Who is Full Site Editing for?

When WordPress 5.0 and the block editor came out, though it was off to a rocky start, the value proposition was clear: THIS is a better experience for content creation than the Classic Editor. After all, that experience was largely unchanged for 15 years. The detractors knew it too, though they didn’t want to admit it. Many had switched to page builders. And when I asked how explaining shortcodes to clients was better than blocks, some would respond that it didn’t matter because they would handle updates for their clients.

My response – and make no mistake, I will die on this hill – is that making minor updates inside the WordPress editor for your clients is a terrible way to spend time in your business.

Even if for some reason you wanted to do that, locking the site down so your client “can’t break the site,” is an unreasonable thing to do. Imagine buying a car, and the dealer telling you that only someone from the dealership can drive it. Or to a less extreme extent, that you’re not allows to make any change to it, from adding an air freshener to paining a flame on the side of it.

Sure, the latter would look terrible. But it’s your car. You paid for it, after all, and Toyota doesn’t make its money by worrying if their customers are going to “ruin their work.”

Which brings me to full site editing. As a web developer of 20+ years, and a site builder since I first laid eyes on Beaver Builder in 2015, I love the idea of Full Site Editing. You mean I can change templates without having to dig into code?

I can actually spend precious coding time solving real problems instead of slightly tweaking The Loop to show a divider under the title? Sign me up.

But recently I was in GoWP’s Digital Agency Owners’ Happiness Hour discussing WordPress 5.9, and Chris Lema posed a question:

Who is full site editing for?

I’ve got to admit, I was taken aback for a minute…before realizing I hadn’t thought for a single moment about it.

After thinking about it for a minute, I said, “Theme Developers.” And Chris then asked, “Do theme developers need this?”

Who IS Full Site Editing For?

There’s a really good post on coderjerk.com called The Complicated Futility of WordPress, that I’ve linked below. If you work with WordPress (and I’m guessing you do), I’d encourage you to read it. Here’s a excerpt from it:

The thought of client side marketing interns ‘play(ing) around with site-wide designs’ should make the blood of any professional run cold. Sites that have been painstakingly, designed and built, reviewed and refined to the last detail every step of the way with stakeholders on the client side, optimising UX, legibility, performance and upholding the client’s brand can now be squelched in an instant by someone 3 months into their job who prefers yellow.

This point is well taken…but does it jive with what I just said above about not being able to customize, or even drive your car?

And sure, adding a racing stripe is one thing. But imagine you wanted to replace the headlights with megaphones, or make the engine look nicer by removing those ugly exhaust pipe. Well, now your car doesn’t work.

Unless you know how to build cars, there is a natural limit to what you can reasonably do to your car.

Should websites be the same? I think so.

But this point lands within the realm of my answer to Chris: I don’t think FSE is for end users.

Is it for No Code Site Builders?

On my live stream earlier this week (join Creator Crew to see the replay), I decided haphazardly to try to redesign a site with Twenty Twenty-Two and Full Site Editing. I had no plan. This was more of an exploratory redesign.

And while I could do the things I wanted to an extent, there were the strange limitations that come with the territory of a beta product.

I don’t think site builders can reasonably accomplish what they would need to with Full Site Editing just yet, and I’ll give you 3 reasons why.

The first is the UX is still pretty bad. If I want to build a custom page template – an incredible feature of FSE – I need to create a new page, go to “Template,” and then click “New.” This functionality isn’t anywhere in the Site Editor, which is confusing…especially if we want to make FSE an all-inclusive experience for building out the design of a site.

The second is there are only 2 categories of template parts we can make: headers and footers. That is an absolutely reasonable start. But we also have sidebars (or Widget areas), and navigation menus. While there are blocks that can handle this, having a one-to-one mapping of the types of templates you can create in theme development is important. If you can register multiple sidebars, you should be able to create sidebar templates.

Third, there is no support for other devices. Set padding and layout on Desktop and hope for the best. This is coming, but it’s not there yet.

So Site Builders should still look to flexible themes like Kadence if they want to build a website with no code.

That leaves theme developers.

Bending the Site Builder to Your Will

The problem we run into here is that while FSE ostensibly makes theme development easier, it’s not all the way there. There are still a lot of limitations to it (like the ones I just listed) that a theme developer will need to cover for.

You will need to create styles for blocks, perhaps bloat your CSS a bit, and provide a ton of block patterns to help users who are relying on on the Site Builder to carry the load.

