Yet Another WordPress Block Library Plugin

You are the team manager at a WordPress development company. You just spent the last couple of months directing the group of highly skilled developers that you oversee to create the latest and greatest block library for WordPress. Your developers just spent those two months recreating what has already been done at least a couple of dozen times.

You go through your product launch list:

Testimonial block? Check.

Accordion block? Check.

Countdown block? Check.

Meme-creation block? Coming in version 2.0.

Everything seems to be in order. Your company has a new and shiny wheel, a bullet point on its product list, and a promise to end-users that you are keeping up with the times, launching a set of blocks that they can pick up literally anywhere else. But, yours is better because you built it in-house.

Color me unimpressed.

Maybe you are just trying to make a dent in the market, grabbing your share of the pie that companies have been snacking on for the last couple of years. Every time I see another forms plugin, I wonder how they will remain competitive, but there have been success stories. However, the ones who tell those stories always had a fresh take on an old concept.

I worry about the upcoming years when the block market is simply a race to the bottom. Everyone has built their plugin with 100+ blocks, 500+ patterns, and more customization options than you can count. It is the story of the early ThemeForest days where premium themes amassed a gluttonous amount of theme options. The top sellers were continually one-upping each other with another notch on their feature lists.

As a user, developer, and journalist who writes about these products, I am often lost. I look at a new plugin and ask myself if I had already checked it out and dismissed it last week. I am always searching for something innovative, but the lines between one project to the next are blurry. I am swirling in a sea of icon, shape divider, post list, and container blocks — just looking for a life preserver to pull myself out.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a wheel recreator myself. I have built products that others had already created. In some cases, I launched something better. In others, I failed miserably. I may be a little biased, but I always felt like I was bringing something new to the table. And that is where I take issue.

I want to see you create a block that no one has ever done before, such as drawing digital sheet music or a side-scrolling T-Rex game.

I want to see you extend the editor with new tools like inserting Emoji or Font Awesome icons into Rich Text.

I want to see you overhaul the editor and create a Markdown-friendly experience.

Instead of an “advanced” list block of your own design, create a plugin that extends the core List block with custom options. Skip that custom gallery. Bring something new to the existing Gallery block. Got a custom music player? Use it to overhaul the Audio block instead of wrapping it up separately.

The community has all the tabs, buttons, and progress bars it can handle. Of course, if you are raising the bar on all of these same ol’ blocks, keep pushing forward. Let’s see what you can do. Otherwise, keep thinking outside of the box.

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27 responses to “Yet Another WordPress Block Library Plugin”

  1. I couldn’t have said it better. I use Coblocks. Now every other block plugin I try to install has more or less the same set of blocks. Accordion, Tabs, CTA, Heading, Layout/Row/Section and Buttons are the most common blocks. Of all the blocks that I have used, only Ultimate Blocks, Coblocks and Font Awesome Icons into Editor appear to be something of use.

    I am still waiting for a good Table block plugin.

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  2. T Piwowar says:

    So much effort chasing the latest shiny new thing while gaping holes in core remain unaddressed. Sad to see once-great WP reduced to this.

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  3. Gerasimos says:

    I’m the team manager at a WordPress theme company and we’ve spent the last year developing a collection of blocks exactly as described in this post. The idea was (and still is) to bring most of our users to the block editor. Because we like the block editor. They still want to use our themes but they need a set of boring but flexible blocks like the ones found in popular page builders. As a theme developer it’s impossible to rely on a 3rd-party block collection. You need your own boring collection. So you can keep up with the countless changes in the core editor.

    And then, after the crazy hours that we have to put in order to keep up with the latest version of the block editor, now we have to read posts like this.

    Thank you very much.

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    • Serg says:

      There’s logic to this approach. If you’re creating a set of blocks that complements your themes’ aesthetics, that’s a legitimate value-add for users. But of course if they need/want a block that’s not available in your collection they’ll have to go on a wild goose chase, so we’re back to square one.

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  4. Adam Warner says:

    Can someone please make a new version of the Insights plugin by Valdimir Prevolac? :)

    https://wordpress.org/plugins/insights/

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  5. richard Ginn says:

    Last update was over 6 years ago… Never going to see a new version.

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  6. richard Ginn says:

    Well Justin it is going to be hard to find anything new in a plugin weather it is a Gutenberg based plugin or even a so called brand new FREE DIVI page builder plugin.

    In the past week we got a new Gutenberg block plugin with a so called new 18+ blocks…

    Gerasimos and his team created one to give the people that uses themes the company make better value for his company.

    Granted we do have a few top quality Gutenberg block plugins that are always maintained you just never know when they will wind up never maintained.

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  7. Rene says:

    Have a look at editor plus which does add very good customization functions to the default blocks.

