So you want to talk about FSE? 5.9 Edition

Ahead of WordPress 5.8, I put together a post to help empower more folks to both dig into and educate others about the new full site editing features. With WordPress 5.9 marking the official launch of the suite of full site editing features, I wanted to share an updated version. I recommend reviewing the prior post focused on WordPress 5.8 as a refresher before digging into this one. This will help create a shared foundation of knowledge and show how the work has evolved over time. 

As always, I would love contributions from the wider community to build this out into an even more comprehensive resource! Like last time, see this post as a place to get inspiration from and to pull from rather than to somehow cover entirely in a presentation. 

Recommendation

At a high level, here are a few recommendations for how I would approach presentations about full site editing:

  • Focus on how features work together and what’s possible when they do.
  • Take time to explain potentially new concepts (like block themes, Styles, etc).
  • Discuss how adoption will make sense at different times for different people rather than solely pushing adoption now. The latter point is by design and discussing various pathways will be hugely beneficial.
  • Point to what will be soon possible in the future based on the foundation being set today. For example, talk about the future of block theme switching.

Resources:

Key points to cover around 5.9:

While FSE will continue to evolve in future releases, I wanted to share some key points about what’s coming in 5.9 as it represents a snapshot of time: 

  • FSE is a collection of features and not a monolith (worth repeating from the previous post). 
  • 5.9 marks the first version of all major Full Site Editing features out in the WordPress ecosystem, allowing users to edit all parts of their site if they switch to a block theme. This is very much a v1 with future features already in the works. 
  • 5.9 introduces the next generation of themes in the form of block themes that allow for greater customization and simpler building. To usher in this new type of theme, the new default Twenty Twenty-two theme will be the first ever default block theme.
  • FSE will not take over your site. To use it, you have to use a block theme. 
  • Whether you use FSE or not, 5.9 has lots of improvements in store for everyone, including various performance enhancements, and you can adapt when you’re ready to FSE features. 

Demo ideas:

  • Block theme building, including tools to quickly get started with block themes (blockbase, empty theme generator). 
  • Adopting to various full site editing features (some examples here).
  • Building templates with patterns.
  • Building beautiful headers with the Navigation block, Site Title block, and various other theme blocks. 
  • Customizing your site with Styles. 
  • The power of various dimension controls and design tools to create neat content (duotone, border controls, etc). 
  • Building landing pages with the template editor and theme blocks.
  • Using the Query Loop block.

Helpful GitHub issues:

These issues revolve around work planned for the future but that folks often ask about. 

Helpful posts:

Conversation starters:

  • What feature are you most excited to dig into? Least excited?
  • What do you want to see for 6.0 and beyond? 
  • How do you see the theme world being impacted by block themes and full site editing?
  • What is your current adoption strategy for your plugin/theme/site/agency/etc? Are there any features or functionality you’re waiting to see built in order to adopt? 
  • What kinds of plugins do you imagine needing in a FSE world? 
  • How do you think page builders will respond to FSE?
  • How do you think FSE will impact who creates sites with WordPress? Who will it include more and who might it exclude?

FAQs:

These are the top questions you can most likely expect to get asked with high level answers to get you started in the right direction. For a more comprehensive list of questions and answers, check out the FSE Outreach Program’s roundups or check out the previous post on this topic as I purposefully only shared new questions below.

Before we jump to questions, I wanted to share a very simplistic table of common statements I hear with greater context. Think of this as the “tweet” version of complex topics aka please know I’m over simplifying!

Initial thoughtGreater context
“FSE is an on/off switch”FSE is a collection of features shared as ready and that can be adopted partially.
“When will FSE take over my site?”FSE features are being rolled out gradually and can be adopted as you’re ready (whether you’re an extender or user). 
“FSE is killing themes”FSE is changing the approach to themes with more focus on design and aesthetics. Block themes are required for FSE to work making them critical!
“FSE is giving too much access to users”FSE is changing how to approach offering guardrails and tools for users (ie patterns, custom branding options, etc).
“FSE is making development harder”FSE is simplifying the need to develop for multiple interfaces and making it easier for more folks to build for WordPress (ie designers will soon be able to build block themes without code).
“FSE will replicate the functionality of all Page Builders”There are shared goals with page builders and FSE is building a foundation for 40+% of the internet that page builders can also use. There will always be room for nuanced experiences.

