Each month the Genesis Shapers meets for one hour to discuss the evolving WordPress landscape and how it relates to the Genesis community.
This month our discussions continued around the roadmap for the Genesis family of products and how both developers and DIY users can best take advantage of the block editor moving forward.
Before we dive into the details of the meeting, here are recaps from the previous Shapers events, if you’d like to catch up:
As a reminder, the Genesis Shapers are a global, hand-selected, and diverse group of people representing companies from across the community who share a representative voice for the strategic direction of Genesis, which is combined with the feedback we receive directly from customers across social channels, and through Genesis WP on Slack.
Is there a voice in the community you want to make sure is represented in Genesis Shapers? DM David Vogelpohl via Genesis WP on Slack!
Recap for July Shapers Meeting
Below are the questions and discussion highlights from our most recent shapers meeting.
We plan to release Genesis Blocks (rebranded / updated version of Atomic Blocks) and Genesis Custom Blocks on WordPress.org around the middle of August. What are your questions or recommendations for that launch?
Jon Brown jumped in to ask about a direct upgrade path from Atomic Blocks to Genesis Blocks. “Please be clear about that just so we’re not left wondering.” Travis Smith echoed this thought with “IMHO there needs to be a direct upgrade/transition plan from AB to GB.”
Nick Croft said, “my biggest concern is for clients I have used AB with. How will they be notified to update to GB instead?
David Vogelpohl replied that there is an automated migration path in the works and notifications will appear in the Atomic Blocks plugin to let site owners know about Genesis Blocks.
Nahuai Badiola also wondered “will the CSS block class change?” John Parris (Sr. Staff Software Engineer at WP Engine) confirmed that anything “atomic” or “ab” will change and that detailed documentation will be available to assist users with the process.
Sallie Goetsch was unsure about the product names… “The name Genesis Blocks suggests that (as with all the other plugins called Genesis whatever) they can only be used with Genesis themes.”
While Genesis Blocks can be used with any type of theme, David Vogelpohl explained “Genesis Blocks is a product of the Genesis Brand within the WPE business. We are expanding the universe of Genesis to cover more than just themes.”
In summary, most of the Shapers feel a clear and easy path from Atomic Blocks to Genesis Blocks is critical. Others pointed out that the name “Genesis” implies a dependency on Genesis themes which Genesis Blocks does not have, and that more research and education would need to occur as the Genesis universe expands to deliver value in more areas than themes.. This also brings up the overarching aspect that we are elevating the Genesis brand to encompass more than just themes which may be confusing to some people.
Regarding the Genesis Pro page-builder plugin we shared with you in June, what were your overall thoughts?… note that “page builder” will be renamed. The page-builder plugin includes the premium features for Genesis Blocks and will be named as such.
This opened up a lot of discussion!
Jon Brown commented, “Like some others, I think the ‘page-builder’ terminology is awful. Anything else…. even just ‘builder.’ But, I’d like to understand for once how these things actually interrelate and it’s still confusing. Does Genesis Pro ‘unlock’ features in GBlocks and GCBlocks? Is it something else? Will there be 3 or 4 separate plugins to install?”
Bryan Smith, StudioPress Product Manager, responded to Jon that “our current plan is to release Genesis Blocks and Genesis Custom Blocks on WordPress.org. Both products will have premium features accessible with a Genesis Pro subscription. Right now, it’s 3 plugins:
- Genesis Blocks (a block library, formerly Atomic Blocks)
- Genesis Custom Blocks (plugin for building custom blocks, premium features available via Genesis Pro)
- Genesis Page Builder (the premium version of Genesis Blocks and will be eventually renamed).”
As for a “page builder,” Travis Smith added that “as long as the [it] outputs HTML, not shortcodes or anything else…HATE those page builders.” Jon Brown responded that it’s 100% block-based output, no short-codes or anything non-core.
David Vogelpohl confirmed that Genesis Blocks is not a page builder.
Genesis Blocks (either free or under Genesis Pro) helps WordPress developers build better websites faster with the WordPress Block Editor. David added “as with all Genesis things Genesis Blocks is core-aligned vs. branching off into its own thing…”.
Sallie Goetsch expressed that she’s “a major proponent of releasing individual blocks rather than libraries…Because I don’t want to have to install an entire library to get one block, when I have already installed another library for most of the other blocks.”
David Vogelpohl responded “What if the blocks were stored in the cloud and you didn’t have to install them all? We’re planning to let you store custom blocks / block configurations in the cloud.”
Bryan Smith added “WordPress will be introducing the block directory where you will be able to download individual blocks. We may consider using that in the future with some of our blocks.
In summary, the Shapers felt there is still confusion around the page-builder slug name (which is on the way out) and it’s role relative to Genesis Blocks. For the avoidance of doubt, Genesis Blocks will be a free plugin on WordPress.org and will include premium features which are currently available under the Genesis Pro plan.
What did you like about the Layouts feature? What about Layouts could be improved?
I chimed in that, as someone who’s used Beaver Builder, the sections and layouts from Genesis Page Builder were very intuitive. My critique was less to do with the ready-made sections and layouts and more to do with frustrations that come with editing groups of blocks with Gutenberg.
Nahuai Badiola added that he found the sections and layouts “really easy to use” and wondered “are you planning to move them to be ‘block patterns’ when WP 5.5 arrives?”
