296 – Gutenberg, FSE, Block Themes (Variants), Blocks, Rich Tabor on the whole lot

296 – Gutenberg, FSE, Block Themes (Variants), Blocks, Rich Tabor on the whole lot

Interview with Rich Tabor and Nathan Wrigley.

So if you’ve kept up with the latest developments in WordPress then you’ll have heard the words / phrases ‘Gutenberg’, ‘FSE’, ‘Block Themes’, ‘Blocks’ and a lot more. You’ll also likely have heard of our guest on the podcast today, Rich Tabor.


GoDaddy Pro

He’s been in the WordPress space for many years working in the theme space, but now he’s shifted over to all the ‘new things’, and is making waves.

He’s got some monumental projects on the go (see the links at the bottom of this post), and is on the podcast today to talk about where WordPress is at right now and what he’s hoping for in the future.

Broadly, we cover the following questions:


What’s got you excited right now?

Even with my theme developer hat on, I’m finding it easier and easier to create block themes ~ within ~ WordPress. I’m positive one day (soon) this will be the norm.

Fun aside: I started, and nearly finished, Wei on the flight back from WordCamp Europe. A couple years ago, this would’ve taken weeks — at least.

Rich Tabor

What are the 1 or 2 things that you use when you try to persuade skeptics about Blocks / Full Site Editing, etc?


WP Builds Black Friday Deals Page

What are you working on right now?

Explain theme.json!

What’s Extendify doing these days?

Tell us about the idea of a base theme? Do we even need more than one theme?

What’s stopping the adoption of FSE right now? Do you think that any of it is confusing / sub-standard? Did things like navigation need to be blocks?

Is the UI all that it should be?

Is it as easy to work with blocks as it is with, say, Elementor?

I keep hearing messages from people saying that it all seems like a train crash in slow motion! How do we persuade people to spend the time required to get up to speed?

It’s a lovely interview with a very thoughtful guest, and if you’re trying out the ‘new WordPress things’, or are just looking for a reason why you should, then this episode is for you!

Mentioned in this podcast:

Extendify

Rich’s primer on Block Plugins:
richtabor.com/block-plugins/

A new era of WordPress themes is finally here:
richtabor.com/a-new-era

Iceberg. Write beautifully in WordPress:
useiceberg.com

Wei: A Free Minimalist WordPress Theme from Rich Tabor on WP Tavern:
wptavern.com/wei-a-free-minimalist-wordpress-theme-from-rich-tabor

Meet Wabi, a WordPress block theme for writers and publishers:
richtabor.com/wabi

2 Comments

  1. […] Nathan Wrigley interviewed Rich Tabor, early block adopter, now design director at Extendify in the 296 episode of the WPbuilds podcast: 296 – Gutenberg, FSE, Block Themes (Variants), Blocks, Rich Tabor on the whole lot […]

  2. […] Nathan Wrigley interviewed Rich Tabor, early block adopter, now design director at Extendify in the 296 episode of the WPbuilds podcast: 296 – Gutenberg, FSE, Block Themes (Variants), Blocks, Rich Tabor on the whole lot […]

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Nathan Wrigley

Nathan Wrigley

Nathan writes posts and creates audio about WordPress on WP Builds and WP Tavern. He can also be found in the WP Builds Facebook group, and on Mastodon at wpbuilds.social.

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Transcript (if available)

These transcripts are created using software, so apologies if there are errors in them.

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[00:00:00] Nathan Wrigley: Welcome to the WP Builds podcast. Bringing you the latest news from the worth rest community. Now welcome your hosts. David Walmsley, a Nathan Wrigley.

Hello there. And welcome once again to the WP Builds podcast, you have reached episode number 296 entitled Gutenberg FSC block themes, variants blocks, Rich Tabor on the whole lot. It was published on Thursday, the 22nd of September, 2020. My name's Nathan Wrigley. And just before we get to Rich and the interview with him, a few bits of housekeeping, if you like, what we do at WP Builds, we would really appreciate it.

If you want to share your love of the content that we create head over to WP Builds.com/subscribe. You can subscribe to the newsletter over there, but feel free to just use your own initiative. Share it on your favorite social platform? Our Twitter handle is at WP Builds, but also if you fancy going into your podcast, player of choice, for example, something like apple podcasts and giving us a review, we'd be most appreciative.

Another page that I always mention at this point is our deals page WP Builds.com/deals. It is a bit like black Friday, but every single day of the week, searchable filterable, WordPress deals, coupon codes, significant amounts of WordPress products. So check that out. And also I keep plugging our social install of mastered on it's at the URL WP build social.

It's a fairly quiet environment at the moment, but you never know if. Plugging away at it. It may end up being something like a Twitter variant. It's a web app called master on it's free and open source a bit like WordPresses and I've installed it over there. If you fancy quietening down your social life.

So that's WP Builds.social, and yes, that is a URL. This is the first episode of the podcast that I recorded since returning from my trip to San Diego for WordCamp us. And I would just like to say, thank you very much to anybody and everybody who spent time with me, it was an absolute pleasure what a glorious experience it was. And yeah, just a big, thank you for anybody that was able to hang out with me. And I apologize if I didn't get to meet all of you.

