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June 01, 2020

WPTavern: WordPress Names 5.5 Release Leads, Plans All-Women Release Squad for 5.6

WordPress’ Executive Director, Josepha Haden, announced the names of the leaders who will be coordinating releases for the remainder of 2020. Version 5.5, expected to be released in August, will be led by Matt Mullenweg, with Jake Spurlock as the coordinator and David Baumwald on Triage. Haden also named tech and design leads for the editor, media, accessibility, and documentation. This release is set to introduce automatic updates for plugins and themes in core. It will also add the Navigation block and block directory to core.

In November 2019, Haden tweeted that one of her goals was to put together an all-women release squad by the end of 2020, an idea that was well-received by the community. Although WordPress has already had women lead releases, the realization of this idea would be the first time in the project’s 17-year history that the entire squad is composed of women leaders. Haden began recruiting for the team in March.

“My hope is that with a release squad comprised entirely of people who identify as women, we’ll be able to increase the number women who have that experience and (hopefully) become returning contributors to Core and elsewhere,” Haden said in her initial proposal. “This doesn’t mean the release will only contain contributions from women. And if our current squad training process is any indication, it also doesn’t mean that we’re asking a squad to show up and do this without support.”

Last Friday, Haden named 50 women to the upcoming 5.6 all-women release squad, set to land in December 2020. This group includes women who have volunteered to participate, first by joining a “ride along” process for the 5.5 release cycle. Participants will join triage sessions and meetings, as well as collaborate on a 5.5.x point release in preparation for steering 5.6.

The proposed scope for WordPress 5.6 includes opt-in automatic updates for major core releases, full-site editing in core, a new default theme, and more. Squad leaders will be named in a separate kickoff post.

by Sarah Gooding at June 01, 2020 08:33 PM under WordPress

WPTavern: Ajay D’Souza Releases Popular Authors Add-On for Top 10 Plugin

Ajay D’Souza released the Popular Authors plugin last week, which is designed to display authors by the number of post views they have reached. It is an add-on for his Top 10 plugin and uses the underlying data to build the popular authors list. Websites with multiple authors could use it to provide further insight into what its visitors should read.

The Top 10 parent plugin is a page-view tracker and allows end-users to display popular posts. However, it also has the potential to serve as a framework for tracking or displaying various WordPress elements by popularity. For example, a developer could build a popular category plugin to show categories with the most-viewed posts. Top 10 includes an API for developers to build upon its data collection, which is what D’Souza has done with the Popular Authors plugin.

The version 1.0 release of Popular Authors is relatively basic. It provides the bare-bones features that are necessary for outputting a simple list of links. The plugin works well enough to provide a solution for users who need an easy way of displaying author popularity.

Both Popular Authors and Top 10 are alternatives to collecting view counts without relying on major companies or possibly running afoul of data tracking laws. All of the data is stored directly in the WordPress database. No personal data of visitors is collected. Both plugins should be compliant with the GDPR and other privacy-related regulations and laws. However, because the data is stored directly on the site as opposed to offloading it to a third party, it will use more resources to save that data on each page load. This is a minimal cost for most.

How the Plugin Works

Adding the Popular Authors widget to a footer sidebar.

Using Popular Authors should be simple for the average user. The plugin provides a widget named “Popular Authors” and a [wzpa_popular_authors] shortcode. Both methods of outputting the popular list offer several configuration options.

When installed and activated, the plugin gathers the data collected by the Top 10 parent plugin and sorts that data by post author. The primary options for both the widget and shortcode are the following:

  • The number of authors.
  • Offset (i.e., skip) authors at the top of the list.
  • Whether to display the post view count.
  • Popularity within a time range, which can be further configured by days and hours.

The time range option is arguably the most important. Without setting it, authors are sorted by all-time post views. Depending on the site, all-time data may not be representative of current popularity. Setting this option to use a more recent timeframe will sort authors more accurately on their recent posts.

