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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.

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Gutenberg is Slowly Rolling Out to WordPress.com Users

As part of the roadmap unveiled at WordCamp EU earlier this year, WordPress.com has started rolling out Gutenberg to a subset of users.

Try Gutenberg Call-out on WordPress.com

According to a WordPress.com Happiness Engineer, the team is testing the implementation to determine the best way and time to enable it. Users will not be able to use Gutenberg unless their theme is updated to support blocks and the various alignment options.

Theme Wranglers are already in the process of adding support to WordPress.com’s nearly 100 free themes.

A quick search of the WordPress.com support forums for Gutenberg provides some insight into what users think about the new editor. For example, this user provided feedback on the use of so many icons without displaying their textual equivalent.

For now, Gutenberg is opt-in but eventually will be opt-out. Once Gutenberg is made available to a wider audience, support documents and official blog posts will be published to inform users about the new editor.

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New WP Glossary Site Translates WordPress Techspeak into Plain English

Anders Norén has launched a new website called WP Glossary that contains definitions for terms that people encounter when using WordPress. The resource was born out of a need to provide documentation for client projects.

“The last time I updated the glossary for a new client documentation, in the middle of May this year, it hit me that there must be a website for this,” Norén said. “A list of WordPress definitions written not for WordPress developers, but for those who manage WordPress websites either as part of their work or in their spare time.”

Norén said he found resources written for developers but nothing satisfactory for regular WordPress users. Inspired to fill this gap, he bought a domain name and built the site over the next couple weeks. WP Glossary contains definitions for nearly a hundred WordPress-specific and industry-related terms, with more than 25,000 total words.

image credit: Anders Norén

Norén, who has recently jumped into client work with a new agency, is better known for his popular minimalist themes on WordPress.org. His 17 themes have a cumulative rating of 4.97 out of 5 stars and more than 2.1 million downloads. He designed the WP Glossary site, wrote all the definitions, and credits Thord Hedengren for feedback on the design and editorial assistance.

Each glossary term includes a plain English definition and common use cases with a bit of WordPress history sprinkled in. The terms also link to related documentation and some also have related WordPress.tv links. The Default Themes term is the longest article on the site with 1,744 words. Each term has a “Send Corrections” link that visitors can use if they see a term that could be improved.

WP Glossary was enthusiastically received when Norén announced it on Twitter. Many commented that the site will be useful for meetups with members who are new to WordPress and need a quick way to look up some of the jargon they encounter.

Norén’s glossary project overlaps with a glossary the WordPress Marketing team published earlier this year. WP Glossary is more in-depth and contains less techspeak than the marketing team’s copy. It is also targeted at people who use WordPress as part of their job or as a hobby.

The sheer volume of terms on this site reveals how much insider language one encounters while managing a WordPress site. If you’re working in the WordPress world every day, it’s easy to forget how unfamiliar these terms are to new users. WP Glossary is released under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license (CC BY 4.0) so freelancers and agencies that want to duplicate, modify, and share the material have permission to do so with attribution.

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Gutenberg Block Library Provides a Searchable Index of Individual Blocks

An avalanche of blocks is pouring into the WordPress ecosystem ahead of Gutenberg’s inclusion in core. A few block collections, such as Atomic Blocks, Stackable, and CoBlocks, can be found on WordPress.org, but it’s not easy to search the individual blocks they contain. Other collections and standalone blocks are spread across the web. WordPress theme developer Danny Cooper has built a centralized library of Gutenberg blocks that are currently available to extend the new editor.

The library loads blocks into a grid with infinite scroll. It is searchable, so visitors can easily find individual blocks that are part of a collection. Blocks are also tagged, which makes it possible to compare a group of similar blocks. Individual listings display screenshots of the block in action and its settings panel, as well as a link to the author and a link to download.

The Gutenberg Block Library currently has more than four dozen blocks. Visitors and block creators can submit a block that is missing from the library.

Cooper is the owner of Olympus Themes, a small collection of free and commercial niche-focused WordPress themes. He has also created his own blocks collection called Editor Blocks, which focuses on blocks for business sites. His corresponding Editor Blocks theme is available for free on WordPress.org with support for all the business blocks.

“As a theme developer I’d been waiting for a way to build themes in a way where what you see on the backend matches what you will see on the frontend,” Cooper said. “That can be achieved to some extent using the Customizer, but it’s hard to craft more than one complex page using that method.”

Cooper comes from a PHP/jQuery background and said he didn’t have a strong enough understanding of ES6, Webpack, Babel, React to create Gutenberg blocks right away. The learning curve was a little steep but after getting a handle on the basics he is now able to make small contributions to the Gutenberg project.

“It felt like I was hitting a brick wall every five minutes when I started,” he said. “Zac Gordon’s course helped me get past that stage. The #core-editor slack channel was a big help too. Other than that I just studied the code of the core blocks and used Google. As my knowledge increased I’ve tried to reach out by submitting bug reports to other Block Libraries and making minor contributions to the Gutenberg project on Github.”

WordPress.org may be able to benefit from a centralized block library in the future, as people will be frequently searching for blocks after Gutenberg lands in core. Cooper said if WordPress.org had a library like this it might even be possible to find and install blocks from inside Gutenberg.

