WordPress Full Site Editing: What It Is and What It Means

Published: 4 months ago

WordPress full site editing is coming to an installation near you very soon - in this article we're going to discuss what it is and what it means. Will also talk about the timeline for the launch of WordPress full site editing, and whether it will have an impact on the industry immediately.

The TLDR:

  • WordPress version 5.8 (July 2021) will release the first features of site editing in Gutenberg. You should be able to create complete page templates including headers and footers. Don’t expect the full features though.
  • WordPress version 5.9, released in December, will include the remainder of full site editing features. At this point, you should be able to build complete WordPress websites using only the native installation.
  • Full site editing will be a direct competitor of popular page builders like Elementor, giving you very similar capabilities.
  • It will require block based themes, if a block based theme is not installed on the website, full site editing features will not be activated. This is different than the version 5 launch of Gutenberg, users will not be forced into this new feature.

What is WordPress Full Site Editing?

Over the past couple of years WordPress has been developing their own website builder known as Gutenberg. It's currently used by many to create blog posts and pages, but the end goal for this plugin is that it will be able to create complete websites including headers, footers, assorted templates, and more.

Full Site Editing impact

WordPress would like Gutenberg to be a native website builder, meaning that users won't need to purchase expensive page builders like Elementor.

Gutenberg Phases

When it comes to WordPress full site editing there are three major features but this term is referring to. The first is block themes, the second is template editing, and the third are global styles.

Block themes are frameworks designed to make every element of a WordPress page a block in Gutenberg. This would include the header, the footer, the search page, and other various elements of a WordPress website that currently are able to be created natively in Gutenberg.

Not only does this theme offer a good foundation for the builder to render its pages on, but many block based themes include custom blocks that can be used in Gutenberg period that means you won't need to build any of your own on the back end, they are already there.

Block themes are a special type of theme, as we will discuss in the next section of this article.

How will it work?

With WordPress version 5 and up, we were essentially forced to use the Gutenberg editor, meaning that many of us are very familiar with how it works. The Gutenberg editor offers a page and post editing experience. The only way it can be turned off is through the classic editor plugin.

With full site editing, you won't be forced into it, but it will be integrated similarly to the way Gutenberg works for pages and posts. This will be known as the site editor, specifically available for editing “block themes”.

A concept of the template editor in Gutenberg. Repeat, this is a CONCEPT and probably won't end up in the release. It just helps you visualize how the template editor would work.

If a block theme is not installed on WordPress, the site editor feature does not show up.

Here's an example block theme: https://wordpress.org/themes/tt1-blocks/

WordPress full site editing will also add a template editor, which will be found under the appearances menu item in the admin back end. With the WordPress template editor, will be able to create headers, footers, posts, and more. Then, you can apply them to specific pages, posts, ranges of posts, archives, and more.

With version 5.8 launch, this template editor is essentially a landing page builder. You won't be able to use it to create a complete website just yet. That feature will probably come with version 5.9.

WPTavern Page Template Editor
Source

The page template editor can be launched directly from any post that a user is editing in Gutenberg that has that specific template applied. When you enter the template editor mode, any and all changes made are global. They apply to whatever page utilizes that template.

For example, assume that you have created a template that applies a header, post content, and footer, and it applies to all blog posts. if you are editing a blog post, initialize the template editor mode and make a change, this change will be reflected on all blog posts as that is where the template is applied.

Gutenberg template editing mode from within the post editor.

Here's a complete demo of what this feature, and Full Site Editing as a whole will look like:

Full Site Editing Timeline

Let's talk about this specific features of full site editing and when they are expected to come to WordPress. WordPress version 5.8 will be released in July. This will include the custom page templates feature. The page templates feature will allow you to create a complete page, including the header, footer, post content, and more. It's the first major step towards complete control over an entire website.

WordPress version 5.9 is expected to be released in December. Version 5.9 will include site editor features that weren't included in 5.8. This will include additional support for block based themes.

After version 5.9 is launched, phase two for Gutenberg will be completed. Gutenberg phase two as a goal of allowing users to edit any aspect of their WordPress website visually, which is exactly what full site editing is.

As of writing this article, Gutenberg phase three has no specific features, but should be focused on collaborative editing and website building. The technical limitations are very tough here, so we'll see if this is able to be implemented in a way that works on the majority of hosting solutions out there, but having a Google Docs like editing experience in WordPress would be huge.

The Impact of FSE Will Be Massive

As an example, we’re an Oxygen Builder Agency, so we’re familiar with all of these tools, features and settings. Users of many page builders will agree, as Elementor, Beaver builder brick allow you to create complete websites without needing to custom build a theme.

FSE is designed to be native implementation of this, and as it is open source it will be free. Only time will tell if this is something that will be able to replace popular page builders, though we’re betting on yes. If all site editing truly allows you to create all aspects of a website, premium page builders will lose their appeal and market share. The question is how long will this process take?

There are many companies and websites already adopting the full site editing mindset, even if it isn't introduced yet. For example, in early 2021, WPRocket completely rebuilt their website using Gutenberg as they wanted to improve performance. This was big news in the community as it was one of the largest plugin developers fully embracing this move to Gutenberg - something we hadn't seen in the past.

This move wasn't only inspired by the performance benefits that come with Gutenberg, but it also made it very easy for their marketing team to create new pages and posts without needing to touch any code.

Conclusion

Whether you choose to use it or not, WordPress full site editing is the future of the popular content management system. We are very invested in this development, and are monitoring it incredibly closely. If you would like more news on WordPress full site editing as it comes out, feel free to subscribe to this blog. Not only do we discuss WordPress news, but we also talk about building performant web sites, web design techniques, and more.

Additional resources regarding Full Site Editing:

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