32 Comments

  1. JP Horn
    · Reply

    Thank you for the thoughtful piece Justin. As a longtime WordPress user and former theme tinkerer I’m looking forward for all new opportunities to come.

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  2. Mr Espiat
    · Reply

    Thank you for the article.
    Let’s be honest. Since Gutenberg we have to know not only PHP commands, but the whole infrastructure of WP. This also requires that you have to deal with each release currently.
    In addition, not everything has been changed to Gutenberg and you have to be careful about starting big projects with it. The faster the other phases are implemented, the faster you can start new projects. I’m currently using the blocks and I’m thrilled. A big added value for my customers.

    Stay tuned and go ahead.

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  3. Andre
    · Reply

    Ah the reminiscing of the old days of design. I started with HTML, then CSS became more infused in design (I was like…this is hard). Then I got into Serendipity, Movable Type (god I miss that!!!!), Joomla, WordPress, and now adding ClassicPress to the array.

    As for the future of WordPress themes, it’s obvious that themes are going the way of the dinosaurs for something else to take over. Getting into theme development is not something someone should do now. I’m skeptical of the direction the new theme concept is going, but for many, adapting is going to be critical.

    Just a couple of things that I yet to see talked about:

    1. What is going to happen with the major theme shops and especially the marketplaces, such as Theme Forest?

    2. The other thing, what is going to happen to WordPress child themes? My guess the child theme is history.

    For myself, I planning to focus on designing primarily for ClassicPress (and WordPress for the time being). I’m also going to change my theme site back to Joomla, because where I see WP going, this is not ideal for a site such as mine to operate on (even more so with the plans I have for it down-the-road).

    I will still be part of the WP community in one form or another. The trick is to adapt gradually and try to determine what the future is. Unfortunately, one might need a crystal ball for that, but I will take it slow and watch how things progress over the next year or so.

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  4. Cory Piña
    · Reply

    This was … heartwarming? I spend a lot of time in Beaver Builder, and have yet to develop strong feelings about Gutenberg one way or the other, but this has me dreaming.

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  5. Brian Gardner
    · Reply

    This is fantastic perspective on a topic (obviously) near and dear to my heart. I read Ben’s article the other day, and my gut reaction was to panic. Then I thought, “No worries, we sold StudioPress to WP Engine and it’s not my responsibility anymore.” It’s a good thing, because they have gone above and beyond what we were doing (and could have done moving forward) and have evolved as the technology has.

    I consider myself a designer way more than I do a developer, which explains why I handled the front-end (child themes) of Genesis, and Nathan handled the back-end of Genesis. This is a season that I sincerely look forward to.

    I concur that the theme landscape is on the verge of changing drastically, and as an advocate of minimalism and simplifying, I am looking forward to being a part of—dare I say it—another WordPress revolution.

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  6. Moz
    · Reply

    I’ve been using WP for 10 years. Really enjoyed your positive take on the future of the open source project. The uncertainty and division of the past 12 months has been getting me down at bit.

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  7. Luke
    · Reply

    Great article Justin. It got me reminiscing about the ‘good old days’!

    I had one of those garish sites with annoying gifs everywhere. Looking back makes me cringe, but it was so much fun to build as I was learning to code.

    Really enjoying your contributions on WP Tavern.

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  8. NWesterner
    · Reply

    Because good always is the outcome when all people can do what professionals do. It has been great for the ad industry. It has been great for writing. It has been great for logo development. There are many more examples. It is an unpopular opinion, I know. We already have 95 percent of the net unvisited and over-populated. The main impetus for the Gutenberg migration is money and investors. Period.

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  9. John
    · Reply

    Great reading but missing the point.
    The point being that Classic Editor is #1 plugin in the repo and this doesn’t look like changing any time soon.

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  10. G Raymond Peacock
    · Reply

    Justin,

    It is heart-Warming to learn of another Post Nuke converts to WordPress. It took me a while to give up on PN, mainly because of security reasons. WordPress made website construction sooo much easier for me that at the high point I had 10 sites of my own and three freebies that I ran for others. You and others can debate the virtues of themes and Gutenberg endlessly, there’s little interest to me. I’m a content person and site ease of use, content and shared maintenance are my interests. As long as user-friendly themes are readily available, I am happy to use them. Now I Blog and help maintain one other WordPress .org site. That’s enough for a retired senior.

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  11. David McCan
    · Reply

    Nice article. The feeling of empowerment explains why page builders are so popular.

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  12. Munir Kamal
    · Reply

    Nice Article. I think these same concerns are with the page builders as well? Once Gutenberg phase 2 completes, it’s gonna be a single app-like interface for site-building. It will make a lot of top-selling features of page builders such as Header/Footer builder actually theme builder which is assume to be the best selling point for a page builder today. I wonder where all these page builder and big theme framework will stand that time.