The WP Builds podcast is brought to you today by GoDaddy Pro. GoDaddy Pro the home of managed WordPress hosting that includes free domain SSL and 24 7 support. Bundle that with The Hub by GoDaddy Pro to unlock more benefits and to manage multiple sites in one place, invoice clients and get 30% of new purchases. You can find out more by heading over to the URL. go.me/WPBuilds. That's go.me/WPBuilds. And we do sincerely thank GoDaddy Pro for helping to keep the WP Builds podcast going.

Okay. What have we got on the show today? We've got a really nice one for you. We've got Rich Tabor. Now, if you've not heard of Rich Tabor before, this probably is going to be a wonderful episode because you're going to be introduced to not only a very intelligent person talking about all the new things in WordPress, but also.

You're gonna enjoy listening to his voice because it's truly soothing and wonderful. So that's what we talk about. We talk about Gutenberg, FSE, block themes blocks, and a whole lot more. Rich's a real expert. He's had his own theme business for many years. He's currently working with Extendi and he's really bullish about all of the new bits and pieces that are being added into WordPress.

Really? It's all about the future and what is coming down the pipe, what you might be able to make use of how you might be able to make use of. If you are fully into all of that, or even if you're a bit skeptical and you need a reason to start investigating, this is going to be a great episode for you.

I hope that you enjoy it. I am joined on the podcast today by Rich Tabor. Hello, Rich.

[00:04:22] Rich Tabor: Hey Nathan,

[00:04:23] Nathan Wrigley: it's glad to be here again. Yeah. Thank you for joining us once more. He's you've been on the the, this weekend WordPress show and we've also interviewed you on the WP Tavern, but always nice to hear what is the smoothest silkies voice?

I think in WordPress Bravo, having such a nice voice. I appreciate that. We don't really know where this conversation is gonna go. We've got a whole bunch of disparate show notes and we are just gonna meander our way through it without any particular direction. So bear with us. We may be incisive.

We may wonder a little bit, but that's gonna be part of today's experience. First of all, for anybody who doesn't know you Rich, do you wanna just give us the potted history of who you are and how you've come to be on a WordPress podcast? What's your history with WordPress and. Yeah, sure.

[00:05:12] Rich Tabor: So my name's Rich Taber and I publish on richtabor.com. I wrote pretty much you can follow along all my blog posts from probably 2011 or so when I first started really diving into WordPress Jumped in first as a designer doing, marketing emails and marketing landing pages for a local firm where I went to school and quickly moved into building and designing themes and decided I really wanted to understand the underpinnings of WordPress.

So I started diving into engineering and that quickly fired off into the world of blocks in Gutenberg when that started becoming a thing. And I remember sitting down. After WordCamp us. When Matt Maag first mentioned to learn JavaScript deeply, I remember going home and just really trying to build blocks and failing miserably.

I had no idea I had no idea what I was doing. I barely knew any JavaScript, but I took that. I took that to heart and really wanted to. To lean in. And that's what I did for the next couple years and made colos. My theme shop did pretty well theme beans, and ended up selling those to GoDaddy and working over there.

On the WordPress experience team, doing a lot of really innovative bits on the forefront of WordPress experience and really helping kickoff GoDaddy into that new era of WordPress. And and now I'm at, tify doing a similar idea of taking what we. The stage that we're at and WordPress that's that's all brand new and all, all fresh.

And trying to package that up into a solution that is accessible to everyone in a very innovative

[00:06:50] Nathan Wrigley: fashion. So extend if I, you can Google basically E X, T I N D I F Y X extend I, is it.com? It is. Yeah, extendi.com and you can see what Rich, amongst other people are doing over there. But basically it's it's like a library, a suite of patterns which rely on core blocks for 99.99 recurring percent of their functionality.

And it's very cool. And it's well worth checking out. Are you. In an excited period. Do you know? There's a lot of people who seem to be quite turned off by Gutenberg. You've obviously decided a long time ago that this was gonna be something you were to anchor your relationship to WordPress on.

You were gonna dive deep and so on. I, is this an exciting time? Did you find that it was a headache to get to the point where you are now? Was it a slog and and are you excited by what I don't know. Over the horizon, the next two, three. Yeah.

[00:07:45] Rich Tabor: I'm definitely excited. I feel very I don't know.

I just feel, I feel very like I'm in a very great. Time period of WordPress. And I feel like I'm in the right spot at the right time to really jump in on all this new stuff and to help push it forward. And I think this is a very opportune time to be both a very advanced developer and a very skilled designer and also very novice designer and developer the tools a couple years ago when I first dove into, Guttenberg and react.

We're very different than they were today. Today you can build a block in an hour, like you can really leverage all of the new systems that have been put in place. And then all the great documentation now to use what's called block J for example to turn on and off features that each of us individually had to write and spend hours on writing even two years ago.

So I think the improvements on that front have made it even more exciting because of the speed that you can really operate in. And then. Experience wise, like I really see this as an opportunity to consolidate the WordPress experience to where it looks and feels the same, regardless of how you use WordPress.

Yeah. So if you think of, the block experience, and then now we're leaning into the themeing experience and how themes can be evolved and switch on different sites and still run and look beautiful instead of having this time period of, this pain period really of resetting your site with themes.

