Early Roadmap – WP Tavern

With WordPress 5.9 just out the door to greet the world, leading developers seem to have little time to catch their breath. Yesterday, Matías Ventura released a preliminary roadmap for 6.0. It covers the general range of features planned to land this year.

Version 6.0 is expected to be the conceptual wrapper for Phase 2 of the Gutenberg project, covering visual site building tools. They will continue to play a key role in future development, but developers will likely shift most of their attention to Phase 3 for WordPress 6.1 and later.

Here are the four phases outlined in the long-term roadmap:

  1. Easier edit: Block-based content editing.
  2. custom made: FSE, block patterns, block directories, block themes, and global styles.
  3. Cooperation: Co-author content.
  4. multilingual: Implementation of a multilingual website.

Editor enhancements

Ventura lists 10 advanced focus areas around the post and site editor in core WordPress. They range from big-ticket items like website browsing patterns to more back-to-basics approaches to the writing experience. I’m going to focus on some of the things I’m most looking forward to.

Theme global style changes

A set of six screenshots of 2222 WordPress themes with different color and font combinations.
Twenty-two themed design variants.

I have a list of features that I can’t wait for. It seems like I find something new to add to it every other day or so. However, global style changes easily made it into the top three.

The feature is expected, but not fully incorporated into WordPress 5.9. The goal is to allow users to choose from multiple presets and transform their website’s colors, fonts, etc. with the click of a button. Several changes to Twenty Twelve are already in the works.

It’s kind of like a light version of the child theme, where only theme.json Files can be switched.Essentially, they are skin.

This is quite possibly one of the most critical features to end Gutenberg’s second phase. Some parts may be difficult to understand, but there are several screenshots and videos in the related ticket.

Essentially, the goal is to improve the experience of moving and interacting in the site editor, global styles, templates, and navigation. The work in 5.9 was excellent, but now a more intuitive interface needs to be created.

Part of this is exposing the site structure as navigation outside of the navigation block in the UI. Users can currently only edit this content from the site canvas.

Things like this are easier said than done, so contributors do their work for them. This will require community effort.

Template creation and theme switching

Currently, there is a limited number of templates that users can create through the site editor interface. For example, they can add dossier designs, but not for specific types of dossiers (eg, category) or a slug-based version (eg, category-news).

Ultimately, the site editor should allow any possible template to be created from the template hierarchy. Presenting this in an easy-to-use interface will be a challenge. Hierarchies are only limited by the number of objects (posts, terms, etc.) on the site.

Another part of the template creation process is separating them from the theme. Users should never lose their custom templates when switching from one template to another. This becomes even more important as plugins start to introduce block templates.

Block mode browser overlay in the WordPress post editor. On the left, there is a list of schema categories. On the right is a two-column preview of the schema.Block mode browser overlay in the WordPress post editor. On the left, there is a list of schema categories. On the right is a two-column preview of the schema.
Block mode browser.

Since its launch with WordPress 5.5, patterns have been one of the most powerful tools available to users. I’ve been telling anyone who will listen that they’re going to be a game changer for at least two years. WordPress 6.0 might deliver on my promise.

One proposal would make patterns a core part of template and page building. Several of these sections may fit into various processes, but one of the first goals should be for the end user to figure out what to do with an empty template or page. When done right, patterns can help them get started.

Proposals to transform existing content sections using schemas are also under discussion. Earlier this week, I wrote an article about this being the missing piece of user experience.

Schema registration may become less complex for theme authors. Currently, they have to register them via PHP using the Patterns API. However, there is a suggestion to let WordPress automatically recognize them.mode is likely to exist in a dedicated /patterns Themes and registrations in folders are similar to page templates. However, the final solution has yet to be determined.

block enhancement

There are a number of block-related enhancements to look forward to. Much of this will revolve around continuous iteration of the navigation block. Topic authors should also have more blocks to control the output of comments.

But let me dive into some of my most anticipated features.

Two large pieces are stacked on top of each other. Each has a full-width background image, a post category, title and link.Two large pieces are stacked on top of each other. Each has a full-width background image, a post category, title and link.
Conceptual design for the featured image of the post used in the cover block.

This would cover already possible use cases in traditional themes, not superpowers. As much as I love block themes, one of the most obvious issues is posting featured image blocks.Essentially, it currently outputs post-thumbnail size of the picture.

Theme authors can set width and height, but cannot use their registered crop size (fixed in development version of Gutenberg). They also cannot use it in the context of other blocks like Cover and Media & Text.

Enhancing the Featured Image feature will put a much-needed design tool in the hands of theme authors. Now, missing functionality is a hindrance to many layouts.

inline markup

If I see one feature that developers ask for more than most, it’s the ability to output dynamic data in blocks or HTML templates. Some of these problems can be solved with Pattern blocks, but not all use cases are covered.

For example, it is not possible to output the current date in a paragraph. This is a general use case for a site footer copyright line. More typically scraping dynamic URLs for theme or plugin resources such as images. In the post, Ventura noted that they will explore the viability of inline tokens during this release cycle.

other blocks

WordPress post editor with highlighted section showing the table of contents area for posts.WordPress post editor with highlighted section showing the table of contents area for posts.
directory block.

There may be a directory block on the way. It’s been less than a year since I first wrote a proposal like this, so I’m eager to see the land.

Quote and List blocks should eventually allow sub-blocks. Both are serious limitations that are always possible in plain HTML and classic editors. I know quite a few bloggers who would love to see this happen.

Improvements to the Table block may also be coming. Currently, it provides a poor user experience – the user can’t even switch through cells. At most, it handles the most basic use cases. Currently, there are more than two dozen open tickets to clear it.

There are a few components that should get theme authors excited about 6.0 in particular. We can look for new height and width controls for more blocks, giving more flexibility in theme design.and use min and max CSS features and flex-based containers can make fine-tuning responsive designs easier.

In terms of typography, there is a ticket to introduce responsive fonts. If the user chooses a predefined size of the theme, it is currently relatively easy to handle with custom CSS. However, this is problematic for custom dimensions and row heights. Because these tools exist in WordPress, we need responsive processing built in.

A long-awaited typography feature may be coming out this cycle: the Web Fonts API. It is now being developed inside Gutenberg after being pulled from WordPress 5.9. I hope this will land soon as most of the code is done.

6.0 also supports custom headers across multiple blocks and may find solutions to link hover and focus states.

What features are you most looking forward to in WordPress 6.0?

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