It’s Not a Bad Beta

That’s not to say this is a bad beta. It’s not. But it’s front and center if you use a block theme. The Customizer goes away unless a plugin requires it. Which means that this not ready for primetime beta will become the de-facto way new users, and new websites, do things.

And I don’t want you to hear what I’m not saying: I’m really excited for full site editing. But when I think of the wider WordPress ecosystem, I’m left wondering what Chris wondered on that happiness hour: right now, who is full site editing for?

In other words: it’s in Core now. Who is using it now?

That I’m less sure about. I think we’ll be a lot more sure when 6.0 comes out. And if that’s the case, did we really need to turn every production WordPress site into a beta tester for Full Site Editing? Will the returns be worth someone stumbling into the Site Editing and messing around because they’ve never seen it before? Are we putting undue stress on people who manage client sites?

Or is it fair to assume that most production sites aren’t using a Block theme, so it doesn’t matter much at all? Are only the savvy, curious users trying out Full Site Editing?

My answer to the question, “Who will Full Site Editing be for,” is “No Code Site Builders.” But that’s not my answer today because you still need code, or you need to use something else to supplement the Full Site Editor.

So until then, I will just continue to echo Chris’ question. Who is Full Site Editing for today?

If you have an answer, I’d love to hear it.

Show Notes

Transcript

When WordPress 5.0 and the block editor came out, though it was off to a rocky start, the value proposition was clear. This is a better experience for content creation than the classic editor. After all, that experience was largely unchanged for 15 years. The detractors knew it too, though they didn’t want to admit it. Many had switched to page builders instead. And when I asked how explaining shortcodes to clients was better than blocks, someone respond that it didn’t matter because they would handle updates for their clients. My response – and make no mistake, I will die on this hill – is that making minor updates inside the WordPress editor for your clients is a terrible way to spend time in your business.

The block editor makes that a lot easier. Like I said, the value proposition is clear. What might have a less clear value proposition today is another major feature that just came out with 5.9. And that’s what we’ll be talking about today.

Welcome to WP Review. A show that provides analysis on what’s happening in WordPress and what it means for users and business owners in the ecosystem. This podcast is brought to you by GoDaddy Pro. My name is Joe Casabona. And today, we’re going to answer the question: Who is Full Site Editing For?

So let’s get back to updating client sites. Even if for some reason you wanted to spend all of your time making minor updates inside the WordPress editor for your clients, locking the site down so that your client can’t break the site is an unreasonable thing to do. Imagine buying a car and then the dealer telling you that only someone from the dealership can drive the car. Or to a less extreme extent, imagine the dealer telling you that you’re not allowed to make any change to the car from adding an air freshener to painting a racing stripe on the side of it. And sure the ladder might look terrible, especially if it’s one of those big flames on the side of the car. But the point is that it’s your car. You paid for it after all. And Toyota doesn’t make its money by worrying If their clients are going to “ruin their work” which brings me to Full Site Editing.

As a Web Developer for 20+ years and a site builder, since the first time I laid eyes on Beaver Builder back in 2015, I love the idea of Full Site Editing. You mean, I can make changes to templates without having to dig into the code? I can actually spend precious coding time solving real problems instead of slightly tweaking the loop to show a divider under the title. Sign me up. 

But recently I was in GoWP’s Digital Agency Owners’ Happiness Hour discussing WordPress 5.9. And Chris Lema posed a question: Who is Full Site Editing For? 

Now, I’ve got to admit I was taken back for a moment before realizing that I haven’t thought for a single second about this question. And after taking a beat, I said, “Theme Developers.” And then Chris said, “Do Theme Developers need this?” 

So who is full site editing for? There’s a really good post on [codejerk.com] called “The Complicated Futility of WordPress. And I’ll link that in the show notes over at [wpreview.io/36]. If you work with WordPress and I’m guessing you do, I’d encourage you to read it. But here’s a short excerpt from the article “The thought of client-side marketing interns ‘play(ing) around with site-wide designs’ should make the blood of any professional run cold. Sites that have been painstakingly designed and built, reviewed and refined to the last detail every step of the way with stakeholders on the client-side, optimizing UX, legibility, performance, and upholding the client’s brand can now be squelched in an instant by someone 3 months into their job who prefers yellow.” while slightly condescending. The point is well taken. But does it jive with what I just said above or earlier about not being able to customize or even drive your brand new car? And sure, adding a racing stripe is one thing. But imagine you wanted to replace the headlights with megaphones or make the engine look nicer by removing some of those exhaust pipes. Well, now your car doesn’t work. Unless you know how to build cars, there’s a natural limit to what you can reasonably do to your car. 

