Footnotes #452

Issue #452

“A rising tide doesn't raise people who don't have a boat. We have to build the boat for them. We have to give them the basic infrastructure to rise with the tide.”

— Rahul Gandhi



Summer has arrived (for those of us in the northern hemisphere), and it's nice to enjoy a relatively slow week in WordPress news…

As we approach the WordPress 5.8 release toward the end of July, be sure to take a look at what's coming — some really big, even momentous changes are in the works.

If you have not paid attention to what's going on with universal themes, block patterns, and full-site editing, take note of several of the news items on those topics below. There's some good reading on the other end of those links touching on the future of themes and WordPress itself.

A more accessible and less complex user experience will benefit everyone — from the broad base of common users to high-end developers and companies focused on delivering enterprise-class WordPress solutions.

— Cory

📆 Upcoming Events

  • The first WordCamp in Bolivia is happening now — from June 24-26. 🇧🇴
  • WordFest Live: WordFest Live is back on July 23 — a 24-hour celebration of all that is WordPress! 🧡 It's free to register.

WordPress 5.8 Beta 3 has been released for testing. 38 bugs have been fixed so far. 🐛

There are changes that affect the Block Editor and caching, bundled themes, and coding standards. The current target for the final release is still July 20.

Starting in WordPress 5.8, Greg Ziółkowski notes the block.json metadata file should be used as the canonical way to register block types. There are many benefits to this move, including (but not limited to) the WordPress Plugins Directory‘s ability to detect block.json files, highlight blocks included in plugins, and extract their metadata. 🔌

Milana Cap reviews some older default themes that are receiving some block pattern love in the upcoming WordPress 5.8 release. From the visuals she shares, these patterns add a freshness to old default themes in a way not seen before.

A feature request to allow developers to modify and extend the Site Health tabs in core has been implemented in WordPress 5.8. This allows developers to add their own interfaces to the Site Health part of the WordPress admin with accompanying tab navigation in the Site Health header. It can even extend another interface.

Marius L. J. shows off some code demonstrating all the possibilities.

Attention WordPress themers — there is a call for testing theme.json for Full Site Editing. 🧪

The theme.json file contains settings to enable or disable theme features and set default styles for a website and its blocks. It’s all done in a consolidated and canonical way.

Anne McCarthy describes theme.json as “a big part of what makes block themes so powerful as it allows for finer-grained control and introduces the first step in managing styles for future WordPress releases.”

If you haven’t heard of theme.json yet or you don’t know what it does for WordPress themes, then this post from Tammie Lister will inspire you to learn. She notes this is “the first major theme process change to core in years.”

The Block Editor Handbook has a big, beefy page devoted to theme.json that will get you up to speed. 🥩

Tammie says theme.json separates style from form (layouts) and starts us down a path where designers eventually will have all the tools they need to build themes without developers.

According to Tammie, “It’s not quite there, but eventually no-code themes will be possible.”

With the Full Site Editing project well underway, Ben Dwyer says theme developers need to be thinking about what the future holds for them — and Universal Themes might need to be on that list:

“We that know that the Site Editor is coming. Building themes [with it] will allow users to transition from classic themes to block themes when they are ready without requiring them to switch themes.”

Universal Themes could allow people to create sites using WordPress without the Site Editor enabled. Then, when the Site Editor is more mature, they could begin using it.

Kjell Reigstad has pulled together a handful of suggestions to help folks who are submitting patterns to the pattern directory. Beatriz Fialho, Mel Choyce, and Kjell are going to shift their focus to further refining and tidying up the collection for launch. 🧹

Chris Lema lays a pointed finger on what he thinks the future of WordPress will require — we’ll need to eliminate the time it takes to get started, eliminate the complexity of assembling a solution, and eliminate the blame game — “the blame we push to customers.” 😯

Tom Willmot, the CEO of Human Made, had this reply:

“Agree we need more packaged WordPress solutions that remove the complexity of cobbling all the pieces together. It’s what we are doing with Altis DXP, packaging what marketing teams need to deliver personalized digital experiences.”

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Joe Howard has announced that the WPMRR Community has been soft-launched:

“This community is an extension of the WPMRR podcast… But instead of just talking to guests and giving advice about this myself, we can put all our brains together in one place and help each other be successful.”

Charts Blocks for Gutenberg is a plugin for creating interactive charts in blocks. If the demo on the Github page is any indication, this looks like a good way to get a pie chart or bar graph on your site quickly. 📊

Will Morris discusses HTTP headers — what they are and how to add five security headers to a site.

