Full Site Editing Future Of WordPress And What It Means For You


August 10, 2021

WordPress is slowly evolving towards a complete Gutenberg experience. Here’s what to expect in the near future and what authors of popular themes say about the blocks-everything WordPress.

The recent WordPress 5.8 release marked a big step in introducing the Block Editor to areas outside of the page/post content. This includes:

  • Template editor for single-post pages
  • Blocks-based widget editor
  • New Query Loop block for listing content
  • An array of new blocks for displaying post information

Query Loop block

WordPress template editor

Block-based widget editor

As you can see, WordPress core is slowly introducing Gutenberg to every part of the website building experience.

The next huge step will come in WordPress 5.9 which is expected towards the end of 2021. It will introduce Full Site Editing, where everything you see on a page is a block. This includes the header, content, widgets, and footers.

Why Is Full Site Editing Such a Big Deal?

This is the most common and understandable question amongst WordPress users.

Most importantly, Full Site Editing gives you complete control over the whole site – using one editor and one workflow. So, for example, you won’t need to go to the Customizer to adjust any site-wide styling. You will be able to do it directly from the editor.

Also, as the template editor evolves, the idea is to be able to design any template a theme would normally provide the layout for. This includes single post templates, archives, and even products.

And this brings us to the big question.

What will be the role of the block-based themes in the future?

This is actually still a matter of (heated) discussion in the WordPress community because of many implications like:

  • What is then a theme for?
  • Who can edit the global styling on a site? (breaking things is easy)
  • How does dynamic content like custom fields fit into all this?
  • What if I want to mix blocks with custom, advanced features, and coded solutions?
  • Will there be performance implications?
  • How long will it take before Full Site Editing actually becomes usable?

Plus many more questions you can find in comments around the web.

In essence, themes will have to adjust and provide the basic styling while (admin) users will have the power to adjust anything. But also, it will probably lead to possibilities of building a whole theme using just Gutenberg.

And besides themes, this change will surely impact plugins as well. If your plugin outputs anything, it will need to be a block.

Finally, we don’t even know how things we take for granted, like custom fields, will work in this new workflow.

What Popular Theme Authors Say About The WordPress Future

There is an array of themes we recommend using with Toolset. They are all beautiful, fast, feature-full, and integrated with Toolset.

We had the pleasure of talking to people behind three renowned themes: Astra, Page Builder Framework, and Sydney Pro.

  • Sujay Pawar from Astra (CEO)
  • David Vongries from Page Builder Framework (Creator)
  • Charlie Livingston from Sydney Pro (Founder)

They shared their take on the future of WordPress and especially the role that they see themes will play in features related to Full Site Editing.

What is your stance on Gutenberg? As a theme, what are you doing, and to what extent, to support it? 

David Vongries
Page Builder Framework

Gutenberg for me is a bit of a mixed bag.

I enjoy it a lot for writing blog posts and wouldn’t want to go back to the Classic Editor but it is just not up there yet with other page builders when it comes to building full pages.

We have support for Gutenberg in Page Builder Framework since its early days.

The challenge is to keep up with changes in Gutenberg’s core. We had to redo or at least adjust our integration with every major WordPress core release. The Gutenberg project is moving forward very quickly and sometimes things like internal class names are changing.

From a theme developer perspective, it can be hard to find consistency in Gutenberg.

Charlie Livingston
Sydney Pro

We like Gutenberg and plan to support it fully. Our flagship theme, Sydney Pro, is already compatible.  

Sujay Pawar

We are heavily invested in Gutenberg and believe it’s the future of WordPress. Our theme already provides support for Gutenberg by adding default theme styling compatibility with the Gutenberg blocks. 

Our design team continuously builds new starter templates for Gutenberg and we are also constantly improving and adding new features to Ultimate addons for Gutenberg.

When you install Astra with Gutenberg, you will notice that blocks such as Button, Headings, and Paragraphs support our default styling. All these blocks inherit the styles from the theme Customizer so users don’t need to go to each block and add styling separately. They can set the styling globally from the Customizer.

Do you have plans to support Full Site Editing? If so, can you share more about your plans (or loose plans!). If not, why not?

Charlie, Sydney Pro:

We do. We are actually working on a brand new theme that will be built from the ground up to be Gutenberg-first (look out for an announcement from us later this month!). We are also working on a blocks plugin to be used in conjunction with the new theme. It will extend what you can do with Gutenberg.

Sujay, Astra:

Yes, Astra will definitely be supporting Full Site Editing. In fact, this will be the main goal when the Full Site Editing comes close to merging into the WordPress Core release.

Full Site Editing is still under development at WordPress, so we have not yet fully planned how Astra will work with it. Once we know for sure how it will all work, we will make sure Astra fully supports it.