Should websites be the same? I think so. But this point lands within the realm of my answer to Chris. I don’t think full site editing is for end-users. Is it for no-code site builders? 

On my live stream earlier this week, become a member over at [joincreatorcrew.com] to see the replay. I decided haphazardly to try to redesign a site with 2022 and Full Site editing. I had no plan. This was more of an exploratory redesign. And while I could do some of the things I wanted to an extent, there were strange limitations that come with the territory of a beta product. I don’t think site builders can reasonably accomplish what they would need to with full site editing just yet. And I’ll give you three reasons why. 

The first is that the UX is still pretty bad. If I wanted to build a custom page template and the incredible feature of full site editing, I need to create a new page, go to template, then click new. This functionality isn’t anywhere in the site editor, which is confusing. Especially if we want to make full site editing and an all-inclusive experience for building out the design of a site. 

The second reason is that there are only two categories of template parts we can make – headers and footers. Now, this is absolutely a reasonable start. But we also have sidebars or widget areas, and navigation menus. And while there are blocks that can handle this, having a one-to-one mapping of the types of templates you can create in theme development is important. If you can register multiple sidebars, you should be able to create sidebar templates. 

The third is that there’s no support for other devices. Set padding and layout on the desktop and hope for the best on mobile. This is coming, but it’s not there yet. So site builders should still look for flexible themes like Kadence if they want to build a website with no code. That leaves theme developers. But before we talk about them, let’s hear from our sponsor GoDaddy Pro. 

This episode is brought to you by GoDaddy Pro. GoDaddy Pro is an experience tailored specifically to the needs of web designers and developers and helps them more efficiently manage their work and deliver results for their clients. Combining website, client, and project management, GoDaddy Pro is an integrated solution made by and for web professionals. Whether you are new to web design or looking to grow your business, you’ll find the tools, products, guidance, and support to help you deliver results for clients.

At the heart of GoDaddy pro is the hub. From one intuitive dashboard, the hub seamlessly brings your sites, clients, and projects together. Manage and monitor all of your client’s WordPress sites from a single place. No more juggling multiple client passwords. With one click, perform bulk updates, backups, and security checks no matter where your client’s sites are hosted. You will save time and free up your day.

Integrated Project Management makes it easier to keep track of your client communications and deliver projects on time. Electronically sign, notarize, and store documents. You can create a visual timeline to break down projects into smaller tasks, to stay on track, and on time. Access all of your client accounts with a single sign-on through their tailored shopping experience by-products to help clients grow their business like powerful e-commerce stores using Woocommerce. You can always reach dedicated and knowledgeable customer support. 24/7. On top of that, you’ll find a thriving community of web designers and developers who share advice, insights, and learning opportunities. GoDaddy Pro is free to join. Head over to [go.me/wpreview] to get started. That’s [go.me/wpreview]. 

The problem we run into here is that while full site editing, ostensibly makes theme development easier, again, it’s not all the way there. There are still lots of limitations to it like the ones I just listed and a theme developer will need to cover those. So as a theme developer, you’ll need to create styles for blocks to account for mobile layouts, perhaps bloat your CSS a bit and provide a ton of block patterns to help users who are relying on the site builder to carry the load. That’s not to say that this is a bad beta. It’s not. But it’s front and center if you use a block theme. The customizer goes away unless a plugin requires it which means that this is not ready for prime time beta will become the de-facto way new users and new websites do things. And I don’t want you to hear what I’m not saying. 

I’m really excited about Full Site Editing. But when I think of the wider WordPress ecosystem, I’m left wondering what Chris wondered on that Happiness hour call. Right now, who is full site editing for? in other words, full site editing is in core now. So who’s using it now? That, I’m less sure about. 

I think we’ll be a lot more sure when 6.0 comes out. And if that’s the case, did we really need to turn every production WordPress site into a beta tester for full site editing? Will the returns be worth someone stumbling into the site editor and messing around with it because they’ve never seen it before? Are we putting undue stress on people who manage client sites? or is it fair to assume that most production sites aren’t using a block theme so it doesn’t matter much at all? Are only the savvy curious users trying out full site editing? My answer to the question: “Who will full Site Editing be for?” is “No Code Site Builders.” But that’s not my answer today because you still need code or you need to use something else to supplement the full site editor.

