Mass, FSE, Hybrid, Universal? What is the new WordPress...

What is the difference between a block, an FSE, a hybrid, and a universal? What Should These New WordPress Themes Be Called? WP Tavern -

Last week, Ellen Bauer, a developer and co-owner of Elma Studio, raised the question that many have been asking on Twitter. What do we name these new sorts of block-based WordPress themes? She wasn't the first one to inquire. Earlier this week, the subject was also raised in the Post Status Slack channel.

Mass, FSE, Hybrid, Universal? What is the new WordPress...
Mass, FSE, Hybrid, Universal? What is the new WordPress...

Mass, FSE, Hybrid, Universal? What is the new WordPress...

These new themes are "block themes," to put it succinctly.

In December 2021, the WordPress Themes Team agreed to utilize this phrase. During their meeting, they agreed to define the distinction between block and classic motifs.

As the new theming system has evolved, the nomenclature has evolved naturally as well. Themes that are physically formed of blocks are known as block themes. The long-term objective should be to just name them "themes," but we'll keep the "block" prefix for now.

The extended response is more complicated. There are four sorts of themes presently, as Anne McCarthy pointed out in the Post Status discussion:

  • Block

  • Classic

  • Hybrid

  • Universal

Developers have the technical ability to construct a unique theming system. That's because WordPress is so adaptable, but we'll stick to the more formal criteria. There are already enough terms for our tiny thesaurus of theming.

Themes in Blocks

Using the site editor to edit a block theme.

Since the release of WordPress 5.9 last month, block themes have been officially supported. They provide consumers access to additional features like the site editor and global style interfaces. Many previous settings page, such as the customizer and widgets screens, have been replaced with these features.

The first default to support this new set of tools is Twenty Twenty-Two. A limited, but growing, number of additional block themes are also available.

Why don't we refer to them as FSE themes? Full Site Editing is a set of components rather than a single entity. Several of these features, like the template editor, block-based widgets, and theme.json support, were available before WordPress 5.9. A classic theme with any level of feature support can be considered an FSE theme.

Block themes are distinguished from classic themes by the fact that they are constructed completely using HTML templates. The site editor, template editor, global styles interface, and other features are all enabled by default.

Themes: Classic and Hybrid

Twenty is a classic theme that may be customized.

Because there is no need to distinguish between the two, I have combined classic and hybrid themes.

Classic WordPress themes are ones that we've known and liked for a long time. In most situations, they use PHP-based templates. Some, such as Foxhound, are primarily composed of JavaScript. None, however, contain the required block HTML templates to be classified as a block theme.

Classic themes that have embraced one or more FSE components, such as the template editor or theme.json, are known as hybrid themes.

I don't differentiate between the two theme kinds, since we've never done so before when new functionality is added to themes. When the nav menus system was initially established, for example, there was no need to name themes differently depending on whether they supported the new menu system. The same can be stated for the majority of previous features.

If anything, the official theme directory's tags may need to be expanded to accommodate new features as they become available. Filters allow users to search for certain elements within a theme.

Universal themes

Universal themes may be used in both a traditional and a site editor environment. Last year, Ben Dwyer of the Theme Shaper blog provided a more detailed explanation:

Universal themes are an attempt to bridge the gap between classic and block themes by layering a block theme to make it function. A Universal theme is a block theme that can be set using the Full Site Editor as well as more traditional methods. That means you may utilize the Customizer, Menus, and Widgets dashboards, as well as the Site Editor, in addition to other WordPress features.

I haven't seen many developers interested in building global themes. I'm not sure if any exist, or if they do, they're not listed in the official directory.

It's too early to say if they'll catch on with theme authors in the future. It's unlikely that supporting both traditional and contemporary WordPress tools makes sense for all but the most popular themes. Their authors may need to rewrite their code to include additional FSE functionalities and move from a classic/hybrid to a universal state. Some will surely satisfy the need if it exists.

For most people, the cost of support and maintenance would be prohibitive. For developers working with the latest WordPress features, a clean break from the classic is generally the best option.

It's difficult to name things, but it's critical to ensure that everyone in a debate is on an equal footing. Probably the most relevant distinction will be between classic and block themes.

I don't think the words are important to the ordinary WordPress user. They want to know if a theme has support for Feature X or Feature Y. Theme tags (filters) haven't been updated in a long time, and many are now obsolete. They may be worth examining to make sure we're still addressing user demands.

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