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    • Andre
      · Reply

      I’m thinking (gut feeling) that one can say goodbye to page builders too–at some point; possibly a goal of Matt/Automattic if WP/GB is to become a full site/page builder. So, I don’t think third party page builders are going to be immune.

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  13. Bryan Hoffman
    · Reply

    I’m looking forward to seeing where Gutenberg may take us… for this has been a long and winding journey…

    As a web designer, clients have come to expect richer, more complex websites. Nearly every page is becoming a landing page with complex needs.

    The old WordPress editor has been inadequate for this task for a very long time. For a while we’d put html markup right in the editor. We all know what a bad idea that was (is).

    Then we used Advanced Custom Fields and complicated PHP templates in custom themes. This worked very well, but was complex and time consuming.

    Then page builders came along and they made it fast and easy to build rich, complex layouts. But the code soup and overhead were so off-putting there was no way we could go that route.

    Then I tried to build my own page builder using ACF. This amounted to re-inventing the wheel.

    It was about this time that Pippin’s page builder review came out and I broke down, reluctantly started using, and eventually embracing Beaver Builder. For the last few years BB has allowed us to build complex websites at the speed and prices that our customers are willing to pay. I consider the page-builder overhead a solid tradeoff.

    This is a very long way of saying… If Gutenberg can one day replace what Beaver Builder can do, cleanly, easily, and with WordPress standards in place, I will happily make yet another change in our workflow.

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    • Judi
      · Reply

      I totally agree with you but Elementor is my crack. Gutenberg has a long way to go to allow me to built beautiful and complex sites quickly so I can spend more time on strategy and content.

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  14. Franci Hoffman
    · Reply

    Nice article. I am the typical poet blogger, however, I love to tinker with themes and make them appear “my way”. I haven’t found a theme yet that suits all my fancies, and I pay for them.

    WordPress seems to have more interest in the business blogger than the personal blogger, which I feel is unfortunate. Personal bloggers are the bread and butter of blogging sites.

    Your article is refreshing in that it reflects on several aspects of running a blog.

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    • Andre
      · Reply

      That is something of interest, but you are right when I think about it more; WordPress has more interest in the business blogger than personal. However, it’s one of the reasons I am putting more focus on the personal blogger with themes. It would be interesting to find the ratio of the numbers of business vs personal bloggers using WP.

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    • Zohair
      · Reply

      Don’t you think personal bloggers tend to use hosted solutions e.g. WordPress.com and others? (If they don’t have business ambitions with their personal blog)

      They don’t usually want to deal with the management that comes with self hosted WordPress.org

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  15. Eleanna
    · Reply

    Oh, the good old ways of Geocities! This article brought back so many happy memories of tinkering with HTML and just creating whatever we wanted. I had a sci-fi series fan website back then. Complete with starry sky background! Nowadays website design has become much more complicated. So much so that I have to hire someone to do it instead, so that I can concentrate on content. Don’t have enough time to do both. But it would be nice to be able to tinker around a theme a bit again :)

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  16. Rene Reimann
    · Reply

    Hey there,

    a short notice! Robert Windisch – known as the men with the Head – has predicted this since last year also we – a german WordPress Podcast “wp-sofa” – published a extra episode to this topic. Take a look for episode 49 or search for “themes werden sterben”.

    But the thing is, we talked in “WP Sofa – WordPress News #35 – KW 38/19” about a real theme tasks in the future. There are some ideas about how themes will grow.

    At last – themes will not die – themes will do only design stuff not more!

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  17. Sajan Kota
    · Reply

    Nice Blog post. I feel this is not the right time to get into the WordPress theme development business. WordPress theme developers have not completely accepted the gutenberg. There are many developers who still use custom build visual editors.

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    • Maria
      · Reply

      WordPress theme developers have not completely accepted the gutenberg.

      Sounds like the perfect time to me.

      It only closes theme opportunities if that’s how you view it. Personally, I’m much more excited about the possibility of a more unified and consistent WP experience vs. worrying about what themes have grown to be and how page builders are supposed to fit into this.

      Evolve or die.

      The nice thing about open-source is you also have the extra option to contribute. ✨

      Since the beginning I’ve been told this was the direction of Gutenberg, and I’ve been anxiously awaiting for the day that site builders can create a well-designed container with beautiful CSS for people to plug in their own content via blocks. When smartly designed, it will make for empowered WP users all-around.

      The balance will be how much control builders give their customers. Some key design considerations & trade-offs will need to be made, but can be completely customizable depending on the needs. Hence the beauty of WordPress.

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  18. Dmitry Dinev
    · Reply

    As always, deep post. Thank you, Justin!

