WordPress Site Editor: Unlocking the Mysteries Behind Gutenberg & WordPress Full Site Editing

Maddy Osman Last updated 09.08.2021
12 Min.
A WordPress  Site Editor Guide: WordPress  Full Site Editing
Last updated 09.08.2021

If you’re a WordPress enthusiast, you’ve probably heard the news about WordPress Full Site Editing (FSE) coming to the platform. Full Site Editing is a game-changing feature for WordPress that gives users more control over their website's design.  

As the name suggests, WordPress Full Site Editing aims to bring a more seamless website editing experience to WordPress, similar to how page builder plugins work. 

That means that once Full Site Editing is available in WordPress, website owners won’t have to rely on front-end web designers to make even the most minor changes.  

Full Site Editing within the WordPress Site Editor has been a long-awaited feature in the WordPress community, but it didn't ship with the latest version. Instead, the development has been underway for a while, and it will continue to be for the foreseeable future.

However, to better understand what the WordPress Full Site Editor is, how you can test it, and what it means for the future of the WordPress Site Editor, the theme design and development markets, and the web design industry profession as a whole, keep reading.  

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • Defining WordPress Full Site Editing
  • How to access the WordPress site editor in WordPress
  • The future of WordPress Full Site Editing
  • What WordPress Full Site Editing means for the future of the WordPress theme market
  • Will there still be a WordPress site editor and page builders in the future?
  • Will there still be designers in the future?
  • Final thoughts on WordPress Full Site Editing

Defining WordPress Full Site Editing

If you look at how a typical WordPress website works, you’ll notice some elements are the same no matter what page you’re on, and other components are specific to individual pages.

Defining WordPress  Full Site Editing
Screenshot showcasing the WordPress Site Editor’s header block editing feature

Header blocks and footers are among the global elements that appear across every page on your website. The Live Customizer or the theme screen options panel under Themes can bring these elements some degree of customization.  

You can usually upload your logo, change the colors and maybe change the layout in terms of logo and menu placement. Or, in the case of the footer, you can define the number of footer widgets and add content to them. But, if you want to add extra elements such as a search bar or social media icons, you’ll need to use a plugin or add them via a code editor.  

Customizing individual page elements is just as tricky. These include text, image blocks, and media, and unless you're using a page builder plugin like Beaver Builder or code to make a theme yourself, you don't have much control over how they appear on your page.  

That’s where WordPress Full Site Editing comes in. Full Site Editing is a set of features that empower you to make global and page-specific changes and add global and page elements using a single interface without relying on code.  

It encompasses global styles, individual theme blocks, and custom template editing. Let’s take a look at those features more in-depth below.  

Blocks 

WordPress 5.0 and its WordPress Site Editor introduced the Classic Block Editor. Blocks are elements you can add to pages and posts. These include:

  • Images
  • Paragraphs 
  • Headings 
  • Videos 
  • Audio content 
  • Buttons 

Blocks also include global website elements like:

  • Site title 
  • Site taglines 
  • Menus
  • CSS
  • Shortcodes

Blocks can be both static and dynamic. Static blocks are those that reveal their content at the time of publishing. For instance, a paragraph block is a static block.

In contrast, dynamic blocks are those that reveal their content after publishing a post or a page. An example would be the site-building blocks that display the latest blog posts or recent comments.  

It's worth noting that you can group and reuse blocks. That means you can pair two or more blocks together to create a block group or create block templates to reuse on any post or page on your website. For example, you could pair heading, paragraph, image, and button blocks to create a featured box to promote products and services.

Block patterns

What are block patterns?

Block Patterns are block groups that create predefined complex layouts for your website. Essentially, block patterns expand upon the functionality of grouping blocks together. 

Once you add a block pattern to the page, you can edit the content to fit your specific page, which means that you can tailor each block pattern to the individual page it’s on.  

For example, you can use one of the column block patterns to talk about services on your services page. On another page, you could use the same column block pattern to showcase testimonials.  

You can use block patterns and insert them anywhere on your page to use as a starting point for your layout rather than starting from a blank slate. Some block patterns exist natively in the WordPress Site Editor, while others will appear based on the theme and plugins you’re using.  

Templates

Templates are predefined layouts that can contain blocks and block patterns, block attributes, and placeholder content. Up until now, templates have been a part of WordPress theme files. In some cases, some plugins also had template files.  

Templates
Screenshot showing how to use the WordPress Site Editor to make block template parts.

These template files were usually PHP files that might have had some HTML within them. With the introduction of the WordPress Block Editor styles and Full Site Editing features, templates are now HTML files that contain block markup.  

A template consists of the content area and template parts such as footer.html or header.html. You can reuse template parts in other templates.  

Image showing the template parts as HTML files to match WordPress  Full Site Editing
Image showing the template parts as HTML files to match WordPress Full Site Editing.