So until then, I will just continue to echo Chris’s question: “Who is Full Site Editing for, today?” If you have an answer, I’d love to hear it either on Twitter (@jcasabona)  or by filling out the contact form over at [wpreview.io]. 

Now, as we move into the recommendations portion of this show, I actually have two for you today.

Gutenberg 12.5 is out. And that includes a lot of things that I just talked about in why full site editing’s not ready for prime time. It doesn’t include everything, but it makes a lot of improvements. So if you are full site editing curious, I recommend you check out 12.5 of the Gutenberg plugin.

But I also want to tell you about a new project that I launched called “Creator Toolkits”. You can find those over at [creatorcourses.com/toolkit]. And these will help you find the right tools to make your personal and business life easier. I’ve been using WordPress for a long time. I’ve built all sorts of sites from learning management sites to big intranet sites, to podcast websites. And I’ve decided to take my knowledge and put together these free toolkits for people who might want to do the same thing. Each one recommends hosting a theme and helpful plugins. 

If you join the mailing list again over at [creatorcourses.com/toolkit], you’ll get a bonus podcast. So the way I’m billing it is you get the “WHAT” for free by visiting [creatorcourses.com/toolkits]. And you get the “WHY” by joining the mailing list.

Why did I choose Learndash over LifterLMS? Why do I recommend certain hosting over another hosting? Why do I keep talking about Kadence Pro?

And if you join Creator Crew pro, then coming later this year, there will be full tutorials on how to implement these toolkits. So get the “WHAT” for free, the “WHY” by joining the mailing list, and the “HOW” by becoming a Creator Crew Pro member. Again, that’s over at [creatorcourses.com/toolkit]. And the toolkits are completely free.

But that is it for this episode of the WP Review. I hope you liked it. I hope I’m creating good conversations. Sometimes it could sound like I’m being curmudgeonly when it comes to WordPress. But I’ve been using WordPress for a long time and I want to continue doing that. I want to help bring other perspectives into the WordPress space. That’s my mission with WP Review. And I hope it’s helping. So thanks so much. 

To get even more WordPress insights and to subscribe to this show, head on over to [wpreview.io/subscribe]. You can find all of the show notes over at [wpreview.io]. And if you liked this episode, share it with a friend. Maybe they’re wondering who full site editing is for?

Thanks so much to GoDaddy Pro for sponsoring this and every episode of WP Review.

Until next time. I’m Joe Casabona and I’ll see you out there. 


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3 responses to “Who is Full Site Editing for?”

  1. […] Casabona asks “Who is Full-Site Editing for?” – I prefer not to spoil anything, he does have an answer. I did chuckle at the […]

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  3. Scott Anderson Avatar

    Thank you for this. I desperately needed it today. I’ve resisted Gutenberg for years (I had my own custom block-style base theme built around extensive use of Advanced Custom Fields), but I’m trying this year to reinvent my approach with a full embrace of the Block Editor. And as I’ve really started digging into this over the past couple of weeks, it’s making me start to question my sanity.

    I’m not saying FSE is a bad idea, but it is way, way less ready for production than I would ever expect something being rolled into WP core to be. I do feel like the Block Editor is finally mature enough to use for regular page content, but my vision of using FSE as the basic tool to create my new base theme was an utter delusion.

    Now I am finally asking myself the question in your post title, but I’m not as optimistic as you are. I don’t think FSE really can be for anyone, at least not anyone who is using WordPress in any kind of business capacity (either as a designer/developer or as a client). The people who need this kind of help to create the overall UI design of their site are generally going to hire someone to help them create it, and anyone who is qualified to take on that job doesn’t need FSE’s tools. (Don’t get me started on traditional page builder plugins. I desperately hope the Block Editor kills them off quickly.)

    Combine that with the fact that FSE is so comically limited in its current beta form that pros really can’t use it anyway, and DIYers still won’t really understand it, and I just don’t see the purpose. (It will get there eventually I’m sure, but it should not just be showing up unannounced in people’s live sites, as it is now.)

    Meanwhile, I’m realizing that my new block theme is still going to have to do most aspects of the overall UI the old fashioned way, for the foreseeable future.

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