The shortcode has far more options for configuring its output. For users who need extra control, they will likely find it more flexible than the widget. The shortcode documentation lists all of the available parameters.

It is worth noting that by installing the Top 10 parent plugin, it will add two extra database tables to your site named *_top_ten and *_top_ten_daily. This is necessary for data collection.

Future Plans and Features

While the current 1.0 version of the plugin is basic, D’Souza has plans to build upon this foundation in upcoming versions. Right now, he is taking it one step at a time and listening to feedback from users.

In upcoming versions of the plugin, he plans to add a global settings page that allows users to set up defaults for how the plugin outputs its widget and shortcode. Currently, they must set display options on a case-by-case basis. “From experience, regular users prefer a place they can set and forget global options,” he said.

D’Souza wants to provide users with improved display options. The popular list currently outputs a text-based list. However, the goal is to allow users to show an author avatar and possibly expose a grid-based display.

A couple of versions down the road, he hopes to have a block that is on par with the widget and shortcode. He is also researching how he could add support for the Co-Authors Plus plugin so that post views are counted toward all authors of any given post. Both of these features are slated for the eventual version 1.2 release. For version 1.3, he plans to have REST API endpoints for fetching the top authors list.

“I’m still working out other features, but again very open to receive feedback,” said D’Souza. “A lot depends on the take-up of this plugin.”

Most of these features will be follow-ups to work that is going into version 3.0 of the Top 10 parent plugin. D’Souza has some major changes in the works. “This will include the Gutenberg block to display the top posts with several configuration settings similar to the shortcode,” he said. “Another feature is to also introduce the REST API endpoints for getting the top posts. Plus, I’m also experimenting with how I can use it to update the count which is currently through Ajax. The latter is the more challenging part I believe.”

by Justin Tadlock at June 01, 2020 08:28 PM under Plugins

May 29, 2020

Matt: Stream Like a CEO

When Bill Gates was on Trevor Noah’s show it was amazing how much better quality his video was. I had experimented with using a Sony camera and capture card for the virtual event we did in February when WordCamp Asia was canceled, but that Trevor Noah video and exchanging some tweets with Garry Tan sent me down a bit of a rabbit hole, even after I was on-record with The Information saying a simpler setup is better.

The quality improved, however something was still missing: I felt like I wasn’t connecting with the person on the other side. When I reviewed recordings, especially for major broadcasts, my eyes kept looking at the person on the screen rather than looking at the camera.

Then I came across this article about the Interrotron, a teleprompter-like device Errol Morris would use to make his Oscar-winning documentaries. Now we’re onto something!

Illustration by Steve Hardie

For normal video conferencing a setup this nice is a distraction, but if you’re running for political office during a quarantine, a public company CEO talking to colleagues and the press, here’s a cost-is-no-object CEO livestreaming kit you can set up pretty easily at home.

GEAR GUIDE

Basically what you do is put the A7r camera, shotgun mic, and the lens together and switch it to video mode, go to Setup 3, choose HDMI settings, and turn HDMI Info Display off — this gives you a “clean” video output from the camera. You can run off the built-in battery for a few hours, but the Gonine virtual battery above lets you power the camera indefinitely. Plug the HDMI from the camera to the USB Camlink, then plug that into your computer. Now you have the most beautiful webcam you’ve ever seen, and you can use the Camlink as both a video source and an audio source using the shotgun mic. Put the Key Light wherever it looks best. You’re fine to record something now.

If you’d like to have a more two-way conversation Interrotron style, set up the teleprompter on the tripod, put the camera behind it, connect the portable monitor to your computer (I did HMDI to a Mac Mini) and “mirror” your display to it. (You can also use an iPad and Sidecar for that.) Now you’ll have a reversed copy of your screen on the teleprompter mirror. I like to put the video of the person I’m talking to right over the lens, so near the bottom of my screen, and voilà! You now have great eye contact with the person you’re talking to. The only thing I haven’t been able to figure out is how to horizontally flip the screen in MacOS so all the text isn’t backward in the mirror reflection. For audio I usually just use a headset at this point, but if you want to not have a headset in the shot…

Use a discreet earbud. I love in-ear monitors from Ultimate Ears, so you can put one of these in and run the cable down the back of your shirt, and I use a little audio extender cable to easily reach the computer’s 3.5mm audio port. This is “extra” as the kids say and it may be tricky to get an ear molding taken during a pandemic. For the mic I use the audio feed from the Camlink, run through Krisp.ai if there is ambient noise, and it works great (except in the video above where it looks a few frames off and I can’t figure out why. On Zoom it seems totally normal).