    It’s a little unsettling. Probably as like everything new. I’m inspired by the new editor. And I understand that themes will now have to fulfill their design role more, than any other functions. However, I have not yet formulated a new role for myself as a theme developer. Providing new themes that include three files: styles, functions and index, and without header, navigation bar, footer. Leave it for the blocks.

    Hm… Then, perhaps, will one theme only. And I think I know its name: Tabula Rasa.

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  19. Taras Yasinski
    · Reply

    Started using WordPress nearly ten years ago and just adore this CMS. When developers released Gutenberg i didn’t want to use it because i liked the good old editor. In a while, I tried Gutenberg and now can’t imagine my working process without this comfortable text editor.

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  20. John Rood
    · Reply

    Great article, Justin, but I don’t share your optimism. The reason WordPress won out over PHPnuke, Joomla, Drupal and all of the other early CMSs out there is that it was a friendly tool non-technical users could pick up and use.

    Increasingly, it seems like WP respects this core group of users less and less. Gutenberg and blocks are great for many, but there are still a lot of folks who want the simplicity of the classic editor. And in the rush to monetize WP, we’re now subjected to plugin spam and nag ads in the admin. (Talk about comparisons with GeoCities!)

    Plugin developers need to consider the specter of competing with Jetpack. And while Jetpack has been great for some loyal developers, I do believe it has stifled innovation in a number of areas. Who wants to compete against a one click install and a bunch of admin nag screens?

    Even though this is all very predictable, it is a day I thought would never come because of Matt and all of the other really good folks involved with this project. But the nice thing about the Net is that it has a history of correcting mistakes like these.

    WordPress ignores its core users at its own peril.

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    • Andre
      · Reply

      Right now, people can use the ClassicEditor plugin, but this will cease to exist in the near future. At that point in time, people will have a couple of choices:

      1. Commit full-time to the Gutenberg editor
      2. Drop WordPress and change over to ClassicPress

      But what is for sure, is that themes as we know it will go through a complete change and will be merely a stylesheet, per se. However, for ClassicPress, you won’t see this happening because Gutenberg does not exist in it and themes will be what you see them as right now.

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  21. Rich Tabor
    · Reply

    I’m stoked about what the future of WordPress, and themes in particular, looks like. Gutenberg is revolutionizing WordPress in so many ways – some of which we don’t see coming, even now.

    Yes, the theme industry will change, as expected. But we have a chance here to push the envelope while it’s sailing and build a better WordPress together.

    And sure, other builders are much more complex and powerful, but Gutenberg is laying the framework for the next generation of WordPress. A generation that is much simpler and truly empowers publishers and democratizes publishing.

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  22. Dano
    · Reply

    I think Justin’s optimism is spot on. I just can’t help but be excited about what comes next. I was there in the early days of Geocities.

    And, fair disclosure, I’m not a developer, but I am an end-user of WordPress – my own client, so to speak – building and maintaining a personal expression of a pig predilection that (currently) uses my own crafted child version of Justin’s Stargazer theme.

    I firmly believe that the web will forever be awful, but wonderful, just like the humans who create it over and over again every day. I have come to suspect that there are many places on the web where sty and style might just be related. And I will continue to depend on WordPress to be my means to keep the web a little less Paris and a bit more Porkopolis.

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  23. Steven Gliebe
    · Reply

    …but it’s going to result in some very boring website layouts.

    I tend to agree with Ben. Themes will be more rigid and therefore more similar. There are things I do with my themes that I can’t imagine being accomplished with block areas and blocks. But they’re not critical things and having themes return to their true role will make a nicer experience for designers and a more stable product for users.

    It will be a great day when we can say “theme designer” instead of “theme developer”, which to me is an oxymoron. Few people are truly proficient in design and development. Theming has gotten out of control.

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  24. John Rood
    · Reply

    Can’t wait to see what the future holds for SquarePress. I mean WordSpace, er, nevermind!

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  25. GilCatt
    · Reply

    Exactly my feeling… as far as themes and website building are concerned, Gutenberg is taking the power away from developers and giving the power back to designers. A welcome change. After all, that is why page builders, in the first place, were invented. Gutenberg will do it better.

    For instance, the latest StudioPress themes now benefit from advanced Gutenberg support, and it is a radical change : layout constraints are gone, having to deal with PHP to tweak templates is now a thing of the past, included high quality css styling for blocks has become the main asset.

    Style will alway be a matter of taste, for sure, that is what freedom is all about. Essentially, we are all designers.

    As a side note, I have always disliked Facebook for taking away the freedom to style my pages according to my personality. It always gave me the feeling of being on an intranet of sorts. I believe an innovation like Gutenberg has the power to bring more people back to the open web.

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