The March meeting of the Genesis Shapers was one of our best meetings yet. The main focuses of the meeting were on ways members of the group approached major new capabilities in WordPress #Core, as well as full site editing, and specifically how the expansion of the Gutenberg editing experience will play out in the world of themes.
Before we dive into the details of the March meeting, here are recaps from the previous Shapers events, if you’d like to catch up:
With that, here’s the Genesis Shapers meeting recap for March 2020
As mentioned above, this meeting focused directly on ways members of the Shapers group approach and adopt new WordPress capabilities. The idea was to get an idea of some helpful approaches for taking advantage of new WordPress features as they’re made available.
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, Jennifer Bourn, Jon Brown, Jonathan Jeter, Lauren Gaige, Lee Anthony, Mike Hemberger, Nahuai Badiola, Remkus de Vries, Robin Cornett, Anita Carter, Sridhar Katakam, Ryan Murray, and Nick Croft.
I returned as meeting moderator this month, and kicked things off with the following question:
What is your strategy for adopting major new capabilities in WordPress #Core into your process of building websites? Do you try out new capabilities quickly? Do you wait? Why?
Carrie Dils responded first, saying “I tend to wait until the kinks have been worked out.”
Remkus de Vries echoed her, saying, “same.”
Mike Hemberger also added, “I like to keep an eye on what’s going on, but don’t often mess with things since it seems to change so rapidly.”
Ryan Murray said, “wait/experiment/learn.”
“I definitely try things early to prepare for them, said Nick Crof. “Also try to provide feedback during the dev phase.”
In agreement with above answers, Lauren Gaige said, “Same. I wait for the kinks to get worked out and then spend time experimenting and learning.”
Bill Erickson also jumped in, saying, “We adopted Gutenberg pretty early, started building sites with it two months before it merged into core. But we don’t plan to adopt the full site editing features any time soon.”
To which I started a thread, asking Bill: “What do you see as the difference in these that is leading to a different decision on adoption?”
Bill replied: “Gutenberg was an overall improvement to our clients (a better content editor), while full site editing doesn’t provide any benefit to our clients. t’s a feature for a different market (DIY builders).”
Going back to the main question, I asked the group:
I’m also a bit of a “wait until it’s baked” person. That being said, how do you know when you think the kinks are worked out?
Remkus answered first, “What’s wrong with cookie dough?!”
“It’s great,” I told him, “but sometimes it can be a bit messy.”
To which he replied, “A good spoon solves a lot of problems.”
“Ahh. I responded, “So guidance / guardrails for enjoying the WIP?”
On a more serious note, Jon Brown said, “With custom builds we try things out pretty quickly. For commercial themes we wait a long time… because it still seems to be a bubbling soup.”
“That makes sense,” I said, “So building lots of customer sites gives you more wiggle room to experiment / adopt?”
“I’d agree with that,“ Nick Croft replied, “but I’d also say for client sites, we usually try to play it safe with things that are not beta. So it needs to be in WP Core and not marked as beta to be used on a client site.”
Genesis co-founder Brian Gardner added, “I use my personal sites as sandboxes for design and development and living life on the bleeding edge. That allowed/s me to see what’s coming, and to put it through the “how will this work if I do X for hundreds of thousands of people” filter. Which is a completely different story.”
To that, Remkus said, “I’m happy to immediately start implementing new features, but only if I fully understand the ramifications of that decision half a year down the line. Which sometimes is easy, and sometimes it is not.”
On that point, I said, “It sounds like clarity in road map (or lack thereof) is a big driver in these decisions.” To which Remkus and Nahuai Badiola both agreed.
Lauren Gaige offered her thoughts, “For me, it’s either community chatter and seeing others begin to adopt the changes, but also through my experimenting and learning, I can tell when there are kinks. Like GB, I didn’t adopt it early because of all the issues I was having as a user of it. Once it began to smooth out and I began to see those things that frustrated me get worked out, I begin to adopt it.”
I followed up, “So community validation and examples of them being successful helps make this easier?”
“Yes! Especially for me,” Lauren replied. “I have a very tight knit customer base that also lets me know when they are or aren’t ready to adopt something.
To which I replied, “I hear that. Some folks aren’t ready for new things, especially if the value isn’t clear for them.”
Which teed up the next question:
How familiar are you with the progress of full site editing in #core as it relates to themes? Up to speed? Know nothing? Something in between?
With the majority of answers being “not very familiar,” I asked something a tad more provocative:
Based on what you do know, what are your questions or concerns regarding full site editing and themes in WordPress #core?