Here’s what the setup looks like all put together:

After that photo was taken I got a Mac Mini mount and put the computer under the desk, which is much cleaner and quieter, but used this earlier photo so you could see everything plugged in. When you run this off a laptop its fan can get really loud.

Again, not the most practical for day to day meetings, but if you’re doing prominent remote streaming appearances—or if your child is an aspiring YouTube star—that’s how you can spend ~9k USD going all-out. You could drop about half the cost with only a minor drop in quality switching the camera and lens to a Sony RX100 VII and a small 3.5mm shotgun mic, and that’s probably what I’ll use if I ever start traveling again.

If I were to put together a livestreaming “hierarchy of needs,” it would be:

  1. Solid internet connection (the most important thing, always)
  2. Audio (headset mic or better)
  3. Lighting (we need to see you, naturally)
  4. Webcam (video quality)

We’ve put together a Guide to Distributed Work Tools here, which includes a lot of great equipment recommendations for day-to-day video meetings.

by Matt at May 29, 2020 11:54 PM under livestreaming

WPTavern: Gutenberg 8.2 Includes Editing Flow Improvements, Cover Block Content Positioning, and Pattern Categories

On Wednesday, the development team behind Gutenberg dropped version 8.2 of the plugin. The new release focuses on a better editing flow, includes a new content positioning control for the Cover block, and adds categories to block patterns.

With this release, users can copy an entire block via the Ctrl + C keyboard shortcut or cut a block with Ctrl + X if no specific text is selected. The snackbar popup will appear at the bottom of the screen to show which block was copied.

Hitting the Enter key while editing an image caption will create a new paragraph. For situations where a user wants to continue writing after inserting an image and caption, this is probably a welcome addition. However, it could be a problem for users who need to have multi-line captions — I am uncertain how to add a line break in a caption with this change.

Gutenberg 8.2 includes several other enhancements, such as limiting the most-used blocks in the inserter to six items. Individual buttons within the Buttons block can be split into two buttons by hitting the Enter key or merged by hitting the Backspace key. Users can also test two new block patterns. One adds a hero section with two columns beneath. The other adds a three-column features/services section.

Overall, this is a solid update with numerous enhancements and bug fixes. The editing flow changes are nice improvements, and the new Cover block positioning and Patterns API updates are welcome additions to the editor.

Content Positioning for the Cover Block

The Gutenberg team has created a new alignment control that allows end-users to position the content within the Cover block. I have been waiting for this feature for at least a year after first seeing it mentioned as a possibility in an unrelated ticket.

The new positioning feature adds a matrix control with nine positions the user can choose from. Once a position is chosen, the inner content of the Cover block will move to that location. It is important to note that some content will not look like it has changed position if the Cover block is full. The inner container’s width is set to auto, which means the content inside may already be taking up all the available space. Alignment is more pronounced in Cover blocks with less content inside.

Sure, it was possible to align inner blocks individually in past versions of the plugin. However, it was also sometimes a bit of pain to do on the block level. This new control brings a new level of flexibility to the Cover block.

Theme authors will need to update the CSS in their themes to handle the new positioning classes. There does not seem to be any official documentation for styling these classes, so looking at the source code is the best course of action. The classes are as follows:

.has-custom-content-position
.is-position-top-left
.is-position-top-center
.is-position-top-right
.is-position-center-left
.is-position-center-center
.is-position-center-right
.is-position-bottom-left
.is-position-bottom-center
.is-position-bottom-right

It will also be interesting to see what plugin developers do with the new AlignMatrixControl component for their own blocks. This component is used for handling the inner block alignment of the Cover block, but it should be easy to extend to other blocks that could also use such alignment.