Since at this point, themes cannot add blocks, we imagine the Astra + Ultimate Addons for Gutenberg combination will be much more tightly integrated in the future when it comes to Full Site Editing.

David, Page Builder Framework:

I want to wait a bit before jumping all-in with Full Site Editing.

We do plan to add support for it in the Page Builder Framework theme. However,  I want to wait for maybe the next 2 or 3 WordPress core releases, before fully committing to this.

Of course, that doesn’t mean we are not already exploring FSE.

What is the general feeling you are getting from your clients about Gutenberg and FSE?

Charlie, Sydney Pro:

We don’t get much feedback about it specifically. But we know that for those who care about performance, which is most people these days, they prefer Gutenberg. And for this and other reasons more and more people, over time, will choose Gutenberg over anything else. 

Sujay, Astra:

We think our users are very excited about the new updates from Gutenberg and Full Site Editing. They occasionally ask us about the compatibility of Astra with it so we definitely think there is an appetite for it.

David, Page Builder Framework:

The little feedback we got from our customers helped us to improve and fix smaller bugs in our integration. With Page Builder Framework, I try to leave as much to Gutenberg (and any other page builders) as possible.

I don’t want the theme to get in the way. The theme needs to get the basics right. With the theme, I want it to be a seamless editing experience where things are working just as the user expects.

I can imagine that 3rd-party plugin developers who focus on Gutenberg get much more feedback than we do.

We have introduced our first Gutenberg block recently but overall, the feedback on this and our integration has been minimal.

Can you share any other thoughts you have about WordPress 5.8, FSE, or the future of Gutenberg?

David, Page Builder Framework:

I would love to see the project slow down a little to focus on existing UX/UI challenges, consistency, developer documentation, and essential core features like responsive padding & margin controls – just to name some.

I’m still curious about what the future holds and how Gutenberg evolves. I’m reading pretty much all articles on it to stay on top of the development process.

I would personally just love to see it taking a few steps back and getting the basics right before making further steps forward. This would be something I’m sure 3rd-party developers and the end-users would benefit from.

Charlie, Sydney Pro:

Full Site Editing will be a breakthrough for WordPress that will set the stage for the next few years. We are looking forward to users being able to do more things natively in WordPress without plugins and to make site editing simpler and faster.  

Sujay, Astra:

The Astra team is continuously working on testing and getting all the blocks styled correctly in the new editors, including the one for widgets.

The theme.json file is another welcome addition. We are already working on finding ways to make the most out of it as we think it will hopefully simplify CSS overrides for the default block editor styles.

Wrapping Up

As you can see, interesting times are ahead of the whole WordPress ecosystem and community.

While the general concept of blocks-everywhere future is exciting, many users are still left wondering when the whole project will come to the stage when it can be used on production sites.

Also, most theme and plugin developers seem excited by the possibilities but that excitement is often hampered by the sweeping core changes that each big release of WordPress introduces.

What is your take on the future of WordPress? Does the prospect of Full Site Editing excite you? How do you prefer to build websites?

Let us know in the comments!


Comments 27 Responses

  1. I hope the classic way will never go away. I don’t have the flexibility that I want with Gutenberg & Toolset. Only the classic version (types & views) works.

    • Hi, Gille! I think it’s safe to say that Full Site Editing is in its very infancy. But the long-term implications of it are… Interesting to say the least. It’s always interesting to hear WordPress users’ thoughts on the subject.

  2. Gutenberg may very well hail the end of my site-building career; I’m digging in my heels and don’t want to spend the time to learn to use a clunky tool to replace quality tools that I’ve spent years mastering. Queue violin music and tears.

    Customers have a hard time being told that they need to pony up a bunch of cash to fix something that wasn’t broken.

    Perhaps had they waited to finesse the editor interface and output until it actually worked well and looked good I might not be so bitter about it. But the 5 million+ installs of the “classic editor” plugin should be telling the developers to slow down and re-think things. They are miles behind Beaver Builder and Elementor.

    • Hi, Valeria! Honestly, I don’t think you need to worry just yet. It will take a lot of time before Full Site Editing is a tool that allows you to actually develop a full-blown site from scratch. However, I think it’s worth spending a bit of time to keep track of how the project is evolving and try it out on a test site from time to time. You can also consider raising different issues on WordPress.org and get involved with the community. Often, it’s not the idea that is the problem, but how that idea is implemented. 🙂

  3. Yes, only Types and Views. I and all my clients don’t need visual editor – Gutenberg. WordPress becomes a constructor for advanced users. It is no more simple for user and convenient for developers. The only hope is wordpress + classic editor + types & views.