Brain Gardner responded first, “Full site editing is one of those things that will not not be a thing. With that said, there are 2 options. 1) do nothing, fall behind, become yesterday’s news or 2) embrace the opportunity and chance to pioneer the new way of doing things, being a hero, and changing the way the web works.”
While Brian’s response garnered a lot of agreement, Robin Cornett mentioned that she was curious about backwards compatibility, saying, “There are pain points with maintaining post metaboxes now for both editors; how will new capabilities mesh, or not, with how sites are currently set up?”
Nick Croft also mentioned that the biggest thing for him was ensuring it was possible to keep clients on rails.
“Having a template system that lets sections get locked into a design etc.,” he said. “We have clients where we need very specific layouts, color controls, … This means we end up disabling certain functionality in the block editor already. In some cases we have to create block templates and lock them even. For theme builders I think the new FSE is a much better experience since customers all the time want more ability to edit without code.”
Mike Hemberger replied, “I heard Rich Tabor talking about Basic/Advanced modes in the block editor. I love that idea. Like capabilities but for certain aspects/controls of blocks and the editor as a whole. To Nick’s, this would solve a TON. Dev’s or advanced users set guidelines (default colors, font sizes, etc., etc.) and then keep things in basic mode for the client and end users.”
Going back to Robin Cornett’s question about backwards compatibility, I asked the group the next question:
With the future of full site editing creating a path for a new way of building themes, how would you approach converting the sites you manage to the new way? Only convert if redesigning? Convert as much as you can to modernize / for consistency? Sometimes convert, sometimes not?
Jon Brown responded first, saying, “Blow up the old, build new.”
Carrie Dils said, “Only convert if redesigning. I don’t want to spend my budget (or my client’s) converting just for the sake of modernizing.”
Mike Hemberger offered a middle ground, saying, “People need to rebuild their sites every couple years anyway. So if it’s still working, leave it as-is, when it’s time (maybe soon) to rebuild, do it the new way. Upgrading themes is never smooth anyway… it’s always work, and a bit tedious, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯”
Nick Croft added, “We will follow the path we established for the block editor with out clients. New work we will do our best to push the newest experience. Site we are maintaining we will recommend updates where it makes sense. I think FSE, even more than the block editor, will be an optional update for many many years if not forever.”
I also spun the question around a bit, asking the group:
Would you favor just rebuilding in the new way or would you prefer / be looking for some kind of conversion tech? In Genesis or otherwise?
“I think a conversion process sounds like pipe dreams, “ said Mike Hemberger.
“Rebuilding the new way. Start fresh,” said Carrie Dils.
“i’d prefer rebuilding it the new way,” Bill Erickson said. “If a theme was designed pre-FSE, it probably wasn’t built to take advantage of all the new features even after a conversion.Same reason we rarely add Gutenberg support to old themes. New sites we built are designed with Gutenberg in mind.”
While other members responded with concerns about conversion tech, I asked the group:
Outside of conversion tech…. From what you know of full site editing and themes, what is important to you that Genesis does / includes to help you / your customers continue to be successful with WordPress?
Carrie Dils jumped in first saying, “ I think communication/understanding about how Genesis continues to be relevant and adds value to a project.”
Nick Croft added, “I’ve said it a few times, there needs to be an “on rails” experience that can be customized so that it is easy to take editable sections and make them fixed.”
While the conversation then went into a side thread about where to draw the lines between layout and content—a topic we’ll be revisiting in fu\ture meetings, I asked the next question:
Do you or your team have interest in contributing to WordPress #core especially as it relates to full site editing?
Nick Croft responded first, saying, “Yes, I have a couple small commits in WP core and RKV has even more. We have contributions in the block editor including a core block, which is pretty cool, and we are looking for opportunities to help shape FSE.”
From there I asked the final question of the meeting:
Who should we be celebrating in the community? Who is doing cool stuff ?
And I went first, mentioning BizBudding (maker of MaiThemes) who recently brought SEO Themes and Pretty Darn Cute themes under their fold 🙂
Carrie Dils added to the kudos, saying, “Not to be a horn tooter, but I have two new Genesis courses that should drop in the LinkedIN Learning library this week.”
You can find those courses here:
Thanks for reading our recap of the March 2020 Genesis Shapers meeting. I’m looking forward to the changes coming to WordPress and the ways we—in both the WordPress and Genesis communities—will embrace and lead with these changes. Stay tuned, we’ll continue to keep you updated with all things Genesis and WordPress right here.