WordPress theme authors and contributors from The Themes Team are exploring ways to make block themes more prominent in the official directory. These are themes specifically marked to support full-site editing. Although WordPress has block themes for its latest default theme, the author has been slow to create more themes. Currently only 86 themes support the full range of WordPress site editing features.
A meta trac ticket opened five weeks ago proposes to give block topics priority in the table of contents. Theme team contributor Sandilya Kafle started the discussion with two thoughts:
- Adds a new tab in the theme repository (popular, latest, blocked)
- Change popular topic algorithm, add 1 block topic among 10 popular topics.
“There may be other ways to encourage more contributions from block theme authors,” Kafle said.
“We don’t always need this, but we can try it for at least a year and see how it goes. Block themes need some attention and encouragement. Only very few FSE themes are properly maintained.”
The idea was immediately opposed by WordPress contributor Joy Reynolds.
“If the block theme is the future and better and easier, they do not Any additional promotion needed,” says Reynolds. “Since the WP software handles both, it would be very disrespectful for an author who followed all the rules to establish a place in the repository for WP to suddenly give an edge to a new genre. (The Site Editor still has a “Beta” tab.) All themes should be treated equally.
Automattic-sponsored theme team contributor Sarah Norris is more open to the idea, noting that block themes are “a different type of theme than classic themes and enable a lot of different features.” Putting “block” on “latest” In the “Theme Directory” menu next to it will be “A nice little first step”.
WordPress theme author Rich Tabor addressed criticism of the proposal and redesigned it to be more about improving the visibility of block themes.
“I do not think so priority is very much the right context,” Tabor argues. “Block themes are very different from ‘classic’ themes because of the nature of the theme, the site editor experience, and global styling.
“This is not to say that we should prioritize block themes, but rather that these are a new class of themes that differ from the classic theme WordPress experience. By switching to a classic theme, they lose core WordPress functionality they may be familiar with/rely on.”
Currently, the FSE topic list is buried three clicks deep. These are themes for all the latest WordPress features, and they shouldn’t be hard to find. Users must know to go to the Feature Filters menu item, select Sitewide Editing, and click Apply. Not everyone who uses theme directories will understand the limitations of older themes when choosing a theme.
“Last week in the FSE hangout we also discussed the issue of block themes not showing up in the theme repository,” commented theme and block developer Ellen Bauer on the ticket. “So users have no idea that WordPress has introduced these new themes and full site editing capabilities. I don’t think it’s good for WordPress.”
Bauer proposes a bolder approach to presenting FSE themes, which mirrors the design in the plugin directory. This approach highlights the block theme above the classic theme at the top of the page.
“We could add a similar second section to the theme page in the same way as the plugins page with ‘Block-Enabled Plugins,'” she suggested. “So we could add ‘block themes’ or ‘themes with full site editing enabled’ above the regular themes list. This would add to the consistent experience between search plugins and themes, which makes a lot of sense to me.”
WordPress lead developer Dion Hulse weighed the technical challenges of the proposed solution and concluded that reworking the directory’s front page might be the best way to address the need communicated in the ticket. He updated the WordPress Theme Directory – heading for the local development environment, and added development instructions to the readme for getting started, should contributors want to work on the project.
Tickets remain open for discussion for anyone who would like to add feedback or participate in contributing to improvements to the topic catalog.