Block-based themes

As the name implies, these are themes that work with the WordPress Gutenberg editor and include styles for various WordPress blocks. The latest official WordPress theme, Twenty Twenty One, is a prime example of a block-based theme.  

Once WordPress Full Site Editing is fully released, future block-based themes will support editing more than just page and post layouts. You’ll be able to edit your website’s header and footer as well.  

Global styles

Screenshot showing the global styles configuration options on the WordPress  Site Editor
Screenshot showing the global styles configuration options on the WordPress Site Editor.

Finally, let’s briefly explain the global styles. Currently, if you want to make style changes to your website, you have to use the Live Customizer or your theme options panel. These let you change fonts, color choices or color schemes, and other visual styles across your entire website.  

In addition, each block has its own set of styling options, giving you even more choices for styling how your website looks.  

However, there are caveats to the current way of applying style changes. 

  • First, you have to use two different features to make those changes. 
  • Second, unless you save a block as a reusable block, you'll have to re-style it every time. 

Global Style Editing aims to solve these problems by unifying those tools. That way, you can style blocks and apply those changes across your website. It'll also give users a single interface to create and style content, simplifying the process.  

How the Gutenberg WordPress plugin for WordPress Full Site Editing helps

Now that you know what Full Site Editing is, let’s talk about how it helps WordPress users.  

As mentioned earlier, once WordPress Full Site Editing is available for all WordPress users, there will be no need to switch between the Customizer and the WordPress Site Editor. You’ll be able to create your content and make stylistic changes to it in the same place.  

You’ll also be able to create the layout for your pages using the same interface. That provides end-users with a smoother user experience and makes using the WordPress Site Editor easier for beginners.  

Moreover, WordPress users who aren’t code-savvy, such as small e-commerce website owners or bloggers, will be able to make changes to the page layout without relying on a WordPress developers or a designer.  

When do you need to use the WordPress site editor?

You can use Full Site Editing to make global changes to your website. For example, you can use it to create a global header and title for your website but then use page-specific settings to override those changes.  

WordPress Full Site Editing is also helpful if you want to create predefined layouts that your clients can easily insert into the pages without relying on your help. For example, you could create block patterns they can use on a sales page or a product page without too much thinking.  

WordPress Full Site Editing release date

Screenshot showing WordPress  Full Site Editing in action
Screenshot showing WordPress Full Site Editing in action

At the time of writing, Full Site Editing is still under development. Full Site Editing is a part of the Gutenberg WordPress project, which has four phases. These four phases encompass the following: 

  • Phase one — introducing the block editor into the WordPress Site Editor
  • Phase two — Expanding the capabilities of the Block Editor to include Full Site Editing
  • Phase three — adding collaboration features that enable a more intuitive approach to co-authoring content
  • Phase four — implementing WordPress Core for multilingual sites 

Currently, we are in phase two of the Gutenberg Project, and the WordPress 5.8 release should include Full Site Editing. This release should include new blocks — Query loop, Query pagination, nav menus, Site Logo, and others — that will make it possible to use WordPress Full Site Editing to its full potential. 

New in WordPress 5.8: Blocks as Widgets, Gutenberg Performance & Duotone

WordPress 5.8 is the second of four major updates planned for WordPress in 2021. We took a look at the beta of WordPress 5.8. What can you expect in the new version? What should you be prepared for? And what about the long-awaited Full Site Editing?

How to access the WordPress site editor in WordPress

If you’re eager to get your hands-on experience with the Full Site Editing features in WordPress, you’ll need a staging website or a local WordPress installation. After you’ve created your testing environment, you’ll need to install the Gutenberg plugin for WordPress and a blocks theme such as Twenty Twenty One.  

Once those requirements have been taken care of, you’ll notice a new option in the menu called WordPress Classic Editor. That is where you can edit every part of your website, including your header, navigation, content area, and footer.  

If you click the WordPress icon in the WordPress Site Editor, you’ll also have the option to see templates and template parts used in the theme and create your own. For example, you can click more options on any block to make it a template part.    

By clicking the Aa icon in the upper right corner, you’ll see options to change the global styles for the entire website. That includes editing fonts, changing colors, and making style changes by block type.  

Lastly, you can also download all your templates and template parts and manage reusable blocks. That serves as a nice way to back up your files and protect them from any mishaps.

The future of WordPress Full Site Editing

As mentioned before, Full Site Editing is still under development, with plans to include it in the WordPress 5.8 core. 

The development team is still looking for active feedback, so you can join the WordPress Full Site Editing (FSE) outreach programme if you want to contribute. That lets you submit feedback about your Full Site Editing experience.  

What WordPress Full Site Editing means for the future of the WordPress theme market

By now, we’ve explained what Full Site Editing is and how it works. But what does this mean for the future of the WordPress Theme market? Will themes still be necessary for the future?

