Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
Over the past 25 years, I've experienced an unbelievable amount of change. Some of it was good; some of it, well, while not easy, it was necessary.
At times, it has felt as if it is impossible to keep up. But I always pushed through because I knew to succeed, that's what you had to do. That is why today, I want to share my POV on WordPress's upcoming Full Site Editing (FSE) and how that may impact your website.
You've probably heard of builders and editor plugins (Elementor (aff), Beaver Builder, WPBakery). I'm not a fan of most editors in general, but many developers are. That's okay — everyone has a way of doing things that work for them. Rather than rehash that now, you can review my previous post where I talk about “builders.”
TL;DR: Builders provide the ability for website owners to customize their sites further above and beyond what any theme can do on its own. Without knowing code. Similarly, developers love the ability to customize websites in a way that they couldn't before when it comes to layout and element positioning and customization.
The downside is that with that design freedom and flexibility came website performance and ease of use issues. Sites were slower, and website owners were frustrated with the non-intuitive user interfaces and shortcodes that made swapping out to a new theme more difficult.
Enter Gutenberg. While at first, I was not a fan of Gutenberg, I dove in and loved it. You can add a block to any page to get the layout and design you prefer within the constraints of the theme you have in place.
Yes, it has taken some time to work out the kinks and tweak functionality and usability. That's what happens with anything new once it is released into the wild.
For non-techies, you now have more control than you ever have without having to know code. Some stayed with the “Classic Editor” that kept things the way they were for those not ready to make the switch to using blocks.
That was years ago. If you are still using the Classic Editor, time to make a move to Gutenberg. Deactivate the Classic Editor plugin, then go to any page or post and use the Convert to Blocks option. You can then tweak it to your liking and probably be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is.
The next big thing coming down the pike is full site editing (FSE). This means In July, WordPress intends on introducing FSE in WordPress 5.8. FSE will mean that themes will want to be FSE (block) compatible eventually. Don't worry; this has been in the works for a while and is not an on-off switch.
But with major changes come choices that have to be made. For this discussion, let's talk about themes.
What about your current WordPress theme?
Anyone who has worked with me knows I've been a fan of StudioPress (aff) from its inception. However, I've felt for some time now that StudioPress has not kept up with the latest developments, and their growth as far as new themes have stagnated.
Folks have been migrating to builders and other more feature-rich “builder” themes like Avada and Divi (aff). I also tried both but was not pleased with either the performance metrics and ease of use for my clients.
Divi has made some great gains in performance and is a viable solution for strident DIYers. Avada still has a pretty steep learning curve.
This website is currently on a StudioPress theme, Authority Pro. I chose this theme because it is Gutenberg/block enabled. Come to think of it; this is the longest I've kept the same theme for my site for this long.
But I knew that I would most likely not move to another StudioPress theme when I make the next switch unless they stepped up their game. So my radar was on.
That's when I made a discovery.
When the “World Wide Web” was created, then WordPress, then Revolution — which morphed into StudioPress and the Genesis framework — I had a gut feeling that led me to jump in.
For the first time in a long time, I had that same gut feeling again—this time with a new block theme called Kadence. At first glance, it seemed to check all the boxes I had been waiting for.
At the same time, it became glaringly clear how far behind Genesis/StudioPress had become. More than I had realized.
When I have some time, this website will most likely switch over to Kadence as well.
Change is Inevitable
When it comes to websites, technology, and even life — change is inevitable. That's because good companies and products look for ways to make sure that their products keep up. Or better yet are ahead of the curve. They take advantage of the “now” and what they envision the future will be.
StudioPress is now attempting to do that. They have announced that they will be archiving all but the following child themes so they can prepare for Full Site Editing support with Genesis block products.
If you are on one of the above themes, as long as you have not customized any of the theme's PHP files, it will be effortless to update when the time comes. FSE basically means the ability to use blocks for pretty much everything. All we have to do is upload the new theme files and overwrite the old ones.
StudioPress will continue to update all the other “archived” themes if security issues arise. Keep in mind that FSE is basically just giving theme developers the ability to “build-out” their themes to use blocks more comprehensively. Themes won't just stop working or break when 5.8 is released.
The Genesis framework and its child themes are not going anywhere in the near future. As long as you keep everything up to date, which you should do with any theme, you're good.
Moving forward, the Genesis Framework will no longer be needed. This is because everything is moving to all blocks. Now, there will be Genesis Block Themes.
For those websites on other StudioPress child themes that want to stay on the Genesis Framework, in the long run, only the themes above will be updated and supported with the latest and greatest. Whatever that may be.
So you have a decision to make.
Genesis is Here to Stay
StudioPress has made it clear they are supporting the Genesis framework and their established child themes. However, with that, you won't have the latest and greatest that new block themes will offer.
Technology will keep trucking along — with or without you. This concept applies to other WordPress themes as well. I smell an opportunity to jump on the FSE bandwagon before everyone else does, and it is yesterday's news. Then again, that's always how I've rolled — ahead of the curve.
StudioPress also announced that they would no longer sell 3rd party themes made by other developers to work with Genesis. Nor will they sell themes for a 1-time fee. StudioPress block themes will only be available for Genesis Pro subscribers and WPEngine hosting accounts.
If you are on a third-party Genesis child theme, you'll want to check with that developer to see what their plans are moving forward. Are they updating, archiving, or ?.
In the case of one of my favorite StudioPress theme shops, Restored 316, I was pleased to find out that they are not only updating their most popular Genesis child themes but are now making themes for Kadence too. (Great minds think alike?)
What does that mean for you?
As you know, I only recommend what I use for my own sites. This allows me to keep tabs on companies, their product, and support. I'm glad to see that StudioPress is making these changes and moving forward to utilize FSE in WordPress 5.8.
Maybe they should have concentrated on their theme offering much sooner. But, as they say, better late than never, right?
Pairing things down and concentrating on only their own top-selling themes is a wise move. This indicates they are a solid company and not going anywhere.
At the same time, the lack of progress over the last couple of years caused me to look elsewhere. (I'm not alone either, as I have seen rumblings about StudioPress in other groups that I frequent.) And when I did, I discovered a block theme that blew StudioPress, in my view, out of the water. Kadence.
Here's what you have to consider:
- You can stay on your current setup. But it wouldn't hurt to review your situation and options. Whether it be one of the StudioPress child themes, new Genesis FSE supported block themes or a platform like Kadence. At some point, you will want to be on a platform set up for blocks and FSE.
- Regardless of what WordPress theme you are using, if you are still relying on the Classic Editor plugin, time to turn that off and become familiar with blocks.
- You can set up a staging area on your hosting to play with your site without the Classic Editor plugin so you can get used to blocks. You can also try other themes before making a switch on your live site.
Regardless of what WordPress theme you are on, you want to check with the developer of the theme to find out how they will be addressing WordPress with Full Site Editing.
The Future is Now
I usually don't advise folks to make a switch just because I have. I quite often tend to be ahead of my time. Usually, website owners have more than enough time to stay in their safe space until they are ready to make the necessary decisions.
However, in this case, this is a situation I recommend that you have on your radar, think about, and plan accordingly. The last thing you want is to have a site that isn't up to speed (literally), isn't using the latest technology (you're left behind), or ends up breaking with a future update (Ouch!).
At your service,