Posted on

Hybrid Core 5.0 Offers a More Modern, Modular Approach to WordPress Theme Development

image credit: Shopify

Version 5.0 of Hybrid Core, one of the longest-running WordPress theme frameworks, is now available. Justin Tadlock celebrated 10 years with his Theme Hybrid community last month and released his new Mythic starter theme into beta. Mythic was built on top of Hybrid Core and developed in tandem with version 5.0.

The framework has been rewritten almost entirely from scratch to be a leaner, more modern starting place for theme development. Tadlock describes it as “a fundamentally different framework, rewritten from the ground up, that supports more modern PHP practices.”

“I started 5.0 with a goal of bringing the framework up to date with more modern PHP practices and code,” he said. “The first iteration of the framework was built in 2008, so it was time to get us ready for the next era of theme building.”

In nearly a decade of supporting the framework, Tadlock found that users didn’t always know how to get started building something from scratch. Many copied one of his existing themes and would add and remove things from it based on their own needs.

Version 5.0 doesn’t necessarily make it easier to build on top of Hybrid Core with its new, more complicated method of bootstrapping, new view system for templating, and requirement for using Composer. This is why Tadlock is officially recommending Mythic as the path for building a theme with Hybrid Core in the future. Most of the documentation and tutorials he plans to create in the future will be centered around the Mythic starter theme, which is nearing a 1.0 release.

For many theme developers, Mythic’s use of the BEM (Block-Element-Modifier) CSS class-naming system is their first introduction to a system of non-hierarchal, component-based CSS. Because BEM doesn’t rely on nested selectors, it’s easier for users to overwrite CSS that they want to change. Tadlock explains the benefit for child themes in a recent post about why Mythic uses BEM.

A handful of the Hybrid add-ons are now available as Composer packages, including one for breadcrumbs, customizer controls and settings, Google fonts, and a featured image script. Tadlock plans to split more parts of the framework off into packages in the future for an increasingly modular core.

Hybrid Core 5.0 requires PHP 5.6+ (with 7.0+ recommended) and WordPress 4.9.6+. Tadlock will support Hybrid Core’s 4.x series for at least another year to give theme authors time to adapt.

Posted on

A Proposal for Improving the Change Block Type User Interface in Gutenberg

In Gutenberg 3.6.2, the development team moved the Convert Block option to the left most icon in the toolbar. As long as the toolbar is visible, so is the option to change block types. However, there are a few user experience issues with this approach.

Convert Block Option

The first is obvious. The paragraph block icon looks like an alignment option. The second issue is that the icon represents the current block being edited, sort of like a block label. Unless a user hovers their cursor over the icon, it’s difficult to realize that it’s for changing block types.

Kevin Hoffman, a WordPress developer and core contributor, has proposed a new user interface suggestion that aims to solve the issues mentioned above.

Suggested Changes by Kevin Hoffman

Hoffman suggests changing the icon to a drop-down menu, similar to the one in the Classic Editor. The menu would make the ability to change block types more discoverable. It removes confusion associated with icons and is a workflow that’s already established.

Gutenberg developer Joen Asmussen thanked Hoffman for the feedback and listed a number of things to consider with his approach. These include the editor’s need to be responsive, scale to editors with thin columns, accessibility, and accommodating long block names.

Gutenberg technical lead Matías Ventura also commented on the proposal.

Just wanted to say thanks for all the constructive voices here and willingness to find better solutions. If there’s anything that is fairly clear is that the current ‘block switching’ interaction is not as obvious as it could be.

I think using the paragraph icon instead of the one that is easily confused as alignment, @jasmussen‘s update in #9310, plus the addition of the drop-down arrow are a good baseline to check on the next release and see if we need something more involved. @kevinwhoffman it’d be great to expand on your proposal and see how it might look across more blocks and nested contexts.

Matías Ventura

Depending on your workflow, changing block types will be a common action. For example, I often press enter at the end of a paragraph block which creates a new paragraph block automatically. Being able to easily identify and use the change block type option will improve my writing experience.