And I think. We're halfway through this like big shift in WordPress to move in this direction. And this is the time to be here and I'm really stoked about.

[00:09:25] Nathan Wrigley: The excitement is obviously fairly palpable in your case, but there, there must be. You're wearing two hats here, aren't you?

Because in the past, when the whole enterprise of creating a theme was a difficult thing, there was obviously like a career in that, you could, yeah. You could trade your theme for dollars because it was difficult. I just wonder if you have any thoughts on whether or not that career.

Is gonna be the same in the future. In other words are you still going to be able, or I say you, people who are thems, are they still gonna be able to have a viable business given that the barrier to entry is gonna be so much lower?

[00:10:05] Rich Tabor: This is probably the number one question I get asked pretty much weekly by folks either on Twitter or an email.

I think that themes of the theme market has been changing. Quite significantly over maybe the past 10 years or so, like the ever since multipurpose themes and then block build or not block builders, but page builders started really becoming prolific. The theme market in itself has changed dynamically to fit into those models.

So instead of buying a. A standard theme that does no, that does not support elementary. You're more, much more likely to see a theme that does that better supports elementary building or other competing builders. I see this wave of innovation kind of sitting into that same boat. So now the block themes that are gonna come out are.

More tailored to supporting Gutenberg than anything else. And maybe only Gutenberg and only of course Elementor has its own design system that can lay on top of most themes. But but these are becoming more tailored for WordPress in general. And I think that's a good thing, but the downside is that, like you said, it's harder to sell something that's simpler or easier to make.

And but when I look at themes and I don't see them quite the same way, like I, I don't see them as like this. one way that your site could look, I see it as what is the goal? What is the experience that I want to provide with this theme? Like not the theme is not the end. All it's getting the actual website up in them and above the expectations of the user.

That's implementing that theme. And that's the area. If I was a theme developer right now, really pushing into the market to, I would turn in that direction. I wouldn't stay. Making generic themes. I would really

[00:11:48] Nathan Wrigley: try to go, yeah. Through experience. I'm guessing that at some point in the.

New pathways will open to making a career in this direction. We just dunno what they are at the moment, because the maturation hasn't really taken hold. Things are still in a sort of state of flock. And some people are in, some people are not in and as things mature and stabilize, maybe it'll become, with a bit of hindsight be, oh, okay.

That's where that career ended up, but we're not there yet. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:12:18] Rich Tabor: And go on. I was gonna say and also I think on Twitter, there was a conversation the other day about like we're really looking for that, like that big inspiration, who's gonna come out with something that really like sets like the new trajectory of how themes are sold or how theme marketplaces work, or even full sight editing. There's a, there, we're at that point where that's a, I feel like that's at the that's about to happen. And when that happens, we'll start seeing more. More folks diving in on the product side, because right now there's just so much unknown out there. Yeah,

[00:12:49] Nathan Wrigley: I suppose in a sense, it's a bit like when true wizzywig page builders came around the, as soon as the shoe dropped over there, all the other people who had aspirations to build.

Their own product in the WordPress space where, oh, okay. Here's a, this is the way we can do it. We can leverage something which looks akin to that. We've got our own way of doing it, but we can leverage that. And we just need somebody to figure out what that is, which is really interesting. And, but you feel you palpable that it's palpable that this is gonna happen soon.

We just can't quite grasp it just yet.

[00:13:22] Rich Tabor: Yeah, I think there's a lot of folks that are experimenting in trying to figure out what works and keep up with the pace of development with word within WordPress. And even over the last year, the advances six 6.0 in the upcoming 6.1 release are going to push out are really letting folks leverage the themes and the blocks in a whole different light.

I'm really looking forward to those. Yeah.

[00:13:48] Nathan Wrigley: What do you say to people who push back against Guttenberg and they just see it as a thing that's been foisted upon them. They see a UI, which in some cases looks like this one day and then a few weeks later looks entirely different. It's being built.

Some people, would level the argument. That basically is a beater, as we say here, beta, I guess you say , product, which is evolving. In core and therefore find it a little bit difficult to take, they want it to be stable. They want it to be able to explain everything to their clients so that they don't have to keep going back to them.

Are you Sangin about this? Do you feel that this was done in the right way that the iterative approach in core pushing everything to live was the right way to do it? Or do you wish that maybe it had matured to a certain point maybe to where we're at now? For example, before it got dropped,

[00:14:39] Rich Tabor: Yeah. That's a tough question, but I don't think we would have iterated to where we're at now without getting it out there. Yeah. I think that I'm much more I'm very iterative, like in how I work. I really strive for the MVP than rolling out. Real products and then finding out like, what's happening, like, how are people responding to this?

What are they hitting? What hurdles are stopping them, what's empowering them and getting feedback. And we're doing that at a huge macro level within WordPress. And, I think there were some decisions that maybe could have had more time and, or needed more time. But at the end of the day, I think, like I said if we wouldn't have rolled it out and actually run with this thing, we, I don't think we'd be where we're at.

[00:15:22] Nathan Wrigley: So if you were to put, if you thinking about the landscape as you know it as of today, so we're recording this in August, 2022. What are the things that are going on? You can name names, product names, people, names and so on things that are exciting you, that you've seen things that have made you set up and think that's interesting.

That's quirky. Didn't see that coming that's novel. I like that. Yeah.