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  8. Michael Edwin says:

    Interesting article but where Gutenberg missed the mark is establishing a user interface guideline for Blocks from the start. Well, maybe they did and everyone ignore it…not sure.

    What I find frustrating with Blocks is the inconsistency between collections where the settings/options available on one Block are completely lacking or arranged differently in another.

    For me, and maybe others, this consistency is more important than “Bring something new to the existing Gallery block.” After all, if I learn to use one block, I should have learned to use them all. I shouldn’t have to hunt around for the placement of settings or wonder if the settings available in one Block is available in another.

    Also, I suspect most people aren’t going to use several Block collections on their site. They’re going to choose the one that meets as many as their needs as possible and stick with it.

    I’ve already run into problem where two Block collections conflicted with each other. I’m not going to name them or point fingers but I’m sure this will become more and more of an issue.

    This is why I believe what Gerasimos said in his comment is so true. If you’re a prominent theme developer, you’ll need your own Block collection moving forward. If you don’t have the resources to do so, then get in tight with an existing Blocks dev.

    After all, if you’re building sites with GeneratePress today, you’re most likely going to use GenerateBlocks. If you’re using the Kadence Theme, you’re going to match it with Kadence Blocks.

    I don’t believe there will be a race to the bottom either. If anything, there will be a lot of abandoned Blocks and collections as people move into their respective theme ecosystem silos.

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    • There is block design documentation in the handbook. I don’t know how long it’s been around, but I do know that it has been updated.

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      • Spencer Jakob says:

        You are right, there is a design documentation but in my opinion one big thing that lead to this big diversity of block library and different aproaches in user interfaces is, that in the beginning of gutenberg and until now, there where no responsive controls for breakpoint settings etc.

        Until no there is a preview in gutenberg edit mode for desktop, tablet, mobile, but there a no example and no core block with the functionality, except some stack at mobile checkboxes with hardcoded classes and breakopoints in the stylesheets. Also the only since Gutenberg 9.1 available BoxControl and UnitControl would have been a must have at start.

        This would have helped design/develop more consistent and standardized block interfaces.

        BTW. the underrated https://wordpress.org/plugins/ghostkit/ or doc (https://ghostkit.io) is a block library with impressive extensions for missing core blocks functionality: example frame, typography, spacing, display, animation. And best all other blocks are easy the extend with this extensions.
        Didn’t see something like this in coblocks, kadence, kioken, gutenbee, getwid, stackable, genesis-blocks, advanced-gutenberg, ultimate-blocks, otter-blocks, qubely, gutentor, bokez.

        Best regards
        Spencer

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    • Steve Grant says:

      To add to your point about silos.

      Most of these block library / theme combos are trying to create a branded Gutenberg based pagebuilder ecosystem. So, Genesis, Ultimate Addons (Astra) , Coblocks (GoDaddy) , EditorPlus (now part of the Extendify ecosystem). etc. etc. I could go on.

      Each library is part of a Theme ecosystem, now sure there’s a “Free” version with the nags in your admin, but lets be honest about what the model is – it’s to compete with Divi, or Elementor in the locked-in page-builder freemium market.

      Now, if all these Block libraries are locking us in to freemium ecosystems, and unique styling / working methods … what is their benefit over Divi/Elementor/Oxygen?
      Speed perhaps, we can say that Gutenberg+ Atomic Blocks + Astra may be faster than Hello + Elementor Pro.

      But are we really winning here or just trading one walled garden for another?

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      • Michael Edwin says:

        Great points, Steve (and great comments from others on this topic).

        We are absolutely trading one walled garden for another and it’s no surprise. It’s also one more vertical for WordPress. We got theme and plugins and now we have Blocks.

        Does anyone install more than one form builder plugin? Are you using multiple slider plugins? No, probably not. In the same way, I see people installing a single Block collection and if they need more than what’s there, they’re buying into the Professional/Pro version.

        There are no free rides. I believe that’s why these free Block collections are all the same. It’s a smart strategy, if you think about it. Some will throw in a few extra Blocks here and there but the goal is to hook you into their Premium/Pro offerings. That’s where they really start to differentiate themselves.

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      • CW says:

        Well now we know the effect of telling theme authors that they can’t include blocks in their themes. Their customers want fancy blocks, no one knows which block plugins will stand the test of time, and theme authors can’t trust and rely on block plugins by other companies, so they all make their own similar block plugins.

        Isn’t Gutenberg also trying to compete with Elementor? If these standard blocks are so popular, maybe they should just go in core, even if they seem a little too elaborate for that. Users will have consistency and won’t have to choose between a zillion similar plugins, and themes developers will have a reliable source of fancy blocks and can focus on styles and patterns.

