State of the Word 2020: WordPress Moves Toward Full Site Editing

WordPress enthusiasts around the world tuned into Matt Mullenweg’s annual State of the Word address this week, delivered virtually for the first time. Mullenweg recognized the community’s efforts in working together during a global pandemic, without the benefit of periodic in-person events that have traditionally re-energized collaboration on the project.

During a most unusual year that has warped the passage of time and slowed it to the speed of molasses, WordPress’ release schedule kept a steady, reassuring pace in contrast. The first part of the State of the Word highlighted the three major releases shipped in 2020, which introduced improvements to the block editor, a new default theme, application passwords for the REST API, and new, game-changing features like block patterns, to name just a few.

WordPress continues to grow its dominant market share and is currently sitting at 39.3% of the Alexa top 10 million sites. Mullenweg attributed that growth to three major contributing factors: the lockdown, e-commerce, and economic uncertainty. The lockdowns put in place to mitigate the virus’ spread had the effect of giving people the space and time to connect online. It also drove an uptick in entrepreneurship and e-commerce. Mullenweg reported that WooCommerce facilitated more than $20 billion in sales.

Site Editor Beta Demo Shows Progress on Full Site Editing Project

Gutenberg design contributor Joen Asmussen joined by video to unveil a sneak peek of the progress on the Full Site Editing (FSE) project with a demo of the Site Editor beta. The Site Editor allows users to edit a theme’s template outside of the post’s content. It introduces new blocks for things like the query loop, navigation, site title, tagline, and other aspects of editing templates.

The block list view shows all the different areas of the page, such as the header, footer, columns, and site title, so the user can jump to the section for quick access. Block patterns can also be used within template designs to speed up page layout or match a demo design. Given the current complexity of creating a template design from a blank canvas, block patterns have the potential to become even more indispensable when WordPress users finally get the reins for editing theme templates.

“This is the culmination of several ongoing projects to expand upon and improve the customization possibilities in WordPress,” Asmussen said. The demo offers a quick overview of how the FSE project is coming together. The reality of “everything becoming a block” is finally materializing. Gutenberg will soon be capable of providing a consistent editing experience across all aspects of site customization.

“By creating this common framework that every theme and plugin can build on, we’re reducing the balkanization within WordPress from people who are solving these problems lots of different ways, and providing what I believe is the basis for the next decade of WordPress’ growth,” Mullenweg said.

WordPress’ Global Community Reiterates the Demand for Multilingual Capabilities

The number of questions during the Q&A related to multilingual capabilities underscores the fact that WordPress is undeniably a global community. More than 50% of WordPress sites are not using English. Better multilingual support could be key to the next era of WordPress’ growth. Nevertheless, multilingual features are at the tail end of the four-phase roadmap for the project’s immediate future.

Mullenweg said WordPress is about “two years into a 10-year project,” with good chunks of phase 1 and phase 2 done. Phase 1 includes editing inside the post/page content, creating the fundamental building blocks and also bringing them to the mobile apps. Phase 2 is centered around editing outside the content, using blocks to create the site’s templates.

Phase 3 will introduce new collaboration features and workflow for real-time co-editing. Phase 4, which Mullenweg said is “just in the imagination stage right now,” covers multilingual features. He said he expects this phase to likely “be taken underway pretty vigorously in 2022.”

Matías Ventura answered a question about a phase 4 roadmap, confirming that there is no specific plan for its multilingual implementation right now. He said there have been some initial conversations regarding the implications of localization, specifically around patterns and block themes, and how those can be built. Nothing substantial has emerged yet but the team will be creating a more detailed overview of what is needed. Fallback languages is one feature that several community members brought up in the Q&A time.