What’s the future of themes? 

To answer this question, I want to point to some recent notes shared from a Block Themes meeting in early January. I think it does a great job of offering a snapshot of thoughts and further questions folks have. In general, with block themes, it’s anticipated that building themes will only get easier with the ultimate goal to be able to build without needing to know any code. Tied to this, block themes will continue to lead the way in focusing on design and aesthetics with full site editing features providing the underlying functionality. At the same time, during this in between period, I expect to see a rise in themes that adopt parts of full site editing and bridge the gap while folks adjust. You might start seeing more of these themes mentioned as hybrid themes (themes that adopt a part or parts of full site editing) or universal themes (themes that can use the Full Site Editor and Customizer).

Here’s a great post that talks about the experience of building a hybrid theme and some context on universal themes.

What’s going to happen to the Customizer?

When you activate a block theme, the Customizer will be removed as a menu item, unless you are using a plugin that requires it, since you can edit everything in the Site Editor. If you are using a plugin that requires th Customizer, it will automatically return as a visible item to navigate to. For more information, check out the Dev Note on this topic and the WP Tavern article that goes into more detail. 

Can I update to 5.9 without breaking my site or requiring me to use FSE?

Yes! Update away to 5.9. Unless you switch specifically to a block theme, you will not need to worry about needing to use full site editing features. 

Why was 5.9 delayed?

You can review the release squad’s decisions here and read about my personal reasons for why I voted to delay here. At a high level, pulled from the release squad post, this is why:

“As the FSE features are very closely intertwined, removing some of its pieces would risk making the release unstable. To avoid delivering a sub-optimal experience, moving fixes to a 5.9 minor or 6.0 was ruled out.”

What’s planned for the future?

Posts should be coming out soon talking about the release schedule for 2022 and what’s proposed for 6.0. You can also check out the latest updated scope for site editing projects and currently underway medium scale projects. For now, if you want to hear what some community members from the FSE Outreach Program are looking forward to in WordPress 6.0, check out the video below or the notes here:

Do you have a question not covered here? Share in the comments and I’ll update the post to do my best to answer it or find the answer.

By:


9 responses to “So you want to talk about FSE? 5.9 Edition”

  1. Hi,
    Not sure whether this is the right place to ask , but anyway …….. Is it possible to set different styles for the same block type ( say for navigation block ) from theme.json ? Like if i need to have different default styles for the navigation for header and footer without saving something to the database ?

    • Great question! Right now, based on what you’re describing, this isn’t possible with theme.json. If you wanted to provide different styles for that specific example though, the best thing to do would be to provide different template parts within your theme rather than setting up specific styling options via theme.json. Check out Twenty Twenty-Two for different header/footer options for example. Does that make sense?

      • Thank you for the reply. I am aware of template parts but was just curious to know if it was possible to , say a slightly different “default” color for the footer nav which can be set from theme.json . Think adding an additional css class would get the job done .

  2. Right now, I think template parts are the way to go. If you want though, this seems like a great GitHub issue to open to ensure that’s the best practice now and to see if others might also have the same question 🙂

  3. I have a prototype FSE design for my existing web site (ForCarol.org). But, I have not seen anything (I certainly could have missed it) concerning how I can take my prototype design and port it over to my existing site when FSE leaves BETA.

    Thanks for all the info on 5.9 and FSE. 😀

    Thanks, Mike

    • Hey Mike! How rad. Glad to hear you’ve dove in already with a design. When you say port it over, can you clarify? For example, do you have a block theme in place for this new design?

      • Not sure how to answer. ForCarol is still using Broadsheet while my test site is using Twenty Twenty Two. My assumption is that when Beta turns to production twenty twenty two will be available on ForCarol and I can either copy and paste (?) the work from my test site, or, manually set it up.

  4. Ah ha. I think we’ll have an easier time chatting this through via email. Mind contacting me here? https://nomad.blog/contact-me/ I’ll follow up from there and we can perhaps get some screenshots shared.

    For now though, if you are waiting for the beta label to be removed, expect it for 6.0 which is loosely planned for landing around May. To me, it sounds like you just need to switch your site to twenty twenty two and import your specific template edits over (since custom template aka template with edits or new templates won’t automatically port over just yet).

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