The November Genesis Shapers meeting was yet another successful gathering of the global Shapers membership group, with many regular contributors and a few new “faces” joining the conversation on Slack.
The meeting marked the eleventh consecutive gathering of this esteemed group, and as the months have progressed, this meeting continues to present a great opportunity for us to invest in the future of Genesis and share new developments with the wider community of Genesis users and enthusiasts.
As always, before diving into the details of November’s meeting, here are recaps from the previous Shapers meetings, if you’d like to catch up:
January, February, March, April, May, July, August, September, and October
Without further ado, here’s the Genesis Shapers meeting recap for November.
This month’s meeting took place on November 12, and just as in months past, the Shapers showed up ready to offer their insights on key topics affecting Genesis and WordPress. While I was attending WP Engine’s London Summit event during the meeting, Sarah Wells, who oversees Genesis product marketing at WP Engine, filled in as a moderator and did a fantastic job.
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.
The Genesis Shapers as of the date of this meeting, included:
Bill Erickson, Carrie Dils, David Decker, Gary Jones, Greg Boser, Jennifer Bourn, Jon Brown, Jonathan Jeter, Lauren Gaige, Lee Anthony, Mike Hemberger, Nahuai Badiola, Remkus de Vries, Robin Cornett, Anita Carter, and Sridhar Katakam.
The meeting started with a continuation of the previous month’s conversation around expanding the group’s membership. This will likely be an ongoing topic of consideration as we actively look to expand the voices and viewpoints expressed within the Shapers group.
Based on this month’s conversation, we’ll likely be adding two new members to the group, both of whom will add a lot of value to this already exceptional group of people. Stay tuned for more.
The next question we asked the group was….
What are the current pain points being experienced with site-building and page building with Gutenberg and the Classic Editor? (ex. holes in the current workflow for building or customizing, things WP doesn’t have yet that are coming up repeatedly)
Jon Brown was the first to respond, saying, “
Most of my pain points with building themes for Gutenberg are simply the non-standard mess that Gutenberg is. [Justin] Tadlock recently posted a great post on WPTavern on this topic.”
Responding to Jon, Robin Cornett said,
“I think [WordPress version] 5.3 will be a game-changer for building pages with the block editor. I’ve been installing Gutenberg on sites to get access to some of the functionality it’s adding, like group blocks, but will likely deactivate as sites update.”
Replying directly to Robin, Sarah asked, “Are you deactivating because of the lack of standardization as Jon mentioned, or for other reasons?”
Robin replied, “Because I won’t need it anymore—the changes coming in 5.3 are super helpful improvements, which I feel like I needed months ago, but once it’s released, I won’t need to be running “beta” software on production anymore.”
Carrie Dils added to the list of pain points saying, “For theme devs, it’s maintaining two sets of code (one that accommodates Gutenberg and another that accommodates Classic Editor). For users, I think understanding where the block editor stops and theme design starts is confusing.”
This spurred on numerous responses, starting with Sarah, who asked Carrie, “are you looking to migrate all code onto one that accommodates Gutenberg or are you thinking that you will have to maintain both for the foreseeable future?”
Carrie responded, ”I should clarify that this isn’t my personal pain point as I’m not actively developing code for public consumption. But based on comments overheard at WCUS, it’s maintaining both for the foreseeable future until more users can be “convinced” to come over to Gutenberg.”
Anita Carter responded to Carrie, saying,
“I do theme support and this is really a challenge. For the dev I work for, she’s actively updating her themes, then saving a snippet in our support area so that if we get something troublesome from an older theme, we can quickly send them the new file along with directions on how to implement the updated version. But some folks don’t want to do that.”
Adding to the overall list of pain points, many other Shapers agreed with Bill Erickson when he said, “One particular pain point for me is context-aware Gutenberg styling. For instance, making the Gutenberg editor have different width depending on full-width-content or content-sidebar layout, or when we use Gutenberg block areas for sidebar, ensuring the editor width matches the sidebar width.”
Other pain points were added to the list, including issues that arise from migrating content-heavy sites from older sites to Gutenberg-enabled ones, and the need for more flexible blocks. The last point spurred on this comment, from Rekus de Vries, which generated a lot of agreement:
“I’d like to see smarter blocks, like Grid-based layouts based on something that we see in the extended Genesis Featured Content widgets/plugins out there. And to have those blocks be really flexible.”
With that, Sarah asked the next question:
Would reducing StudioPress child themes to a single theme that provided customizable options and configs to change the look and feel be positive for Genesis developers and the community? How would premium Genesis child theme authors create “themes” in this kind of world?
Jon Brown generated numerous responses when he answered:
“I’m still 50/50 on the theory that themes will become lightweight “skins”. I’m not convinced it’s actually workable where theme “skins” are easily interchangeable… Again, because Gutenberg is in such chaos around markup and utility classes…. skins aren’t going to be easily swappable (like Genesis child themes were once upon a time…)”
Carrie Dils responded to Jon,
“This is a little bit of a tangent on the question, but the idea of moving to a single theme/skins I think is an opportunity for Genesis/StudioPress to standardize a ‘way’ of doing things that would not only be beneficial to the Genesis community but could possibly set a standard for the larger WP community. Maybe I’m dreaming.”
Jon replied: “Yeah, I haven’t said it explicitly, but this is underlying what I’ve been saying. Genesis once was a great standardizing force, at least within its own ecosystem…it’d be great if it was once again for blocks.”
Jon’s response again generated a lot of agreement, including this reply, from Genesis co-creator Nathan Rice: “I’m all for that!!!!!”
The next question for the group was:
What kind of features are your customers asking for in your Genesis Themes that we should consider for the future of the Genesis roadmap?
After a couple of preliminary responses, Nahuai Badiola said, “I think the last inclusions (meta description, featured image, footer, edition…) on the customizer and the edit block sidebar (+ Genesis onboarding), improved a lot the usability for customers.”
Anita Carter added that “Working support our #1 requested features are how can I change a font (Google Font) and how can I change the font size.”
Bill Erickson added, “The biggest question I get is ‘how do I speed up my website.’ Google is pushing hard on site speed. Now they added a page in search console that says if your pages are fast, moderate, or slow.”
To which Nick Cernis replied, “As well as this,” and pointed to this article about Google Chrome potentially flagging slow-loading websites.
Bill replied, ”Yep, I saw that too. I probably get 2 emails a day from past clients asking about this, and the sites I build are typically fast. Site speed is the biggest motivation for people hiring me for a redesign.”
After a little more back and forth, Sarah asked the group the meeting’s final question:
Now that you’ve had more time to test the Genesis 3.2 beta, do you have any areas of concern on the upcoming release?
Nahuai Badiola jumped in first, saying,
“I tested (lightly) it in local environment and found no issues.”
David Decker added,
“I have no concerns yet – I just want to say ‘Thank You!’ to the whole team for adding more options to the Genesis settings in Block Editor and Customizer. For me and my clients these are the ‘small game changers’ in the daily work!!!”
Robin Cornett replied,
“I appreciate that the entry meta filters have not been as obtrusive as the footer creds one was. I haven’t looked at the code, but I’m guessing they just haven’t been deprecated.”
Nick Cernis replied,
“That’s right, yes. We learned from the feedback on the footer credits deprecation.”
With that, the November Shapers meeting began to wrap up.
As Genesis continues to grow and evolve, I’m confident this growing group will make Genesis an even better and more powerful framework for building WordPress themes. One way we’ll do that is by engaging in discussion and listening to feedback from the Shapers, as well as other members of the community. It’s extremely important to me, and it’s something we’ll continue to emphasize as part of our commitment to being the most open community in WordPress.