The Gutenberg team released Gutenberg version 9.3.0 on Nov. 4, 2020. With minor enhancements and the introduction of significant experiments, the latest version of Gutenberg is a clear step towards the future of full website editing.
The Gutenberg project is moving through phase two of its four-phase roadmap to revolutionize WordPress. Phase one was complete with the release of WordPress 5.0. Now, the team has shifted its focus to full website customization.
Once completed, the team will press forward to address collaboration and multilanguage WordPress publishing.
The Release of Gutenberg 9.3.0: What’s New
The Gutenberg block editor was released to the WordPress community in 2018. As 2021 approaches, the editor now contains most of its planned website customization features.
In version 9.3.0, the Gutenberg block editor received a few minor enhancements to help with alignment, dark themes, and social sharing. However, the main focus of this version seems to be on the full site editing experiments.
Full Site Editing Experiments
The WordPress and Gutenberg teams continue to march towards full site editing. Gutenberg 9.3.0 includes several experiments aimed at facilitating the shift from widget-based editing to the block editor.
Removing Customizer and Widget Screens
One of the major tasks facing the Gutenberg Team is the issue of merging the new block elements with the classic widget elements.
The team is experimenting with removing the “Widget” and “Customizer” options in the Appearance menu. Instead, they have added a Site Editor function above the Appearance section.
Gutenberg’s team explains that full site editing (FSE) themes will use blocks rather than widgets, making the widget screen purposeless.
Likewise, the new Gutenberg website editor currently performs the same function as the classic Customizer. Thus, the Customizer screen will become redundant. The team is working to ensure that there will be no performance gaps when the Customizer screen is no longer used.
Several individuals in the WordPress community embrace this streamlined approach as a welcome and intuitive change.
However, there is still the issue of migrating widget-based themes over to FSE. Developers will either need a framework to convert widgets to block elements or some way to access a widget screen for non-FSE themes.
The Gutenberg team has brought up the possibility of hybrid themes that use both widget and block-based templates. However, there has been no work on hybrid themes yet.
Automatically Enable Website Editor for FSE Themes
As WordPress moves towards FSE, several developers have released FSE themes that work with the block editor rather than classic widgets.
Gutenberg 9.3.0 is running an experiment that will automatically enable the block editor when an FSE theme is installed and activated. Otherwise, if a classic theme is used, then WordPress will keep the Customizer, Widgets, and Navigation menu sections.
In other words, the WordPress frontend experience will automatically reflect the editing tools relevant to the active theme.
It should be noted that FSE is still experimental. While there are FSE themes available, full site editing is still in progress. The new website editor will still be undergoing several changes and experiments before it’s finalized.
However, if you are interested in testing an FSE theme for your website, Ari Stathopoulos has released the experimental FSE Q theme.
Minor Gutenberg UI Enhancements
In addition to major FSE experiments, Gutenberg 9.3.0 also includes several user interface (UI) enhancements.
For the most part, these enhancements aid in the organization of block element options. For example, the alignment options will now be displayed in a consistent order, and post format options are now displayed alphabetically.
The Gutenberg team has also improved the UI for dark mode. Specifically, the placeholder font for captions, quotes, and pull quotes has been updated for better readability.
Finally, the Social Links block welcomes three new platforms to the family. Users can now link to Patreon, Telegram, and TikTok accounts.
Looking Ahead at WordPress 5.6
Gutenberg 9.3.0 is a clear step towards the future of full site editing. WordPress plans to release WordPress 5.6 on December 8, 2020.
WordPress 5.6 will take many of the Gutenberg updates and experiments and make them a part of WordPress Core.
The new WordPress Core aims to include navigation blocks, an FSE-compatible default theme, and PHP 8 support.
Revolutionizing the WordPress experience will not be simple. There are still obstacles on the horizon, including the migration from a widget-based experience to a block-builder.
However, current experiments running in Gutenberg 9.3.0 give the WordPress community insight on what the inevitable migration to block-based website building will look like.
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