I’ve been coding and using web-based applications for a long time, actually before WordPress was ever a thing. I used WordPress for blogging before WordPress had many plugins. Yes, I’m old, but I also have some perspective.
The reason I went all in on WordPress is that it had the same philosophy of development that I had developed after years of creating websites without WordPress. That philosophy was that design and content should be kept as separate as possible.
As content was often evergreen and never changing while design tastes and standards evolved, I found separating content from design to be the easiest way to go for long term website management. As new technologies (that are now old technologies, like CSS or mobile browsing!) came on board, ensuring old content fit with new standards was a breeze when code and content were separated.
With Gutenberg, aka the new block editor, a lot of that has changed. I can now add fancy color and layout options using blocks right in the editor.
While I think that’s GREAT, I also think back to the old days of regular redesigns. Maybe we’re not doing that quite so often anymore, but sometimes we do. Don’t we. And what then?
I’ve taken a look at full-site editing, the new capability being developed for WordPress. Honestly, it feels a lot like full-page editing to me. While I can see a place for that in certain areas, especially for landing pages and whatnot, I don’t think I want to do that on every page. I’d much rather have my content separated from the design as much as possible. Even going through this site with a lot of older pre-Gutenberg content and migrating content to blocks was a chore, and there’s not much there.
In fact, I often work on sites where I’m dealing with a lot of data that needs even further separation of content from design. In those cases, I am grateful for Kadence Elements Templates and the ability to use Advanced Custom Fields to make data entry extraordinarily easy while the design is inherited from a template.
WordPress started out that way, with design stored in the template we called a theme and content stored in a database. Maybe I’m just old school, but it has traditionally been the easy way to manage a site with a lot of content.
If I wasn’t using WordPress, I’d still work that way: design in PHP/CSS header and footer PHP files that are included on a page and content stored in a database queried by SQL.
This is not to say that there is not a place for what full-site editing is trying to do. I see it. Elementor, Divi and other page builders brought complex layout capabilities to a non-technical user. When my husband first brought Divi to me, I was elated that I wasn’t going to be building webpages for him anymore. He could do it easily himself with Divi. It remains to be seen if full-site editing will be a contender for this type of user but I hope it can be.
I’m going a different route. I’m going to continue separating content from design as much as possible. I’ll be templating with Kadence and using ACF and giving people as many tools to publish content easily without having to make too many design decisions.
Back to blogging
For the writing experience, I had been focused using Google Docs and Ulysses for writing as I’d seen some flakey behavior with the Gutenberg editor, which made focused writing a challenge. I’m not seeing that anymore and the editor seems to have matured as a writing experience.
At first, I wasn’t thrilled with fullscreen mode, but even that has been helpful for that immersive, distraction free writing experience I was getting with g-docs and Ulysses. I finally feel like I can write in WordPress again, and that’s a good thing.
Writing and designing use such different parts of the brain. I can’t do them at the same time well, I have to focus on one activity and then move to another. Yet I’m able to do both in the WordPress editor, and that’s a pretty amazing thing to have one platform provide distraction free writing along with layout capabilities.
The Flexibility of WordPress
The great thing about WordPress is that it is a platform that can do both. I can try full-site editing, but I can also go deeper with custom fields and templating. Our job as WordPress innovators, however, will be to help those using WordPress to make appropriate decisions on site architecture so that they’re choosing the right tools for the job.
Our job is to show the many different paths of using WordPress for both content creation and site design and make it easy for everyone.
There’s been a lot of talk about CMS marketshare and those hot takes don’t matter as much as making it easier to make the right decisions with the right tools. If we can make the 40%+ of the web using WordPress as successful with effective sites as possible, the remaining marketshare notices.
And the great thing about WordPress is that it, unlike cloud solutions, is as flexible as you’re willing to ask it to be.
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