Categories for Patterns

Gutenberg 8.2 has nearly ticked all my boxes for the Patterns API. The newest release adds support for categorizing patterns. Currently, the default interface shows the following seven categories:

  • Text
  • Hero
  • Columns
  • Buttons
  • Gallery
  • Features
  • Testimonials

There is also an “Uncategorized” section at the bottom of the inserter, but it is not technically a category. It merely houses any patterns that have not been categorized.

Theme and plugin authors now have access to the register_block_pattern_category() and unregister_block_pattern_category() functions to register or unregister patterns, respectively. Categories can be assigned to a specific block via the new categories argument. More information is available via the Patterns API documentation.

Patterns can be assigned one or multiple categories. Therefore, users may see duplicates of some patterns in the inserter. This is one reason I am holding out hope for the team to bring the tabbed interface or something similar back to the inserter. With categories, that should now be possible for both blocks and patterns. At the moment, my library of patterns is becoming unwieldy.

Slash commands for patterns are still on my wish list, which may cancel the need for a tabbed inserter interface.

Block Widgets Almost Ready

In this week’s editor chat, the team discussed the possibility of bringing the new Widgets screen out of the experimental stage. If this happens before July 7, it could mean users might be able to start configuring their sidebars with blocks as early as WordPress 5.5. This is not set in stone yet, but it is exciting to start seeing blocks truly break out of the post content area.

For the most part, the block-based widgets system works well. It does not yet feel as polished as it should be for merging into core WordPress. However, if the team pushes through any remaining roadblocks in the next month, it is within the realm of possibility. I have my doubts, but we’ll see where this lands soon.

Now is a good time for end-users to begin testing the experimental widgets via both the “Widgets (beta)” admin screen and the “Widgets Blocks (Experimental)” customizer panel. To test this feature, enable the Widgets option under the Experiments settings page for the Gutenberg plugin.

by Justin Tadlock at May 29, 2020 08:48 PM under gutenberg

WPTavern: Google Search to Introduce New Page Experience Ranking Signal in 2021

Google is preparing to introduce a new ranking signal for Search, based on page experience as measured by Core Web Vitals metrics. This includes factors like page speed, responsiveness, and the stability of content as it loads. The upcoming update will combine these signals with previously announced UX-related signals for mobile-friendliness, safe browsing, HTTPS security, and intrusive interstitials.

Google is also updating its requirements for the Top Stories feature. It will no longer be limited to AMP pages – any content will be eligible:

As part of this update, we’ll also incorporate the page experience metrics into our ranking criteria for the Top Stories feature in Search on mobile, and remove the AMP requirement from Top Stories eligibility. Google continues to support AMP, and will continue to link to AMP pages when available. We’ve also updated our developer tools to help site owners optimize their page experience.

Mobile friendliness, HTTPS, and other UX signals listed in this update have long been included in best practices for WordPress sites. The Core Web Vitals items are a newer area that site owners will want to dig into when preparing for the new page experience signal.

Measuring things like the unexpected layout shift of visible page content and the experience users get when first interacting with a page are not easy. In anticipation of this ranking signal update, Google has updated the Lighthouse and PageSpeed Insights tools to give information and recommendations on a site’s Core Web Vitals. Google Search Console also provides a dedicated report, and developers can also get more information from Chrome DevTools, web.dev’s measure tool, and the Web Vitals Chrome extension. There are also several WordPress plugins that incorporate some of these tools, notably Site Kit by Google and Google Pagespeed Insights.

While this is a major change to ranking, Google noted that it will still prioritize pages with the best information overall. Better page experience scores will help a site rank better among multiple pages with similar content.

Developers who focus on delivering a high quality user experience reacted positively to Google’s announcement, since this means that UX work is getting validated as a valuable aspect of a site’s ranking.

