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WordPress 5.8 Will Be Revolutionary

3 min read

On July 20th, 2021, a revolutionary WordPress 5.8 core update will be released. Why is it revolutionary? Because of a featured called Full Site Editing. Read more to find out how this can benefit your business’s relationship with WordPress as a CMS.

There are many great updates wrapped into WordPress 5.8 and you can read about them here in the field guide. Here’s the about page after you upgrade outlining some high-level features.

WordPress 5.8 About Page
This file is in webp format which is a feature of 5.8.

A Short History of the Block Editor

For the last few years there’s been a steady move to the (Gutenberg) Block Editor. The key word here is block. As a developer, it’s a well known development pattern to as much as possible work with modules (aka blocks, components, etc). This allows us to not repeat our code. A good CMS will allow reuse of functionally similar blocks as much as possible in order not to have to re-implement and maintain similar features. Why is this good for you as a WordPress powered business?

  • Updates are far quicker (and therefore cheaper). When you can make an update in one place rather than enumerable other areas – such is often the case with a CMS.
  • Bugs are fewer. If you only need to update and maintain one element, more time can be spent on testing that one block and making it robust.
  • Interfaces are more consistent. Whether it’s on the frontend of your site that your visitors need to become familiar with while using, or the backend administration panel that you or your staff need to use to publish your content, maintaining a more consistent user experience is key. Put simply, you need to learn and familiarize yourself with less. This is a good thing.

The block editor also allowed for more power in content layout and publishing. Previously, a lot of this had to be implemented in the theme or plugins themselves in order to do more complex things. On the other hand, the block editor is inherently versatile and extendable. Essentially this meant a reduction in theme code and more being moved into the actual editor of the site.

This means fewer deployments. The less code that needs to be updated to support your content means less code that needs to be deployed.

Advantages of no / less deployments

  • Deployment setup can be costly. If a developer needs to setup a deployment strategy to safely and effectively get your new code to production, the setup and maintenance costs can start to go up.
  • More deployments increase the probability of something going wrong.
  • Slower updates. Because updates need to be tested and deployed, it can lead to a longer process to safely make updates, slowing your ability to push new content updates to your website users.

It’s at this point that the Block Editor allowed WordPress to start competing on a serious level with built-it-yourself platforms like Wix, Squarespace and WordPress plugins like Elementor. The Block Editor was a blessing. There was just one glaring problem: all of its capabilities applied only to the main content section of your site. Headers, footers, sidebars, and other common areas were still stuck with the old way of doing things.

Our Experimentation

For the past year or so, Motto has been experimenting with fully utilizing the Block Editor for our customers for all of the reasons outlined above. Unfortunately, we remained in an in between state of the old-school and new-school because of the Block Editor’s only partial implementation. Our ability to reduce our theme code was still limited. We came up with some clever work arounds, but it still didn’t get us all of the way there.

The Final Missing Piece: Full Site Editing in WordPress 5.8

Finally with WordPress 5.8 we are now able to edit all of the common areas of a site within the block editor. This allows us to almost fully construct the website in WordPress and get rid of most of our theme’s code.

Motto is currently developing a standard fully flexible theme that will allow us to leverage the block editor and full site editing. This will be used in every web site build and require few, if any, deployments to the theme. This will significantly drive down the cost of development which of course we will pass down to our customers.