“I could build a block that searches my library but it wouldn’t be able to install them as most are part of a ‘collection,’” Cooper said. “I’m not sure if in the future the ‘collections’ will continue to grow or people will move towards releasing individual blocks.”

In the meantime, the Gutenberg Block Library provides a helpful resource for early adopters. Browsing through the listings, it’s exciting to see the variety of block functionality that the community is creating. Users who fully embrace Gutenberg in WordPress 5.0 will find dozens of blocks (and perhaps hundreds by that time) available for the new editor, if they know where to look.

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WordPress to Support Classic Editor for “Many Years to Come,” Plugin and Theme Markets Expected to Drive Gutenberg Adoption

During the 2017 State of the Word address, Matt Mullenweg announced the availability of the Classic Editor plugin for site owners who are not ready to adopt Gutenberg when it makes its debut in WordPress 5.0. Since its release, the community has speculated about what the plugin’s active installation numbers mean and how long it will be supported.

Matt Mullenweg has confirmed that support for the Classic Editor will be available for “many years to come,” which should come as a relief to those who feared that WordPress would drop support for the old editor after a year or two.

“I love that people are using the Classic Editor plugin!” Mullenweg said in comment on a recent post. “There is an infinite number of ways that WP can be used and not all will be ready for Gutenberg when 5.0 is released, Classic allows people to still be able to update core and stay current with releases, and with the click of a button try out Gutenberg again in the future if they want to. It’s also trivial to maintain because Gutenberg also uses TinyMCE, so Classic Editor users will still get improvements and updates to TinyMCE — I won’t say ‘forever’ but I don’t see any reason why we can’t maintain classic for the edit screen for many years to come.”

These assurances about the continued availability of the classic editor mean that WordPress product developers will need to decide if they want to provide support for both editing experiences or go full steam ahead with Gutenberg, limiting support to WordPress 5.0+. We don’t yet know how many users will be installing the Classic Editor after WordPress 5.0 is released but that may inform more product decisions in the future.

The Market Will Drive Gutenberg Adoption

During the Q&A following the State of the Word in 2017, WordPress developer Kevin Hoffman asked a question about the prospect of developers having to support two different editing interfaces:

Hearing you suggest the Classic Editor plugin and different ways to undeclare support for Gutenberg leads me to this idea that we are headed towards a split admin interface with no finality to the transition, meaning that I don’t see a time in the future where everyone will be on Gutenberg. We will always have these people in classic mode. As plugin and theme developers, we will always have to support two different types of users. How do we reach that point where we are past the transition, however long it might take, where we can not have this box of chocolates effect where you click “edit post type” and you never know what you’re going to get?

Mullenweg said his hope and expectation, based on how this has worked out with new interfaces in the past, is that over time product developers would adopt the latest interface. He cited the Customizer as one example where one is now very hard-pressed to find a theme developer who is rolling their own options panel after the Customizer was introduced as the new standard. It was just three years ago in 2015 when WordPress.org began requiring theme options to be built using the Customizer and now it is used everywhere.

“The truth is, if you are a plugin or theme developer, people are going to expect things in Gutenberg, so you really need to develop for Gutenberg,” Mullenweg said. “And then, at some point, I’m totally ok if you drop support for the Classic [Editor]. There will be themes and plugins that will say you need to have Gutenberg, [WP] 5.0 or newer if you want to use this.

“We already have that existing now. Plugins only support so far back in PHP in WordPress. There will be plugins that don’t support under WordPress 5.0. It’s not going to be that much different from supporting different WordPress versions where people choose sometimes to go way way way back, sometimes a year or several years, and support WordPress 3.8 and 3.9. And some don’t bother anymore. There’s lots of APIs and other things that changed during that time. At some point you just have to make a cost benefit analysis and do things like maybe Yoast is doing for upgrading PHP, and say, ‘Hey, if you really want the best of this, check out this new thing.’”

As Gutenberg blocks become the standard way of extending WordPress’ editing and customization capabilities, the market will drive its adoption. This is already happening with new blocks and block collections being released every day. The new Gutenberg Block Library offers a glimpse of that and there are many more blocks on GitHub that are not yet commercially marketed.

During that December 2017 Q&A, developers seemed to be excited about the Gutenberg demos they had just seen but their uneasiness was palpable in their questions. Now, eight months later, the current proliferation of Gutenberg themes and plugins demonstrates that WordPress developers are ready to embrace the new editor and build the creative extensions that Gutenberg’s creators’ had always anticipated.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing what the design and developer community can build with it and where their imaginations can take us from there,” Gutenberg technical lead Matías Ventura said when I interviewed him in June. “Core is going to supply the infrastructure and the main building blocks but it’s everything that can be built around it that’s going to be exciting, as always with WordPress.”

The extension ecosystem that made WordPress a success in the first place is going to be a key influence in driving adoption for the new editor. Major players in the product market are not waiting to see how users react to the new editor before building their Gutenberg-compatible interfaces. Users may not be compelled by the writing experience, but Gutenberg’s block model will provide a better framework for site customization and a core standard for page builders that interface with WordPress. If the blocks pouring into the ecosystem right now are any indication, the plugin market surrounding Gutenberg is going to offer an exciting variety of tools for site building.