Our first full site editing WordPress block theme

For the past few weeks we have been busy rebuilding our Aino theme into a full full site editing block theme. We decided to take this step even though many of the full site editing features are still in development.

The reason for this was the release of WordPress 5.8. This release can definitely be seen as the starting point for Full Site Editing. And since the sole reason we built Aino was to be prepared for this new future of WordPress, we quickly became convinced that we should get started now, not later.

Themes and full site editing, what is actually in store for us?

It’s important to understand that themes will change a lot with the new Full Site Editing (FSE for short) features. Technically, the theme files will no longer be PHP files, but HTML files and most of the full site editing functions will be handled via the theme.json File controlled instead of via the functions.php file or the customizer as before.

The theme.json file

The theme.json file allows theme authors to specify what general color palette the theme should have, what fonts to choose from, or what font sizes. These functions are called “Global Styles”.

The theme.json file can do a lot more and I will definitely write a few more blog posts about theme.json. It is, so to speak, the new control center of a WordPress theme.

In addition, a theme can also define individual blocks and their functions via the theme.json file. For example, the theme author can specify which font the heading block should have and that the button block should have its own color palette.

Theme users can then use the Global Styles in the new Site Editor to customize the styles predefined in theme.json. Either the entire theme or just a single block.

These features are brand new and replace many of the theme options that were previously customizable through the WordPress Customizer.

Which brings me straight to the next big challenge we had in moving from Aino to the full FSE Block theme. The Customizer will be replaced by FSE and will no longer be available for block themes.

Replace the customizer functions

Yep, block themes come without the customizer and it won’t show up once a block theme is active. But there are good reasons for this, since the customizer should no longer be used as soon as possible. Everything should be in one clear place, namely in the new Website Editor to be customized.

It ended up being easier than we thought, though, even if we forgo some of our original Aino design options for the time being. In the future we will then integrate these design options directly into the blocks via block styles.

All color adjustments are now made via the Global Styles as described above. Global for the whole theme or per block.

Theme options like customizing the footer copyright text are done in the templates and template parts.

It’s great that users of block themes can save multiple footer and header versions. We do this on the Aino website to be able to use the header in different colors. I’ve already written a small tutorial on the Aino blog in which I explain how to customize the header in a block theme (the German version is in the works).

The page logo and page title can also be adjusted in block themes in the site editor. There are new Site Title and Site Logo blocks for this.

Be careful with the site logo block: Unfortunately, you can only define the logo image once. It is currently not possible to use logos in different colors. I think that will change. As a workaround, you can use the Link to Your Homepage Image Block as an alternative to the Site Logo Block.

You can integrate a favicon using a favicon plugin. This has the advantage that you have much finer settings for your favicon. You can integrate optimized favicons for different browsers and devices.

You can set the homepage and blog page via Settings/General.

Aino does not currently have widget areas. You can now customize the widget areas of the footer directly in the footer template part. We have prepared several footer designs and more will follow.

Page Templates and Template Parts

In block themes there are templates and template parts. That was actually already the case with classic themes.

The great advantage of block themes is that theme users can customize all page templates and template parts of their theme themselves via the site editor. It is even possible to create your own page templates. This makes the new block theme generation so much more flexible.

A preview of the blog page in Site Editor.

You can determine which layout you want to use for your blog or blog archive page in the site editor. You can integrate block templates (patterns) into a page template or choose from a number of different templates/template parts. The option is particularly exciting for the header and footer.

Conclusion

We want to bring these more flexible, lightweight WordPress block themes to our theme users as soon as possible. We don’t want to wait until everything is perfectly finished, we want to be involved in the development and optimization. The next two WordPress releases 5.9 and 6.0 will notably change the way themes are used in WordPress. That is our topic and we want to be part of these changes.

In the background we are already working on how to prepare our most popular classic themes like Zuki or Uku with Aino as the base theme for this WordPress block theme era. But more on that soon.

The fact that we have already taken a big step towards the future with Aino feels more than right. So we and our theme users can grow into this new theme world. We can gradually add new features.

If you have any feedback or questions for us or want to know more about block themes, full site editing or the future of WordPress themes in general, just write us a comment or message via our support button here on the website. We look forward to hearing from you.

We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has already supported our Aino project so diligently. Your messages, bug reports, suggestions for improvement and your great feedback on Aino help us incredibly. 1000 thanks!