Full-Site Editing Themes in WordPress; Are They There Yet?

  Introduction
The goal of this article is to bring you the latest opinions on Full-Site Editing Themes in WordPress and whether FSE is gaining footage in the WordPress ecosphere. I’ve been following the development of FSE for a while now and I’m happy to say that there has been a lot of progress over the past year.
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Table of contents

This is a collection of opinions from experts on FSE and whether it’s ready for the real world in its current state.

The goal of this article is to bring you the latest opinions on Full-Site Editing Themes in WordPress and whether FSE is gaining footage in the WordPress ecosphere. I’ve been following the development of FSE for a while now and I’m happy to say that there has been a lot of progress over the past year.

Recently I decided to do a bit of research into the pulse of full-site editing. I was curious if WordPress users were embracing block-based themes.

There were questions I had concerning what developers, designers, and end users thought about the direction WordPress was driving site design. I wondered whether or not they were actually using FSE as opposed to the ever-popular page builders.

What Is FSE? 

In a nutshell, WordPress Full Site Editing is where we can edit the entire website using blocks. The full site editing combines various elements like Site editor, Template editor, Global styles, Blocks, and Block Patterns to make this possible. 

A full-site editing theme (FSE), also known as a block theme is a theme that allows you to edit the entire site from within one place. You can make changes to the appearance, layout, and functionality of your website without having to go through the process of creating and publishing new content. You can change the color and font, and even add or remove a section of the site.

Full-site editing themes are especially useful if you want to make changes to your entire site without having to go through the process of finding and updating current styles on multiple pages.

What do the experts say?

The future of FSE is bright. There are now 160 block themes in the repository, up from a mere 50 in February. The number of users has been increasing steadily and the number of FSE-related jobs has increased dramatically. Here are some of the experts in the field’s responses to the future of FSE.

Ana Segota

Ana Segota Co-founder of Anariel Design (Niche WordPress Themes) has embraced FSE sharing the following quote with us.

WordPress block editor opened so many new possibilities for theme designers and customization options for the end users. It’s way more advanced and capable than the old editor, it’s not even comparable. We love working with it and from the feedback, we get from people using our block ( FSE ) themes they seem to love it too. There is a “getting used to” period as with anything new, but it’s well worth the effort.

The old editor was fine 10 years ago, but many users obviously wanted more customization options, better UX, and WYSIWYG style editing. This led to the rise of page builders that simply provided what was missing. Now that with block themes most page-building features are available within the block editor, you need to have a really good reason to install a heavy page-builder plugin. Popular page builders are still more feature-rich and can be used additionally, but for most website owners block editor is more than enough.

The introduction of Full Site Editing ( FSE ) took the WordPress possibilities yet again to another level with block editor options extending to the header and the footer. This was a bit clunky at the beginning but it’s getting better with each new release and is now already production ready. For me, it’s a no-brainer, block ( FSE ) themes are the way forward.

Rich Tabor

Rich Tabor states that there is still work to do, but the functionality is here today.

The underpinnings of Full Site Editing and block themes are in place — we just need to refine and iterate towards a more user (and developer) friendly experience.

We’ll get there — it’s just a matter of time before FSE and block themes are the standard experience for most WordPress sites.

To help push FSE in the right direction, I’ve created two block themes to experiment with (Wabi and Wei), published numerous guides, and contributed to the project on GitHub.

Vlad Olaru

Vlad Olaru, CTO of PixelGrade, shared with us his views on FSE themes as well as how the team at Pixel Grade is embracing the next era of site design and development in the WordPress arena. 

FSE themes are here, even if a bit rough around the edges. The roughness comes from the constant changes that the block editor is experiencing, especially the FSE components. This state of things puts a lot of strain on theme developers since they need to keep up with Gutenberg’s development and foresee where things are heading. It’s a lot to process. 

We at Pixelgrade have experienced this full-on for the past two years since we decided to embrace the block editor and migrate our WordPress themes portfolio to make use of it. Once FSE became stable enough, about a year back, we shifted yet again toward our Pixelgrade LT system. 

We’ve succeeded in delivering to our customers four LT themes thus far (Felt LT, Rosa LT, Julia LT, and Mies LT ), but the biggest win is that we’ve managed to “tame the beast” through our Nova Blocks and Style Manager plugins, coupled with our universal FSE theme called Anima

Basically, we’ve built a WordPress theme that stays out of the way and lets our custom blocks give structure to a WordPress site and its content, while “empowering” Style Manager to provide consistent and predictable styling throughout the site via Color Palettes and Font Palettes. 

In our experience, people don’t care too much about the cogs involved. They want things to work in predictable ways, to know that they can experiment with their site and not break things. We believe our LT system delivers just that for the Full-Site Editing experience. 

The Gutenberg project has a long road ahead, but we need to acknowledge its huge progress (with all the stumbling along the way) and embrace the paradigm shift FSE imposes upon WordPress themes. The alternative is not rosy at all for WordPress theme authors.

Fränk Klein

Fränk Klein, a principal engineer at Human Made, has developed some great courses that cut to the nitty-gritty when it comes to using Full-Site Editing to build performant, easy-to-maintain WordPress websites.  

Judging by the comments and tweets out there, Full-Site Editing is either fantastic or horrible. And the reality is that both these perspectives are true.

Full-Site Editing still has quite a few issues to deal with. Interacting with the Navigation block can be challenging. The layout tools are not always a good fit for building complex designs. And basic interactions like drag-and-drop for blocks still lack polish.

But all that doesn’t matter. Because the community has and always will handle WordPress’ shortcomings. That’s why it’s so fun to build with WordPress!

There’s a growing number of high-quality block themes out there. Plugin developers are providing blocks to build grids and responsive layouts. And there are many resources that offer pre-made block designs.

So there’s really nothing that keeps you from using Full-Site Editing today. Does that mean you should transition all your sites overnight? No.

First of all, if something is working, no need to change it. Second, when it comes to custom sites, a full-on block theme is not always the right solution.

The key here is to do a step-by-step transition. You can and should mix new approaches with proven methods. But you need to be deliberate about it.

So whether you are a content publisher, a designer, or a developer, you need to have a plan for this transition. And you need to start putting that plan into motion now.

The Future Is Here

Ultimately I found that there are still mixed reactions to FSE with both positive comments and negative criticism.

There was a boom where page builders were really pushed – so there is now a larger market of already-designed sites using page builders. Designers and developers are going to either fight tooth and nail to not go FSE with those clients or encourage them to embrace FSE as the future, thereby creating income. I do think that by 2024/25 most industry players will be embracing Full-Site Editing.

FSE could be at the forefront of a shifiting change in our industry.

Agencies will offer much more than just editing your content. I foresee a complete range of services, including hosting, security, and even design and development becoming fluid. So, if you’re looking to build your own site or create a blog, it might be worth looking into these tools and services.

A huge thanks to the contributors for their time and insight. Follow us for more great articles and meet the experts in the WordPress ecosystem.

Jessie Brown
Jessie Brown
As the newest member of our team, Jessie has taken on the Editor's role and responsibilities at WP Mayor. With her vast experience having used WordPress since its early days, she has an eye for detail and a knack for knowing which products and companies are worth your time.
Jessie Brown
Jessie Brown
As the newest member of our team, Jessie has taken on the Editor's role and responsibilities at WP Mayor. With her vast experience having used WordPress since its early days, she has an eye for detail and a knack for knowing which products and companies are worth your time.
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