Bryan Smith responded that “Sections and Layouts will become block patterns eventually, but not in time for WP 5.5… part of this is because our layouts modal is much more usable than the current block patterns UI. Once sections and layouts can truly benefit from being block patterns we’ll make the switch.”
Sallie Goetsch asked “What’s the difference between a Section and a Layout?” David Vogelpohl responded that “A section is part of a page. A layout is an entire page.”
Anita Carter added that she’s been using Shopify on some projects and “the Layout and Sections sound similar to Shopify.”
There was some continued discussion regarding the terminology of templates, layouts, sections, patterns, etc.
Nick Croft rounded out the discussion with a great question about accessibility. “What a11y testing has been done? There is a lot of content/colors/contrast… when working with this tool. That’s a lot of places where things could be really done well, or done really poorly.”
John Parris answered that “We’ve done some testing, and we’re aiming to make a11y a top consideration going forward for sure. For example, we try to avoid color combinations that trigger a11y issues, and use the core color components that come with contrast checking built-in so users can avoid the issues too.”
In summary, the Shapers felt, the notion of layouts would be better served if using block patterns which we plan to do in Genesis. Blocks that respect theme settings for colors, etc. are preferred. Gutenberg itself still has some problems for folks which might be helpful for Genesis Blocks to try to help solve.
Regarding the Genesis Pro page-builder plugin, would it be helpful to create your own custom Layouts, or would you prefer to work from pre-designed packs
Sally Goetsch responded “That seems like a personal preference. Some people will want packs (and as long as you’re thinking about being able to install things on demand, layout packs would be a good thing to put in that cloud); others will prefer to design and save their own layouts; some will want both.”
Nick Croft concurred with “As a developer, if I worked with this tool I’d want the ability to do both.”
Anita Carter said, “For me, that would depend on who the end-user would be. If the product is geared towards developers, I’d see where custom layouts would work. But if you will also be targeting end-users who are not designers, pre-designed packs would be helpful.”
Jon Brown, who owns a premium Genesis theme store, added “I think theme sales are going to be 80% based on custom layouts… so… yeah, definitely need custom layouts.”
Robin Cornett said, “If pre-designed layouts are included, it would be nice to have a filter or way to disable them, too, depending on the use case.”
Jonathan Jeter wanted the ability to “edit them and save them as new layouts.”
I added that “I’d love to see sections/layouts from existing StudioPress theme homepages make it into the page builder plugin – maybe as a Pro option. People love to mix and match their favorite aspects of diff themes.”
To summarize the feedback on this question… Creating custom layouts is something most Shapers would want, but would be most useful for developers. Custom layouts could also be very helpful for 3rd party theme developers. Being able to choose which layouts are visible or readily available would also be helpful. Additionally, custom layouts could / should also include pre-made layouts that a user configures in a certain way to reuse vs. always creating a layout from scratch. Having some version of custom layouts in the free version of Genesis Blocks / Custom Blocks would be preferred.
Is easy styling of WP core blocks and Atomic Blocks (soon to be Genesis Blocks) important to you? Or do you tend to build custom blocks whenever you need fine control of styling?
Robin Cornett said “For styling, I’ll register style variations, but not create custom blocks. I only create custom blocks if I need to control the markup, and not even always then, due to the difficulty of creating custom blocks.”
Mike Hemberger added “If a plugin tried to override core WP block styles, it would surely break things…” and expressed the difficulty he and his team have had getting consistent styling in Mai Theme.
Both Nick Croft and Jon Brown expressed frustration with the handling of block styling in core. Nick summed it up with “Here is my number 1 issue with Gutenberg development in core: Changing markup breaks custom styling. I don’t care how easy the styling is, don’t break custom styling. If that can be done, I’ll be happy.”
Bill Erickson said, “I’d love it if there were a way to separate design from function so I don’t have to build custom blocks purely to style them the way I want.”
“I like how WPForms approaches it. In the settings you can select ‘Base & Theme Styling’, ‘Base Styling Only’, or ‘No Styling’”. Select the level of style you want so you don’t have to override a ton in your theme.”
To summarize the feedback on this question… Most would not create custom blocks in order to style, and the current capabilities around styling blocks in WP core are problematic for a lot of folks especially when it comes to responsiveness and respecting theme styles.
Could collections of block patterns (e.g. pages of demo content) with consistent theme-like styling serve as an alternative to child-themes in the context of Full Site Editing?
David Vogelpohl further clarified the question with “Think of this like a demo content pack of blocks like how theme demo content works today.”
Nick Croft replied, “I can definitely see this replacing standard approaches to child themes. Further it allows for creating child themes with upgrade paths on the block plugin and Genesis core. I like that.”
Jon Brown said, “99% of the time I want the ‘header/footer/sidebar’ the same on every page of the site. I want a theme. I don’t want to custom build each page differently and have no consistency page to page.”
“What I mean is there is talk of selling a ‘layout pack,’ but then how is that reliable designed and styled to look in harmony with the rest of the site?”
Nahuai Badiola agreed, “Yeah, it’s tricky. But we are still missing the global styles… that may [help].”
To summarize the feedback on this question… Consistency in design with blocks, layouts, and sections are helpful. This approach could be especially helpful to 3rd party theme developers. With FSE so far off and a lot of unknowns for how header / footer / sidebars will work, some are still unsure of how to think about these things.