Those with feedback on Hoffman’s proposal are encouraged to respond to the issue on GitHub. It’s also worth noting that the team is experimenting with using an icon that’s designated specifically for changing block types.

Posted on

Gutenberg and Classic Editor Plugins Pass 200,000 Active Installations, WordPress 4.9.9 Planning Underway

photo credit: reingestalter numeral types(license)

It has been three weeks since the “Try Gutenberg” prompt was sent out in WordPress 4.9.8 and the plugin has now passed 200,000 active installations. The callout has increased the visibility of the Gutenberg project and brought necessary feedback to the development and design of the new editor.

Prior to WordPress 4.9.8, Gutenberg reviews held a 2.7-star average on WordPress.org. Negative reviews continue to pour in and the average rating has slipped to 2.3 stars. Users are reporting that the new editor is too complicated, cumbersome, and that it offers an inferior writing experience. A few positive reviews are sprinkled in between, calling the editor a “necessary step forward,” and those reviewers seem hopeful that others will feel the same once they get past the learning curve. The vast majority of reviews, both positive and negative, report that Gutenberg’s interface is not yet intuitive to use.

The Gutenberg team’s responses to reviews have improved to be less “canned” since the initial reactions a few days after the Gutenprompt went out. However, the team still appears to be combing the feedback for bugs with the existing interface. Overall, the team’s responses are unified in a general unwillingness to admit that there are critical flaws preventing the interface from being more well-received.

Active installations of the Classic Editor plugin, the official antidote for those do not wish to adopt Gutenberg when it ships in WordPress 5.0, have climbed to more than 200,000. This number is about equal to the number of sites that have Gutenberg active. The Gutenberg team does not view Classic Editor installs as an important metric for understanding Gutenberg adoption or rejection but rather see these installs as a healthy intermediary step for sites keeping the same workflow while preparing for Gutenberg.

In response to recent discussion surrounding the ClassicPress fork of WordPress, Matt Mullenweg said, “No plans to ever have direct vote determine strategic direction in WP, but we are having a bit of a referendum in the adoption of the Gutenberg and Classic Editor plugins, people are voting with their usage. The people are deciding.”

This is essentially true in that users can decide if they want to adopt Gutenberg or not, for as long as the Classic Editor is supported. The Classic Editor plugin is an option people demanded but now the reality of two different admin experiences is nearer than before. The notion of a fork, though perhaps not a serious threat to the project, makes it painfully clear what some users are willing to do in order to avoid Gutenberg.

With the number of Classic Editor plugin installations on the rise, WordPress is headed towards a fractured admin experience. For some it may be a healthy transition option, but in the end, the number of Classic Editor installations indicates how many sites will be running an alternative editing experience because site owners are either not ready or not willing to adopt Gutenberg.

At some point in the future, WordPress will need to unite the editing experience, either by winning these users over to Gutenberg or by discontinuing support for the Classic Editor. In the meantime, WordPress product developers will need to provide support for both editing experiences or go all in on one or the other. It has the potential to erode WordPress’ momentum for a few years, especially if Gutenberg doesn’t become more intuitive.

WordPress 4.9.9 Is Expected to be a 6-8 Week Maintenance Cycle

WordPress contributors met this week to discuss WordPress 4.9.9.

“As of now there’s no specific timeline for 4.9.9,” Jeff Paul said. “That will get set once release leads are in place. However, I’d like to try and finalize leads in next week’s meeting or shortly thereafter so that we can begin 4.9.9 planning and coordination as we get into September.” Paul requested contributor submit nominations for release leads, for themselves or others, ahead of next week’s meeting.

“Until we have a confirmed timeline and plan for 5.0, my assumption is that we’ll continue with our minor release cadence of ~6-8 weeks with specific focus on items needed in support of 5.0,” Paul said.

During his announcement at WordCamp Europe in Belgrade, Matt Mullenweg said WordPress 5.0 could happen as early as August. It’s now looking more likely that 5.0 will drop closer to the end of the year. This gives WordPress users and developers more time to prepare their sites to be compatible with Gutenberg and ready to take advantage of the new features it offers. The schedule for releasing WordPress 5.0 is not yet set but the release is expected to happen in 2018.