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        • That was my argument when covering the Table of Contents block, which is far more niche than some of these blocks. And, with the benefit of them in core, plugin/theme developers can still extend them with extra features.

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        • Gerry W. says:

          As far as I remember there are/were plans for a blocks repository which could then be monetized aka “premium block” similar to lots of wordpress.com “premium” features today. For things like his blocks need to live “alone” outside of themes…

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  9. Bastian says:

    Many plugins in the repo suffer from this, not just block plugins. As you say in your article, I’m sick of seeing countless form plugins (and cache plugins, and slideshow plugins, and event plugins, and so on), all with similar free features and the same ones behind a paywall so, at the end, it makes no difference to use one or another.

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  10. Aliv says:

    I want to share ideas on new blocks. I want wordpress to have a place we can share our ideas. I am not afraid of that my idea will be stolen. I just need that kind of block. Please make it happen.

    Is there any kind of that place?

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  11. richard Ginn says:

    Oh look Justin… We just got the Qi Addons For Elementor plugin today….

    https://wordpress.org/plugins/qi-addons-for-elementor/

    Qi Addons for Elementor is a completely FREE, comprehensive library of 60 custom and fully flexible Elementor widgets developed by one of bestselling premium WordPress theme authors

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  12. Edwin Wine says:

    If you think its frustrating as people involved in this professionally. Think what it’s like for people like me just about to create their first WordPress site with no previous experience. 20+ years ago I wrote a web site in raw html. Now the choice of editors is so large it’s impossible to easily select. Also if I select one do I end in a developmental cul de sac?

    Even the meta level criteria for choosing are unclear.

    I do support one comment. I need good Tables. There seems to be a gap. Oh well Kadence it is … No wait what about Blocksy or Elementor or Divi.

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    • richard Ginn says:

      Kadence is just a wordpress theme. The default post and page stuff is still going to be Gutenberg.

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      • Bianca says:

        Actually, Kadence offers a block plugin as well, not just a theme. It’s in the repo a few years already.

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  13. GreyWolf says:

    Seems to me WordPress has put it out there in the developer docs that they are headed in the direction where Themes are pointless, sucks but here are ideas for plugins and open source resources to get there. I’m curious about if it was the chicken or the egg that came first on this. Did Elementor and some of the other variants that let the average joe design their own theme push WP in that direction? or did they have prior knowledge it was headed in that direction? or read between the lines on the dev docs and the State of the Word addresses and look at the open source code and make an educated guess. WordPress is a love hate relationship at best. 90% of it is selling the dream. After navigating the usual semi expensive pitfalls of a newby. By the time I realized that though I was unfortunate enough to have met a great community providing help and inspiration. Then that there were 100 ways I could make money and feel good if I provided a service or product of value in the 10% place instead of selling a dream. I got deeper into PHP, and the double knife side of open source. Went to hey, I see what they are doing here. I don’t have to pay for it. Theoretically I can change 5 lines of code and revive some abandoned GitHub project if I’m feeling advantageous, repackage it and sell it as mine? That was only for a few minutes, I got lucky there. I had developed respect for the work of others, and understood the hours and years they spent. I hated Gutenburg at first. Blocks are exploding because WP pushed them and released a volume of documents a bit back. Explaining how to create your own, and go API quite simply. What I found of interest was the experimental part of themes. You can take a piece or part of a theme, keep only it, add another theme, take a piece of it ad Infinium. Love hate, love hate

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  14. Shahul Hameed says:

    Well, this post exactly explained what I’m thinking. And I planned some cool ideas for Gutenberg and start working on it. Once plugin ready, I will share it here.

    You may not know me, I’m the lead developer in wpconfigurator.com
    I’m working with WordPress for 10+ Years.

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  15. Serg says:

    Another problem is that when somebody comes up with a unique block, it’s usually bundled into a collection. Like the Event Block that I love and as far as I know, is totally unique (correct me if I’m wrong) – but you can’t just get IT, you have to get the whole WP Munich Blocks set – https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-munich-blocks/

    Which has a bunch of redundant blocks and all of 500 installs, and while they’ve been pretty good at maintaining it, it’s anyone’s guess when it’ll be abandoned, forcing users to search for a replacement and hope and pray for some consistency between the old and new block – which will most likely be part of yet another, mostly redundant collection.

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  16. jamie says:

    Hi Justin,

    100% agree with the point you’re making, but I’m hopefully that we are going to see some major innovation in the next year, once the plumbing plugins have matured.

    fyi We’re focusing on non block library blocks atm

    Here’s a few
    Mobile Pages for Gutenberg – Create mobile pages for Gutenberg
    Woobuilder Blocks – Create WooCommerce Products with Gutenberg
    Block Injector for WooCommerce – Dynamically inject Blocks anywhere

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