Google plans to put the ranking changes into place sometime in 2021 and will provide at least six months notice before rolling out the update. This will give site owners time to improve their scores on the various page experience metrics. The company also plans to add more page experience signals on a yearly basis.

by Sarah Gooding at May 29, 2020 06:47 PM under google

May 28, 2020

WPTavern: WooCommerce Is Testing a Block-based Cart and Checkout

As part of an ongoing initiative to convert the plugin’s existing shortcodes to blocks, WooCommerce core developers are testing a new block-based cart and checkout experience. This major architectural change has also been redesigned to improve conversion rates for stores.

An initial preview release of the blocks can be tested using the WooCommerce Blocks feature plugin version 2.6.0, which was released yesterday. WooCommerce designer Gary Murray shared screenshots of the new design inside the editor, where store owners can now manipulate a live preview of the cart. It automatically loads demo products in the preview and users can switch between the full cart and the empty cart states.

Cart block

So far, the block settings for the full cart include the option to hide/show the shipping calculator and hide shipping costs until an address is entered. The empty state allows users to do things like change the size of the empty cart icon or replace it with a custom image, edit the “continue shopping” text, and add more blocks.

Store owners can also preview the entire checkout form in the editor, allowing them to immediately see how any settings changes affect the checkout process.

“In some areas we have made incremental improvements (like the cart) while the checkout sees much bigger changes,” Murray said. “Alongside these design changes we have also started the initial ‘migration’ of core cart and checkout settings to block settings and have also included a few new features within the block settings to give merchants more ‘direct’ control of their stores checkout experience.”

One of the major benefits of the new blocks is that it instantly gives store owners more customization options. This is much more user-friendly than the prospect of having to customize specific theme templates for the cart and checkout pages. This implementation of blocks in WooCommerce is another reminder of the magic of blocks to put more power in the hands of users.

The blocks currently support only the following payment methods: Stripe Payment Request (ApplePay, ChromePay), Stripe CC payment method, PayPal Standard, or Cheque. They also do not yet support third-party plugins that integrate with regular cart and checkout shortcodes. The WooCommerce core team is working on making these blocks more extensible but developers should still consider them as being in the experimental stage for now. Check out the initial preview announcement for more information on how to test the new cart and checkout blocks.

by Sarah Gooding at May 28, 2020 09:47 PM under woocommerce

WPTavern: GretaThemes Releases Lightweight, Block-Ready eStar WordPress Theme

GretaThemes launched its eStar theme yesterday. The team’s goal was to build a lightweight theme that focused on the block editor. However, it works alongside other page builders such as Elementor, Beaver Builder, and more.

GretaThemes is a project of eLightUp, which is the same company behind the popular Meta Box framework, WP Auto Listings, and FitWP. The site’s focus is on selling WordPress themes, many of which are pro versions of its free theme offerings. For now, eStar is merely a free theme with no direct commercial upsells.

eStar is promoted as a multipurpose theme that is suitable for various types of sites. In my tests, I found it to be best designed for businesses that need a clean and professional look. However, with enough tweaks via its numerous customizer options, end-users can get a lot of mileage out of this theme.

With gzipping enabled, the theme’s scripts and styles add less than 10 kb of data to the page load. That is reasonably lightweight and should result in a speedy website, assuming nothing else causes issues.

The theme recommends and integrates with the Meta Box and eRocket plugins, both of which are available for free in the WordPress plugin directory. The Meta Box integration will add extra per-post settings, which are primarily related to the layout on the front end. These can be configured globally in the customizer. The plugin integration merely provides the ability to do so on the per-post level. The eRocket plugin adds a contact info and recent posts widget along with social sharing buttons. The eStar theme has additional styles for making these fit into the design on the front end.

eStar ticks many of the boxes that would make it a great go-to option for people who need a reliable theme that supports the block editor. It does not push any artistic boundaries. It is not the type of theme that has an incredible wow factor. It is simply a solid offering that gives users a lot of freedom to take an almost boring default configuration and turn it into something special with a mix of font and color options.