[00:15:47] Rich Tabor: Let's see. Anna Skoda and Ellen Bauer, the, those two are leading the theme front commercially, I think that they're coming up with interesting ideas and really trying to really two different approaches to theming.

One, Ellen's taken IO blocks like her block theme blocks and block themes collection and steering them in into its own framework. Anna, it's going the opposite way of trying to keeping a little bit closer to WordPress core. And I'm curious, how those are gonna to come out and how those are gonna move forward when Anna just released a, like a WooCom specific block theme, which is also very interesting.

I think again, leaning into the experience that you're providing, not just. The CSS, from the female J on file. So those two are really doing well. I love all the work that like Brian Gardner is doing. And Nick Diego, like all the communication around what's possible in WordPress with the, with this new arrow, WordPress and really they're leaning in on it.

I know GoDaddy's been doing a lot of work more behind the scenes, but they've been doing a lot of work on improv. The first touch experience within WordPress and how you start off with the site. Tify, we're leaning in on the same area we're building. It's it's internal ish right now, but we're building basically a way to get sites delivered to that are configured for you on the.

Based on block themes. So like a block theme at JSON file is delivered to your site and it really lets you style your site, how you have indicated you wanted it done. So if you say that you're a musician, we can show you styles that are derived for musicians and that really get something started and using our layouts library, we're able to plug those onto pages for you and create them on the fly.

So we're leaning. On building whole experiences that really leverage everything that's out there instead of just looking at the individual blocks or individual themes. Can we,

[00:17:46] Nathan Wrigley: can we dive into that? Cuz that seems really interesting to me. So this is on the extend I side of things and you couple that with.

You, you were talking about GoDaddy and the way that they were trying to onboard people into WordPress with their version of things. And then you started mentioning the way that you are doing that in Extendi. Can you just elaborate that a little bit? In other words, can you describe what that may look like?

So if I log into, is this for people just using WordPress perhaps for the first time, and I don't mean that they are using it for the first time, but they've got a vanilla install and they put, extend I on, and then you chaperone them through with a bunch. Options and choices, which lead them to some basic starting.

[00:18:28] Rich Tabor: Yeah at tify our avenue, it's a bit different from what GoDaddy's doing, but the idea at the end of the day is to deliver a site that's built for you. And GoDaddy and most others have a, like even score space has the method where you can pick one of a hundred.

Different themes. And that is your site. What we're doing is a little bit different where if you indicate that you are a musician and then you indicate like what your goals are, like, if you're trying to run an event or sell tickets to your show then we will generate the goal is to generate templates and layout designs.

Within a style that might be appropriate for musicians for you. And then you pick the best one that you like. And we set up WordPress with those pages that you've indicated you needed. And with the style,

[00:19:14] Nathan Wrigley: what decision tree did you go down to decide what it is that so for example, you mentioned that you've, I don't know, you're a musician or something.

, obvious. There's a cold tree of careers that you could be there, a mechanic or a musician or a got a restaurant or something like that. How have you have you come to decide where to push to marshal your energies for that? Have you done a lot of kind of customer research or is it just based upon what you think people may wish to have?

[00:19:41] Rich Tabor: It's definitely based on research and a lot of testing and, in, in this different industries that we're supporting, we're going with, we're starting wide. Like I think we have 60 or so different industries that we support right now. Wow. . Yeah. It's, it's still wide , but,

[00:19:57] Nathan Wrigley: that's but

[00:19:58] Rich Tabor: it is, yeah, it's a lot but when you look at Ws, has like presets for like thousands.

[00:20:04] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. So but they've got millions and millions of dollars to they do, whereas you, it's just a, there's a handful of you, so that's pretty impressive.

[00:20:12] Rich Tabor: Yeah. And really we're, we're leveraging, you mentioned earlier, like we have a library of content, basically patterns that are built of core blocks.

That's what we're leveraging. We built that. For this vision. And this is what we see is like the next iteration of experience. Like the page library collection is very much like you have a site and you wanna add a new page or you have a site and you wanna augment your existing pages. This is to get you to that point where you have a site.

So we're going up the tree a little bit. But it's something it's super fresh. We're still experimenting a lot and it's not very public yet, but I'm allowed to talk about it. So it's cool. yeah, no, that's

[00:20:49] Nathan Wrigley: good. Yeah. the you remember in the day when everybody was looking on theme for, and they would find a theme and it promised to do all of this stuff and you would download it and get it going, and then you'd immediately figure out this is a disaster.

None of this is gonna work for what I need. Where I'm going with this. The I'm just wondering if we're, if you need to be mindful of that, you promise that, okay, you're a mechanic. We can sort you out with a website. The impediment isn't the creation of the website. The impediment is after they've clicked the generate website button, and then the ability to learn the UI and figure out the quirks of Gutenberg and blocks and how they all function.

Fantastic that you've got that, but I'm just wondering how much thought needs to be put in on the other side, when they've finally got the site and then need to modify it to their own needs. Cause I think the UI of Guttenberg is somewhat counterintuitive.

[00:21:43] Rich Tabor: Yeah it's not it's not the best interface.

I think that there's tons of work that can be done on it. But on that front, we're also working on another little drop here. Nice.