If you run a site that sends a lot of emails and is considered a third-party service, then you might want to pay some attention to Amazon SES. Matt Shaw over at Delicious Brains digs into SES as an option for WordPress mail with a great walk-through. ✉️

Ian Jenkins shares some details on how Box UK develops enterprise WordPress sites. Ian starts with Docker, Monorepo, and Dictator. They also use Twig as their templating engine. How they install plugins is interesting:

“Our preferred setup is that a plugin is listed on wpackagist, which we add as a repository to our composer.json file. It mirrors all the plugins from the official plugin directory so most of the time a plugin is indeed listed there.”

When it comes to functionality that does not belong in the theme, “almost everything is a must-use plugin (mu-plugin).” 🔌

This week WP Engine announced the launch of Premier, their enterprise WordPress platform.

Premier offers security features and other items that belong in enterprise-level hosting: staging sites, developer environments, and automatic plugin updates. They also include custom blocks for WordPress. ✨

Local Pro from WP Engine will be free, and it launches next week — according to representatives at the WPEngine Summit conference this week.

Matías Ventura shared a video on Twitter showing a UI in the block editor that allows you to pick a different header without having to choose a different theme. Matías says “This video showcases a lot of work coming to fruition.” 👍

The Brave browser has introduced a Search beta. According to sources, all results come from Brave — not Google or Bing, although there’s a fallback to them depending on search results. Brave Search is advertised as a “privacy first search engine.” 🔍

I’ve just begun poking around Brave Search, but if you’re interested in taking a deeper dive into its algorithm and appearance then I recommend Roger Montti‘s in-depth post on the beta.

At the request of Joost de Valk, I read Kevin Indig‘s take on the end of amateur writing on the web where expertise is needed. (Joost has an excellent breakdown of the post on Twitter.) 👩‍🏫

Getting experts to write your content does raise your costs, but Kevin looks at a recent Google blog post about algorithm updates and concludes the following:

“creating content has lower barriers than ever before. The result is growing competition and rising content production costs. Longer content itself doesn’t cut it; you need better-looking content and expert writers.”

It looks like PayPal is doing a massive fee increase with new rates: 3.49% + 0.49 for domestic, 5% + $1 for international currencies. Apparently, there will be other price hikes as well. All of this goes into effect on August 2.

If you use PayPal, you might want to think through the impact on your business.

Joel Bronkowski explains how to get started with Paystack — which is now the preferred payments partner for WooCommerce in Africa. 💳

Todd Jones shares the lessons he learned from writing over 400 articles at MainWP. Todd says mistakes happen, so it’s important to keep to a system while also keeping the work fun and listening to your audience.👂

He also comments that “interview articles seem to do pretty well. I think that is because we are interested in people’s stories. Never neglect the power of someone’s story.”

Lauren Sternecky explains in some detail how The Events Calendar team tackled recurring events and why they needed to overhaul their system. She shares this because many companies often find themselves in a similar scenario — trying to fix “a problem that’s been plaguing your business for months, years, or even decades—without hurting your bottom line.”

There are a few items that Lauren shared that can apply to small agencies or even individual freelancers. On larger teams, the challenge was “allowing a subset of our team to be solely dedicated to the project” even as the company had other projects moving forward.

The focus and dedication of a small team can lead to more change than you expect. Lauren advises, “Don’t be afraid to start from scratch… which required dismantling the foundation of a system we relied on for more than a decade.” 👍

If you want to drop Google in favor of a privacy-friendly web analytics solution, then this recent list from Philipp Temmel is worth your time. The alternatives mentioned are also available in an Airtable database. 🔍

Now that SEO is taking performance optimization much more seriously thanks to Google‘s Core Web Vitals, some people think a web page’s Lighthouse performance scores correlate with their Core Web Vitals score. But is this really true? Rick Viscomi dives deeper into that question.

Rick concludes it’s better to use tools like Google Search Console‘s Core Web Vitals field data report if you want more accurate and actionable data.

🎩 Hat tip to Chris Christoff for bringing this to my attention.

What should be included in the 2021 HTTP Archive Web Almanac’s chapter on CMSes? Joost de Valk would love to hear your thoughts about this — because he is authoring that chapter! The 2020 version is still available online.

Code in PHP long enough and you’ll want to keep credentials and configuration values accessible to your code. It’s bad to have these “secret values” actually embedded in your code, so Chris Cornutt explores some ways to cope — with various levels of success. 👩‍💻

Cami Kaos covers some common questions involving the Code of Conduct that is associated with the WordPress Community Team — in particular, what happens if someone “does something wrong” — and if the problem is not resolved? 🤔

Cami says this is a rare outcome:

“when a swift end is put to the situation and no harm came to anyone, that’s usually the whole story of what happens.”

Video Picks

📺 Here is my video pick for the week:

Podcast Picks

🎙️ Here are my podcast picks:

Carefully crafted for you by humans.

The Post Status Team

— #452 —