The next generation of WordPress theme authors will design from the site editor – WP Tavern



Last week I played around with a new plugin that allows users to export a theme.json to file. The project is still a bit buggy at the moment, but I look forward to covering it in more detail soon. The export feature was more of a secondary focus for the plugin, but it represents a feature that I can’t wait to land in WordPress someday.

While tinkering with the plugin, I remembered to check the progress of a related ticket for Gutenberg. Currently, the site editor functionality allows end users to export their theme templates. However, there is still no way to do this for Global Styles.

Essentially, block themes need two components: templates and an overall style setup. There are other pieces. the functions.php file is increasingly unnecessary, and the standard style.css is often used to add theme data instead of CSS. We are talking about adding the two /patterns and /styles Folder support for automatic saving of block patterns and overall style variations, respectively.

Twenty Twenty-Two theme folder and file structure.

WordPress theme development is already different from what it was just a few years ago. Soon, old school themes will barely recognize him.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. The current mantra is that the platform seeks to democratize design just like it has done for publishing. I have often wondered how achievable such a goal is. I would see sparks of genius littering throughout the project over the past several years. It took a long time for all the moving parts to become a well-oiled machine. A few components are still missing, but the platform’s promise is coming true.

Over the weekend, I stumbled across an old friend’s Facebook profile. He is one of the few bloggers that I started to follow in the early 2000s. I noticed that he had shared something from his blog, and I checked it out. He has a background in journalism and has always had a unique outlook on what most of us might consider the mundane things of everyday life.

I continued to read other messages. It was a welcome change of pace to cross the mind of someone blogging just for the sake of blogging, even though they’re still on Blogger and not WordPress. The site doesn’t look any different from what it was years ago. He even has a blogroll. I spent about an hour going from site to site, reading the ramblings of other avid bloggers, mostly on self-hosted WordPress or It was a reminder of why we continue to build this platform.

Of course, we all have different reasons for coming to the same place. We also need to have a healthy economy behind WordPress, which helps fund the project’s more altruistic mission. Ultimately, the goal is to provide free software for the masses, providing an alternative to gatekeepers and walled gardens elsewhere on the web.

The design of the theme needed to be shaken up. I like to find the rough diamond in the rough. But it’s been a long time since the average end user has had real freedom with website design. Kubrick was doing well in the mid-2000s. WordPress was aimed at a host of DIY enthusiasts who were fine with making CSS changes to get the desired result. However, in the 2020s, the platform must bring a new set of tools to a large audience. This is what the Global Styles feature is for.

When WordPress 5.9 launches next month, many users will get a taste of the site editor. Users upgrading to the upcoming Twenty Twenty-Two theme will have more design power at their fingertips than ever with stock WordPress. From models to styles, they will change the front-end of their sites for whatever they dream of.

Some will undoubtedly come across the “Export” button in the site editor:

Export of site models.

It’s a handy tool for theme authors moving into theme block development, but that little button has a world of potential. Right now he’s spitting a file with a /theme subfolder. Inside is /templates and /parts.

What is missing is the theme.json file, which represents global styles. When that lands, users will essentially export an entire theme. Well minus a screenshot and the required legacy files like style.css.

Part of the democratization of design is not just about giving the possibility to personalize the site. Fulfilling the mission means people can share these designs. The next generation of WordPress themes won’t be stuck in a code editor like the ones of us today. They will cut their teeth on the integrated site editor. Some will move on to more advanced development, but others will have everything they need to publish their themes to or even venture out and start their own business. In part, this will level the playing field for those with a design savvy, but not the coding chops to create these projects.

Exporting global styles can’t get here fast enough. Next, we need to add model exports to the equation, but the mission requires us to take it one step further.

I look forward to the day when a user can create an entire theme from scratch in WordPress. Then they submit it to the theme directory without writing a bit of code. Could any of those “average” bloggers find a talent for web design that they didn’t know they had? Could someone who always wanted to learn but didn’t have the time / resources / privileges could create the next most popular theme? I like to think so.


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