On a,

[00:21:57] Rich Tabor: On a, another sister product. That, that is really like unofficially we're calling it assist, like in the goal is to assist you with getting kicked off on your site.

So now we've got your site spun up for you in. The industry that you prefer with the styles and the images. And and now, like how do you edit your first page or how do you augment different images and whatnot. So trying to figure out a way to help walk through this is very exploratory right now, but that's something that we also see that pain point and want to help.

It's curious because you

[00:22:30] Nathan Wrigley: seem, you seem to have hit on the idea of the first two days of the WordPress website journey is the bit where your. You're pitching your energies. It's like trying to get people to be able to go from no website, vanilla WordPress install, just get 'em over those first few hurdles.

And I'm really curious that's what you're doing because. It seems very intentional that you are planting your flag at the beginning of the journey of the website. And obviously there'll be ongoing stuff, but have I got that right? Is that kind of where you see the promise, it's setting all this stuff up and making it work and getting the first few days onto your belt?

Yeah,

[00:23:13] Rich Tabor: I, I, that's the ultimate WordPress problem. Yeah. That's what everyone wants to solve this element or wants to solve this. Everyone wants to get to that point where. You're confident in your website as soon as possible. Like, how do you what does that look like? What does that feel like?

And how do you make it to where anybody can do that and not just get to that point where you're like I feel like I have to hire someone to finish this and it's a wreck, or you just never do anything with it because you hit too many hurdles and getting over that hump, is really what we're looking at and where we see some massive opportunity and.

The full say editing effort and block themes and blocks in general. Like we really see a configuration system where we can put all these configurations on your site in a way that is true to core, but also custom and personalized in a sense to you, like in it, it's like this system is enabling us to do this and without Gutenberg or block themes or full say editing, we would have to rely on external sources.

And then, then we introduce a whole nother. Wave of complications, turning to map stuff together. I'm

[00:24:18] Nathan Wrigley: I'm just about to open up a complete, I'm gonna go down a road, which neither of us are expecting. Let's see where this goes. The the stuff that you've described, if we were talking about creating text on a website up until very recently, that text has been generated only by humans.

And if you didn't employ a copywriter or did it yourself, it basically was a blank page. You had to do it, but now. In this curious period, it seems like the robots are taking over and the AI is becoming a core part of creating content for many people, even if it's just to kickstart an idea and give them some sort of some framework to work on and they can edit it and modify it themselves.

Have you got any interest in that area in terms of website building, like I say, a bit left field, the idea that. You would get AI to take you on that journey. You are a mechanic. You want to sell particular products, you live in this particular area. You go through your onboarding process, but there's like an AI component to that.

I dunno if that's anything you're curious about at all.

[00:25:26] Rich Tabor: Y I'm definitely curious. I don't know. a hundred percent, if I'm confident in that direction, but, I feel like that's one of those technologies that everyone's unsure about then one day, it's very sure. And yeah, and hopefully Gutenberg's the same way, that's what I see, but I think it's very interesting.

I don't know. The personalized part of it. Like maybe there's a point where the AI is personal enough and it can scrape your other social media platforms enough to where it can write your descriptions or your about page, like for you I don't know, like if it was almost like a more personal type portfolio or something, then maybe it like finds out where you went to school and it writes like I graduated and 2011.

And it can do that for you maybe at one point. But I do think there's still. That want to express yourself in a way. And on those kind of interactions and pages, maybe it's necessary to have something to start with, like what we're doing with the X Extendi, but still making it easy to tailor that.

So it's a better starting point maybe. Yeah. But who knows? Maybe one day. You click a button and your site's done for you and you love it. I dunno.

[00:26:36] Nathan Wrigley: Have you come across Dali D a L B, which I remember having the conversation about I don't think anybody was calling it AR artificial intelligence, but back in the day when I was, I dunno, 20 years ago, or something like that, when having conversations about the capabilities of what computers could do.

Absolutely sure. Like completely certain that art was out of bounds for computers. They couldn't do it. They never would do it because it was a human enterprise and it require. Consciousness or something, some spark that we've all got, that computers don't have fast forward to 2022. That's all in the bin.

You give something like Dolly a set of instructions, I'd like to see a cat on a pillow with a guitar or something and outcome 50 variations of that exact image. And they're all completely different. The principle being that it throws 50 things out at you. , in the hope that one of them.

Resonates. And I think that's where my conversation was going. Not so much more about, not so much about the text, but more about the idea that, a collection of blocks could be thrown together by an artificial intelligence, which could then put together 30 options for your website, which then you could browse and say, you know what?

That's closest to what I want. It's not perfect, but that's the closest one. Let's go with that as our starting point.

[00:28:01] Rich Tabor: I would say that what we're doing, ext, it's not AI driven , but it is smart systems. And categorizing behind the scenes that in the way that we're doing this, we're not building, everything that would just be too much to maintain, but we're doing it on the fly and or essentially on the fly.

And that idea that you just mentioned of having. A couple different variants to start with and to roll with and have a site that kicked up for you like that. That is what we want to achieve. That is like having the best, like having, like how do I get you with the best foot forward to be successful with your website?

And that's really what we're pushing on.

[00:28:38] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah it's really fascinating. Like I said, it just has completely taken me by surprise the capability of these kind of things, but also equally, people like you who have a Rich history of being able to create beautiful designs, you in a sense, become like the boutique.