When asked whether some existing multilingual solutions could be reused for core, Mullenweg was hesitant to prescribe a specific approach at this time. He said he is anxious to get better multilingual support in Gutenberg and offered what I believe is the most candid explanation thus far for why multilingual capabilities fall further down the the list of priorities:

Whether we do it as part of core or as part of an official plugin is to be decided. Part of the reason we made it phase 4 is that we can only do so many things well at a time. It is supremely important that we execute super well on these first phases of Gutenberg blocks. If we don’t get phase 1 and phase 2 to be the best experiences in the world for editing bar none, of any open source or proprietary competitors or builders, phase 3 and 4 just won’t matter because WordPress won’t be relevant a decade from now. I do believe that is the most important problem we’re facing. I don’t want to dilute the core contributors’ focus away from the initial phases of Gutenberg because that’s how important I think they are.

Mullenweg said there is nothing stopping the community from investing more in multilingual plugins and exploring different approaches to see what will get core most of the way there. The next official step would be figuring out a framework that will work well with plugins and themes.

Depending on your interest and involvement in the community, there is a lot more to explore in the Q&A. Check out the whole presentation in the video below.

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8 responses to “State of the Word 2020: WordPress Moves Toward Full Site Editing”

  1. So it seems for few years this is going to be like WordPress vs PageBuilders. While WordPress’s Pagebuilders have been doing a fantastic job which other CMS’s & Platforms envy, it would be interesting to see how FSE evolves and eats up their share. However, WordPress is going into a space where existing businesses are going to be impacted and I am afraid this will not come as a good news for many businesses.

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    • I absolutely agree. You can already see that when new wordpress updates are promoted, all page builder struggle to update too and there will be even more update issues with sites built with all the bigger page builders out there.
      In my opinion, also in terms of site speed, publishers should already switch to the gutenberg block editor NOW which has the advantage of saving the time to adjust pages in the future while already profiting from having a speed advantage because Gutenberg is a core wordpress application. Since there is no “tranformation” tool around and probably will never, webmasters can get help through services like http://www.builder2gutenberg.com

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  2. In a few years to come, there will be a power tussle between WordPress page builders and the popularly dominated page builders in the market.

    This is quite good though.

    For WordPress users who are quite stuck and in love with the Classic Editor, there is a new competitor in the air, and I guess everyone should begin to familiarize themselves with the Gutenberg block editor, which is quite cool and easy to use.

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    • Sorry. It may be easy for you to use but it impacts negatively the way I work. And for some good reason: it needs more clicks and manipulations for the same result. A tool that slows the way I work is not a good tool in my opinion.

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      • Maybe the Advanced Editor Tools (Formerly TinyMCE Advanced) plugin might work for you. It has an option to open every post (or page) with the classic block by default.

        Alternatively you can switch to the Classic Editor entirely. But this default Classic Block (default meaning you don’t have to select it every time, which is extra clicks) might be worth checking out. It adds TinyMCE extras as well.

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  3. With each new WordPress update Gutenberg block editor is coming up with new features. For publishers it will be useful to plan and switch to the Gutenberg block editor. As Gutenberg block editor is part of WordPress Core. Once the full site editing is going to be a game changer. Gutenberg block editor is making the existing WordPress page builders look outdated.

    Gutenberg block editor is a lot faster than the most of the page builders. is is the right time for the existing WordPress page builders need to adapt and take drastic changes.

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  4. Gutenberg slows the editing/writing of the content process, but it makes building sites faster. These are the trade-offs, WP should not longer be a blogging/publishing platform, but more a building platform. It just changed the targets.

    What I think is critical now is to somehow use modes/options to help those people with already established, built sites to have an editor that is fast to type and edit like the Classic one so that the 3-4 step multiclick is again 1 click away like in the Classic Editor. These should be optional or achieved throw modes but it needs to be there.

    I am an editor, my site is already built, I don’t need anything else than a traditional editing and publishing. Using blocks to publish with 3-4 step multiclick is slowing my work considerably.

    PS. Something do something about the huge latency in Gutenberg, it is unbearable on bigger sites.

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