    • Hi, Bohdan, well the idea is exactly the opposite, to make things more simple, not complicated. But again, that will obviously take time. But if you had to pick the biggest issue you have with developing sites with Gutenberg and Toolset combination, what would it be?

  4. Hi Dario

    Thanks for the feedback. The problem is that Gutenburg is nog user-friendy at all. It tried it several times, always trying to go for it. I always stumble on gutenberg-toolset limitations that I don’t have with classic types & views. Often small things that cannot be done but it destroys the foundation of a well build toolset view. For simple things ok… I guess it’s good but for complex constructions it’s not recommended. classic Types & Views always delivers.

  5. I really like gutenberg and think that it’s is user friendly, as long the user isn’t used to the classic editor 😉 Toolset blocks makes many things easier if you want to work fast from the scratch. But I really would miss the legacy editor for more complex views. Hope that Toolset finds the right mix between usability and possibilities.

    • What do you think their input should be, how do you see them contributing to the development of Gutenberg and Full Site Editing?

  6. Hi Toolset people. Cool article. With changes comes more and different complexity and opportunity. The “sky is falling” commentary is a revolving narrative in the IT world. Complacency is not rewarded online. I foresee more Gutenblock development and less theme and even less meta field inputs but rather custom block development. Where I was developing websites of the years, I am know building more Gutenberg tooling that allows WP implementation. I can appreciate how the onus falls on clients who will have to pony up cash to adapt. I’m careful when building with WP in educating the client they are inviting a tool that will require maintenance in supporting customizations. As always. I still sell static websites when a CMS isn’t going to be used. What allows me to stay in this business is this constant, albeit uncomfortable, evolution.

  7. Having been eventually persuaded to use Gutenberg I have got used to it now, and dislike that some things still have to be done in Toolset Views Legacy.

    My main concern with anybody being able to edit the layout is, as mentioned in the article, them breaking it; I think the majority of people I do websites for will indeed break it! With that in mind it would be so good if you could have another user, say ‘developer’, that has access to all that, while admin has only access to things not to do with the layout.

    • On the other hand, if clients break their sites, it will mean more work for developers coming to their rescue. 🙂

  8. What do you see as the future of page builders like WP Bakery and Elementor? WP Bakery (when not bastardized too much by a theme builder) has the perfect flexibility I need. I’ve also found SiteOrgin page builder to be more and more flexible (and it’s free, which is nice). Do you think web developers and theme builders are going to give up on using these because of Gutenburg? I’ll be honest, part of my job is to show my clients how to update the content on their own site. The simpler, the better. I find Gutenburg complicated to view and sometimes clutzy to work with. So, for me, I always have to keep in mind that it’s not just me that needs to be able to understand how it works. It’s also my client.

    • I don’t think Gutenberg on its own can catch up with page builders. However, other plugins using Gutenberg could. But for this to happen, the “powers” behind Gutenberg would need to give plugin and theme developers the means to do so (APIs, stabile core, etc.).

  9. A lot of comments here are expressing worries about what this all means for Classic/Legacy Toolset. It is my understanding that anyone who uses legacy Fields/Views will continue to be able to do so within Gutenberg. Is this correct and the worries unfounded?

    • Hi, Nick! Yes, classic/legacy Toolset is not going anywhere and we will keep supporting it. 🙂

  10. Again, I come the discussion with mixed views on the block editor. In its basic form it lays the foundations for something solid but I fear, like many suggest above, that the pace of development towards FSE, without some consideration for standards around things like padding and margins, that this could lead to a framework that outputs sites that lack sophistication and are limited by the confines of the editor, if said editor dictates how all WordPress sites are built.

    I said it before, and I say it again, the block editor needs to have been limited to a fixed number of blocks for main elements and layout. To this should have been added a powerful API which plugins and themes could hook into to provide their own bells an whistles and UI. All page builders should have been encouraged to get on board and a broader input from the community would have enriched the project. A standard would have been set where, if you disabled the plug-in or theme, or switched to another, the page, with content, would retain its layout.

    Many above have alluded to stuff being broken by users and, in its current incarnation, the block editor encourages adding multiple versions of the same thing, leading to bloat, block plugins being disabled/deleted and all sorts of disaster scenarios.

    The article also puts a question over where will fields be left? This is telling because my understanding is that the aim of the block editor/FSE is to move away from the tried and tested design concept of separating layout from concept, where all this is married via templating. It puts a question mark over dynamic content and how that is best implemented.

    I find it curious how Toolset’s implementation of templating and views via the block editor is far superior than the Gutenberg projects success with it so far. And, having the fall back to Toolset’s traditional templating with raw html/css/js is a must for edge case custom and experimental design.