The person who can charge potentially extra because you are not the AI in the same way that I can go to Ikea and order a cupboard. And it'll cost me a couple hundred bucks and it'll be just the same as everybody else's cupboard. But if I go to a carpenter, they're probably gonna charge me several thousand, but I'll know I've got the one and only done by a true expert.

And I wonder if maybe that's a, an interesting.

[00:29:19] Rich Tabor: Yeah, I think we'll see folks go in more upmarket. I think that's probably, maybe better that than staying low, the way that we're evolving.

[00:29:30] Nathan Wrigley: For sure. Yeah. You've got a couple of projects. Let's pivot a little bit. You've been you've been creating two that I've caught site of perhaps you can.

Tell me there's more, I don't know. But they both got fascinating sounding names. They sound a little bit like they might be Japanese or something like that. One of them is called WBI w a B I, and one of them is called way. I think I've pronounced that correctly. Yeah, that's right. Yeah. Do you wanna just tell us what these are?

What the intention was, why you've put them out there?

[00:29:59] Rich Tabor: Yeah. So they're both block themes. They're relatively simple lobby and way lobby. I'm actually running on my own blog, Rich taber.com. So it is the demo of the block theme. And I created w that's the first one I did. I created that originally to, and just like with.

Previous themes I've made in the past that I've run on my blog is to experiment and run all the latest stuff on my live website and have the latest type of theme, all the latest controls. And to really like really use this this new stuff and find out like where there are pitfalls, where can we have improvements and what are the things that I need to, or I feel like I need to share with others to help push this forward.

So wa was, I think it might have even been the first theme on. In the themes directory that has style variants. Oh, congratulations that out. thanks. It was fun. Like the idea, like that's such a new, fresh, oh, that's concept it's yeah. Yeah. It's it's like one, it could be as many themes as you want.

And one theme in a sense, like it, there's not there's a point where it doesn't matter anymore. If you's, if you're using one theme with a hundred variants or a hundred themes, if they're all blocked themes, as they're basic, basically the same thing.

[00:31:11] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, there's a nice spit about, I don't know, halfway down the page where you where you talk about the the star variations and you've probably got about th 20 or so, just listed there and you basically just click a button and everything immediately looks completely different.

And my understanding is that you can go real soup to knots with that as well. It's not just about changing background colors, you can change all sorts of things. You can really make it look different. And all you are doing in effect is as a user. Is clicking a button it's remarkable.

[00:31:43] Rich Tabor: Yeah, that's right.

And the reason, why and way both their styles, both look. They carry the same feeling. Yeah. Design wise that the parent style does, and that was intentional because both of them have, added a little extra where they could, you could swap the theme of a page, for instance, like you could have a yellow page or a blue page, like within the color styles.

But the new 2023 effort that I started a couple weeks ago is designed to be quite the opposite. So having. An array of styles that are very different. Yeah. And I'm excited to see like how far we can push that. I've got one that I've been working on this morning that I'm gonna submit and to see how we can push this thing and really flex what WordPress is capable of doing with just 20, 23 will be like a very simple block theme, but with, I don't know how many styles, but like that idea just seems really interesting to me.

I

[00:32:37] Nathan Wrigley: saw the video it was only about 15 seconds long where they. Going through a range of different style variations. And the theme itself was super minimal, almost like a wire frame. Yeah. There was no images. There wasn't even an image placeholder. It was basically a rectangle with a line stroke through it, just to give you the impression that was where an image would go and everything was changing.

The background color was changing. There, there was fluid typography there, the margin and the padding was all shifting and it was done in such a way. It looked elegant. It wasn't just a, you click a button and the page refreshes it all glided from one to the other, and you could see the transformation in front of your eyes.

And I did think it was incredibly impressive and I do love the idea. I think it was yours of just this one theme, the theme, the idea of just having a base theme where blocks go and you can use full site editing for it. And and that. The 2023 theme as will be maybe who knows what it'll end up looking like that felt like it was offering that a little bit.

There was a bit of promise there.

[00:33:48] Rich Tabor: Yeah. I think that it's gonna be very exploratory and, we have some of the more prolific theme authors diving in on it. So it's very interesting to see everyone coming together in a different way in a. Because the design hasn't been created and each of us are contributing to that.

And we're hitting a few roadblocks and we're pushing ideas back to core, and we're doing all the things, but on a bigger scale than most themes, I do think that I don't know that 20, 23 will become the default WordPress theme, like for, and I don't think we're the, quite there. That was one of my ideas a few years ago, but I don't see why we couldn't have a system.

Say you, you activate WordPress and you pick a theme, but all those themes are just a JSON file. Yeah. In a sense, like in, it doesn't matter what the default theme is per se, it could be pick one of these variants of 20, 23 could be the first touch experience of a WordPress site. We need something else.

I think then what we have today on that front. And and and what we're doing Xi is very tailored and very specific. But for WordPress, I think something more general. you do have some sort of style selector right off, like that could be very interesting and help you feel like you have a personalized website,

[00:35:05] Nathan Wrigley: like right off.