Many themes still aren’t optimized for the Gutenberg WordPress Editor — otherwise known as the Block Editor. WordPress users who are still using unoptimized themes for Gutenberg in WordPress may still use the classic WordPress Site Editor to add and update content on their website 

To make matters even more complicated, many of those themes also rely on powerful page builders plugins like Genesis Blocks, Divi, Themify Builder or Elementor. These enable users to edit their websites and create more advanced layouts without relying on a designer or a plugin developer.  

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As a result, those users might be reluctant to abandon the tools they know in favor of a completely new editing experience.

WordPress has made it clear that Full Site Editing is the ultimate goal for the platform. Moreover, Full Site Editing is just around the corner, with the implementation looming in the upcoming WordPress 5.8. However, developers might decide to wait a while to get on board with Full Site Editing until there is demand from users.  

But, even if users are slow to transition to Full Site Editing, developers still need to find a way to implement Full Site Editing into their themes to give users more flexibility for website editing. On top of that, theme developers should also find a way to reduce the chances of websites breaking in the hands of less experienced users.  

In short, traditional themes might still be around for a good while. But given WordPress' plans, theme developers should dive into Full Site Editing and explore the new features and capabilities it offers. That way, they can implement these functionalities into their themes.   

Will there still be a WordPress site editor and page builders in the future? 

The WordPress theme market is not the only thing that the Full Site Editing release will impact. Page builder plugins are yet another part of the WordPress ecosystem whose future might seem bleak.  

There is no doubt that page builder plugins like Elementor and Divi are very popular among WordPress users, especially those who aren’t familiar with coding. There is no doubt that page builder plugins like Elementor and Divi are very popular among WordPress users, especially those who aren’t familiar with coding.  

But will they remain competitive? Given the large user base that page builder plugins have, it’s unlikely that users will jump ship immediately upon release. The biggest reason behind this is because page builder plugin users are familiar with the features and tools that those plugins provide.  

Abandoning a familiar tool for Full Site Editing will require learning how to work with the block WordPress Site Editor, which also requires a time investment on the user’s part.  

With that in mind, page builder plugins aren’t going away anytime soon. If anything, users will have more choices when building their website and can decide which option works best for them.

Will there still be designers in the future?

With theme and page builder markets out of the way, let’s talk about the last group that will be affected once WordPress Full Site Editing is officially rolled out — web designers

First, let’s state the obvious — with the introduction of features such as page builders and Full Site Editing, the barrier of entry to designing a website will be lowered. Anyone can create a functional website, whether they want to create a personal blog, a small business website, or a portfolio website.  

Furthermore, users won’t need to rely on designers to make minor changes to their websites. Even if that makes it seem like the future of web designers is bleak, designers need not worry about their career future.   

For one, keep in mind that not all WordPress users will want to go down the DIY rabbit hole. Custom-made websites uniquely tailored to each client are still extremely valuable as they break away from the cookie-cutter designs that often happen due to regular users DIYing their websites.  

Secondly, designers understand how to visually lay out a website to guide users towards the desired action, not to mention they can translate the client’s vision into a website that aligns with the client’s goals.  

Finally, they can also help with the technical details of the website - such as SEO, page load optimisation, security and other types of maintenance. There are even opportunities for web designers to expand their service offering by providing consultations and strategy sessions as entry-level services to complete packages for web design.

Final thoughts: A WordPress site editor guide — WordPress Full Site Editing

As you can see, WordPress Full Site Editing is a much-anticipated change in the way we create and style content and how developers create new themes.  

It brings exciting features for both content creators and developers to unify and streamline the design process and give more power and freedom to the end-user. Thanks to those new features, they will shape their websites in a more user-friendly way.  

Full Site Editing will provide a more seamless user experience, impacting the WordPress Site Editor, WordPress theme, and page builder markets. While this may seem like this is the end for web designers, the truth is quite the opposite.  

Web designers won’t become extinct and fade into oblivion once WordPress Full Site Editing and block-based themes become available. Web designers can continue to provide their services as not every website owner will have the time, motivation, and inspiration to design or refresh their website.  

In addition to that, web designers can expand their services to include strategy consultations on web design best practices, SEO optimizations, security considerations, and website audits.  

WordPress Full Site Editing is just around the corner. It’s time to embrace it and explore all the wonderful new possibilities for websites and rich content creation that it will bring. IIn the meantime, secure your web hosting with RAIDBOXES to ensure your website is ready to tackle WordPress’ upcoming changes.  

Your questions about WordPress Full Site Editing

What questions do you have about WordPress Full Site Editing? We are looking forward to your comment. Are you interested in WordPress, Wedesign and development? Then follow RAIDBOXES on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or via our newsletter.

Maddy Osman is an SEO Content Strategist who works with various clients in the field of WordPress and web hosting. Her background in WordPress web design contributes to a well-rounded understanding of SEO and how to connect brands to relevant search prospects.

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