    Another little gripe I have with the Gutenberg project is in terms of documentation, support and feedback. The channels for this is poor where one is directed to channel discussion and requests via labyrinthine gutHub. Find for developers but not for mere mortals. This just highlights a contradiction: the block editor and FSE is supposedly built for ease of use, hey anybody can use it, but, at the same time you must be a Java script guru developer. As we might say in Ireland WordPress now thinks it is from Cork and has developed notions.

    But my faith is with Dario when he says, it will take a while for all this to pass… I’m hopping about twenty years when I’ll be just right for retirement!

    • Thanks for the comment, Stephen. I think you touched upon an important thing there by mentioning documentation, support, and feedback when it comes to the Gutenberg project. I couldn’t agree more that these are very lacking, especially the part about user feedback. There are many valid comments and suggestions just in the comments of this article, let alone in the comment sections on WP.org and other prominent sites. I think it would be wiser to process and implement positive suggestions than to ignore the community that made WordPress what it is today.

  11. The Gutenberg project is just adding code bloat and bringing me absolutely no benefits at all.

    Since they are clearly going all the way with it, just leave me with Classic Editor, Classic Widgets and Classic Whatever It Is that will turn off Full Site Editing.

  12. I wish the Gutenberg user interface would be improved first, before any new bells and whistles are added. I still find it a nightmare to work with, and whenever possible stick to the ‘classic’ editor.

  13. @Dario
    >>On the other hand, if clients break their sites, it will mean more work for developers coming to their rescue. 🙂<<

    Ha ha ha. Yes, true and good for most developers, but sadly not for me. I include maintenance in with hosting

  14. Thanks Dario,

    There are certainly many plusses to having the block editor to hand. I mainly use it for small amounts of free form content creation that is in the domain of the post content and then slated into a page template, whether that is theme, Divi layout or Toolset template. All together this is very flexible, enough to create some stunning site designs. It would be a shame if team WordPress were to add limitations to this.

  15. I am using Beaver Builder + Beaver Themer + PowerPack Addon for Beaver Builder and I must say that Gutenberg block editor is not even a closer match for the page builders.

    I have tried block editor and I find it very complicated & difficult to use. Furthermore, I don’t think Gutenberg will entirely replace page builders. Page builders have their own ecosystem and advantages. It is the countless efforts of the developers who have developed a visual design tool to build & design WordPress websites a child’s play.

    I remember when I first started working with WordPress, everything was a nightmare. Either write our own code or rely on dozens of plugins to achieve the desired output. But page builders completely changed the way of building & designing WordPress websites.

    But at the end, it will narrow down to one’s personal preference and what they are comfortable with, but for me, page builders will always be my first and last choice.

    • Thanks for the comment, Alok. Do you think Gutenberg’s growing ecosystem of plugins will someday make it just as viable an option as page builder plugins and their addons?

  16. My personal experience so far is that Gutenberg is not as user-friendly as page builders are. It is a lot of playing around in the tight space, and then the module & styling options are somewhat limited when compared to page builders.

    Like I mentioned earlier, it will all come down to one’s personal preference & comfort level. Just because Gutenberg is not comfortable for me doesn’t mean that it won’t be for other users. Other users might find Gutenberg more comfortable & easy to use than page builders.

    But for now, I am quite sure that page builders are definitely going to rule the market, and they will continue to because the developers have put in a lot of time, money & efforts into developing & building a visual drag-n-drop designing system which was once a nightmare for the average end-users a few years ago.

    As for Gutenberg, it is difficult to say where it will stand a few years ahead from now but considering the amount of modules, styling & customization options available in page builders, Gutenberg is going to have a tough competition. To survive the competition, Gutenberg will need to bring itself to the level of page builders and make it as user-friendly as page builders are.

  17. The benefits provided with elementor over gutenberg or the toolset blocks editor so great that it’s hard to believe that WP or Toolset will ever be able to match. They are working on just that while both WP and Toolset are working on their core features and then the editors as an after thought. Sure they may be hot and heavy on something now or tomorrow, but at some point, that development will switch gears, while Elementor and other page builders are working at it every day.

    Just look at views. Having to integrate views into an elementor template and all of a sudden I have to custom code css for the view as well as make changes for mobile responsiveness that in elementor take me 2 seconds, and possibly hours of effort in toolset. It’s frustrating for a web developer to have to go back into the stone age of page building because of stubborn position of trying to push elementor out. It’s just going to push elementor users towards another solution.

    Gutenberg is just ridiculous as a page building solution. Sure it may be better than classic for posts, but their clunky design makes it incredibly frustrating to do the simplest of tasks. Leave the page building to the pros, I say, and go back to making your core features work better, faster, and continue to work on what you are good at.