Yeah. I feel that there's something quite satisfying about going through that style selected right at the outset. And feeling like you've got ownership of things. And the reason that's orange is because I decided it was gonna be orange. It didn't just come for the right ad to go through that whole process.

You mentioned theme dot Jason. My guess is that 60, 70% of the people listening to this podcast will be fairly familiar with what that is, even if they've never touched it. But for the 30, 40% who don't do you just wanna outline what it does and why it's important in the.

[00:35:38] Rich Tabor: Sure. Yeah. A theme that JS O is the core component of a block theme.

And it's essentially a configuration file for the theme styles. And all the block settings. So it was added, I think in 5.8. So it's been there for a little while now. Yeah. But when a, so in classic themes, that's what we're calling themes that support the older versions of WordPress a little bit better than a block themes.

Like those can still leverage a theme about J on file, but a little bit different ways. But for block themes in know, 5.8, moving forward a really 6.0 when block themes became a real thing with 2022 coming out, you. Enable and disable different features like drop cap, a padding support or even cut down custom colors so that you can't apply a custom color throughout your site.

Change the gradients, DT tones, font sizes. It's really a configuration level for the entire site design. It's

[00:36:34] Nathan Wrigley: it's very cool. I feel that the more people that get on that bandwagon, the more the promise of the whole block theme and full sight editing, it starts to make much more sense if you're just looking at it from the outside and you're just think I've got my page builder of choice.

I'm happy. As soon as you start to explore this kind of stuff, it the the sky clears a little bit, I think.

[00:36:58] Rich Tabor: Yeah. And there's advantages for the beginners who would never even look at the JS O file because you can take the global styles interface within full say, editing and manipulate, essentially that file from that interface.

And it's one system that is read by WordPress by the theme gets sub absorbed into WordPress, and then the user's settings get applied on top of that. So it's a way that if you don't know anything about code, like you can really still tailor your website in WordPress core. And then it's also very advantageous for the builders or the agencies as well, because you really do have a lot more flexibility today, even than you did a year ago on how and how tight the website is controlled, like design wise.

And you can tailor every little thing if you want, or, keep it very freeflow on like some of the, like the themes, like lobby and way are very free flow. Like you can do what you want with it, cuz I don't want to tighten those up, but for an agency being able to have one system, one JS O file.

Lets you manipulate how structured your site is. This is like very interesting and appealing.

[00:38:01] Nathan Wrigley: The I'm staring at the way site at the moment. And I've got to the full site editing paragraph. I'll link to the particular blog post that I'm talking about. Full site editing seems to be. Very much in flux.

Obviously the promise is excellent. How do you feel the implementation is so far? Do you think it's good enough for prime time? In other words, if you were I don't know, an agency building for clients, are you gonna be doing it this, would you be doing it this way or do you think there's still a way to go before it settles down and you can finally.

Really start using block themes and get rid of classic themes altogether. Because my experience with full start editing was clumsy to say the least I found it. I found it. Yeah, this is going back probably a month or so ago. I found it really difficult to get my head around it. And I was trying to be as.

I was trying to be as pathetic as possible if you know what I mean, I was trying to imagine that I didn't know anything and I was coming to it with fresh eyes. And how does this even work? What I click that. And then all of these suddenly there's a thousand child elements, and I don't understand what any of this is about.

It feels to me like this is somewhere where there's a lot of room for improvement, but I don't know what you think.

[00:39:07] Rich Tabor: I think that full say editing for simpler sites is probably fine, like on my blog, for example, running on that, I think when you get into more complex requirements, like if you needed a mega menus or a different sort of menu, mobile menu experience, like right now they're very tightly controlled within WordPress and it's not as tailored like small experiences like that.

Overall I think that the. Effort of full say editing has really been focused on the technology. Like how do we make this system work and less on the experience? And you can, like you said, Nathan, you can really feel that it's a little bit clunky and clumsy in, in areas. And there's been a ton of work on that front and there, but there's still quite a bit ways to go.

And before it feels delightful and, simple in a sense. But I think for a simple side. So I think you can run it

[00:40:02] Nathan Wrigley: fine. Yeah. I think that's probably fair if you've just gotta in, in my case the piece of the puzzle, which was difficult, I think was menus and things like that. And I found that interface quite confusing because everything now is a block and it just, I dunno, there was just some sort of disconnect I'm just not used to, and I'm wedded to the old system, which I actually really liked, but yeah, we'll just have to wait and see how that goes down.

Now, you alluded to the fact that. You've got a few projects going on. I don't know how secretive those are, but we'll be putting 'em out in the podcast anyway. Any other things which are gonna be happening for Rich and for extend, if I, and any other projects that you might be working on for the remainder of 2022, in other words, what's on Rich's roadmap.

On

[00:40:47] Rich Tabor: my roadmap. , at Exonify we're, like I said, we're very we're exploring all this new stuff and we're experimenting actively with it. So continuing to drive home on that front and this idea of onboarding custom site for very specific niches like that's very true to, to what I think our goal is for this year.

And we. Doing excellent on that front. So just putting more out there on that front, we're gonna update our website and really start talking about it pretty soon here. Personally, I'm the design lead for WordPress 6.1. So I'm really focusing, starting to turn my attention onto that and really driving a lot of Gutenberg and full site editing.

