updates.
Establishing Pattern Category Standard
With the more recent Twenty Twenty-One theme’s block patterns and the new patterns being added to some of the older default themes, it looks like a specific pattern category naming scheme is starting to become a standard. Of the patches thus far, each is creating a new pattern category named after the theme itself.
This makes sense. Allowing users to find all of their theme’s patterns in one location means that they can differentiate between them and those from core or other plugins. Third-party theme authors should follow suit and stick with this convention for the same reason.
Developers can also define multiple categories for a single pattern. This allows theme authors to create a category that houses all of their patterns in one location. However, they can also split them into more appropriate context-specific categories for discoverability.