Experiences that I think that really need to be a little bit more tailored to better support like what we talked about with the making WordPress more delightful and simple. And so I've got some ideas on that front to push on. I might do another block theme. I have a few ideas locally that I've just been supporting with and really the idea with each of these is to put out something that others can experiment with and see, and we can discuss and feel out how.

Push black themes in a certain direction. So I've got some ideas on that front I might do as well. Yeah. It's,

[00:42:05] Nathan Wrigley: it's a busy roadmap. Rich I was say it's not without line items. Is it? It's a full Trello board. And you were about to say something else gone. I interrupted on Twitter. Yeah.

[00:42:15] Rich Tabor: I just, I wanna write more.

So I've been coming up like on Twitter. I've been sharing a lot more on Twitter and really just trying to I don't just be. I don't know if a positive voice is the right word, but just push out like the stuff that is really exciting and interesting and inspire others to, to take another look, because I know Gutenberg a few years ago.

Quite a bit rough. And the transition from classic to Gutenberg was rough as well. But things are totally different now. And it really is. It's inspired me to, pick, pull up my jeans and really run a little bit harder on this. So I

[00:42:49] Nathan Wrigley: wanna do the same. I have to say if your intention is to be what's the right word.

I want to use. Say if your intentions is to be a good member of the community and giving back and, giving out positive messages, all I can say. You are fully succeeding. You're talked about a lot and there's no way where you are not talked about in in positive ways. I think everybody that comes into contact with you and the work that you've done is incredibly impressed.

And the, I personally, the 6.1 design lead thing. Yeah. Just hats off for that. That's an incredible undertaking. Do you know roughly what kind of commitment is gonna be involved in that in terms of maybe time is the metric that we'll be talking about. Do you know how much time you're gonna need to put into that?

It's my

[00:43:37] Rich Tabor: first time leading a or being the design lead on for WordPress release. I asked a couple mentors and whatnot and other folks who've done it before. And they've told me roughly around five hours a week is what I would get. But it's one of those roles.

I think that you get out to get out of it, what you put in and. I've, talked with X Extendi and we're good with rolling forward because the better we make WordPress, the better it is for everyone including for what we're doing at xFi. And I think we think it's a very valuable place to put time and energy and I do personally as well.

So I. Excited about that friend. Big time.

[00:44:15] Nathan Wrigley: Last question. If that's alright and it's related directly to extend, I we've seen in the WordPress space, the plugin market has blossomed and many people have made amazing careers, but on the other hand, there's a lot of people who come along in their projects.

They last a little while, and then they struggle financially and they disappear and so on. So just wondering for those people who on the back of this podcast do end up browsing the extended high.com website is that project on a solid footing? Have you managed to find a user and customer base? That means that you are confident that project will be going for the days, weeks, months, years to.

Oh,

[00:44:54] Rich Tabor: a hundred percent. We, the library is really doing well and folks are really using it quite significantly. And it's grown. I don't know how many percent since I've joined even just in September, but it's grown quite significantly. And and we're, and that's the reason we're really leaning even further into this direction with this idea of launching your site with our tools with the library and whatnot.

So we're, and I've seen on, I've seen online a couple times recently, even like the idea of using the existing products to build new products with, and like the idea of sister relationships between the two and. That's something that we're leveraging a hundred percent and I totally am on board with that train because you have the customer, you understand the need and that there's a need right next to it.

And, or even further up the chain. And and that's exactly what we're doing and getting gonna keep riding that wave. I gotta

[00:45:46] Nathan Wrigley: say Bravo, because maybe this idea came across your desk and you could have dismissed it. Life could have been completely different or it could have just not taken hold or the team just didn't get along.

And to hear that there's now genuine industry, you've got a business and a career based upon stuff inside of the block editor. I just think that's great. And you a shining light for anybody else. Who's thinking about making that transition and moving over to blocks and block themes and all of that kind of stuff.

So yeah just Bravo. Well done. I think deserved and I hope the success continues.

[00:46:22] Rich Tabor: Thanks, Nathan. It is the present and future of WordPress. So yeah, I would encourage to take a look

[00:46:30] Nathan Wrigley: on board. Yeah. Rich Tabor. Thank you for joining me today. I really appreciate it. Yeah. Thanks for

having.

[00:46:35] Nathan Wrigley: I hope that you enjoyed that. An absolute pleasure chatting to Rich. Like I said, at the top of the show, he's a very intelligent person and has got all of the chops when it comes to the new things in WordPress. You've obviously been able to hear in the podcast episode, all of the different projects that he's involved in, both with extended fify the comedy that he works for, but also the projects that he's taken on and developing independently in order to push things like full site editing and block themes and all of that goodness into the future.

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Okay. As it was an interview episode this week, we shall have a chat with myself and David Wamsley next week. I hope that you are able to attend. We produce that podcast episode.

It comes out every Thursday, subscribe on your favorite podcast player and you'll get them automatically. But we'll also be back on Monday for our this week in WordPress show. I'm joined live. WP Builds.com/live usually by three other WordPresses. And if you want to join in the comments, we'd appreciate that very much.

So hopefully we'll see you at some point this week. If not, we'll catch you next week. All that remains for me to do is to say, have a good week, stay safe. Here comes some cheesy music. And boy is this one cheesy byebye for now.

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