Check out the eStar theme demo for a picture of what the theme looks like.

Build Landing Pages Like a Pro

eStar theme landing page.

The GretaThemes team has designed eStar to get out of the way for users who want to build full pages with either the block editor or a third-party page builder. It offers several post and page templates as a starting point:

  • Blank Canvas: Displays only the post content.
  • Narrow Content: Shows the header, footer, and post content, which is in a narrow column in the center of the page.
  • Full Width: Shows the header, footer, and post content, which stretches across the page.
  • Wide Content: Shows the header, footer, and post content, which stretches across the page.

No, there is no typo or copy/paste mistake for those final two templates in the preceding list. There seems to be no difference between the Full Width and Wide Content templates. I am unsure why both are included, except to wonder if one or the other is there for backward compatibility with other themes.

What makes the theme great at building landing pages is not its four custom templates. Those are nice additions that provide an open canvas. However, it is the theme’s block styling that provides the customizability to build these landing pages. Its block styles will not blow you away with unique design takes. They simply work.

The one thing that would bring this theme to the next level would be the addition of custom patterns. The Patterns API is not available in core WordPress yet, but it will likely land this year. Now is a good time for the team to get on top of this feature, even if it is a part of a commercial offering.

How Does the Theme Handle Blogging?

Single post view with custom options selected.

The theme markets itself as suitable for blogging. However, it falls short of being a great blogging theme with the default configuration. For long-form content, single posts have far too many characters per line for comfortable reading. For short, media-rich blog posts, it would work well.

To get the most out of eStar as a blogger, users will need to make some adjustments. Fortunately, this is one area in which the theme shines. It provides a slew of customizer options that provide enough flexibility to make it work. By heading to the Fonts section in the customizer and bumping up the Font Size in the Body section, it would transform the theme into something suitable for long-form content.

There are some other adjustments worth considering. If you routinely use the same image within post content as you do as a featured image, the theme will show that same image twice on single post views — a common issue in many themes. eStar does provide a customizer option to configure or disable the featured image on single posts. Using the featured image as the header background is also another useful option the theme provides and can make your posts stand out.

I also recommend disabling the sidebar for blog posts if you enjoy wide or full-width media. The theme’s design stands out when it can make copious use of the page.

The biggest issue — and would be a deal-breaker for me if I could not code — is the theme adds a custom design to the first paragraph of the post content. The font-size is increased and given a light gray color. It is not easy to read. The theme should leave this bit of customization in the user’s hands. WordPress provides block-level customization via the editor if the user needs to do something special with the intro paragraph.

I also recommend switching the archive layout to either grid card or grid, which is used in the theme’s demo. The grid card option looks a little better and is a concept likely lifted from Tailwind’s component documentation.

Grid Card layout option for archive pages.

Final Thoughts

The theme is not without a few trivial issues. For example, the site title and description feel a little cramped. I would love to see some extra whitespace above and below it.

With the default configuration of the theme, I would recommend it to anyone who needs a solid design for a business website. By throwing in a custom logo and adjusting a couple of colors, the average end-user would have all they need to launch a business site. With the power of the block editor or a third-party page builder, costs to setting up shop would be minimal.

For people who do not mind a little legwork and need something better suited for blogging, the theme can handle it. It will simply take some minor customization to make the text a bit more readable.

Overall, it is nice to see another good option land in the official WordPress theme directory that caters to the block editor. I look forward to seeing what GretaThemes does in the future with its themes and hope to see other theme companies follow suit with block editor support.

by Justin Tadlock at May 28, 2020 08:47 PM under Reviews

WPTavern: New Carbon Offset Plugin Aims to Make WordPress Sites More Eco-Friendly

photo credit: Valeriy Poltorak

As developers and internet users become increasingly aware of the CO2 footprint of their data usage, renewed interest in carbon offsetting programs has cropped up in recent years. These programs allow individuals and organizations to “offset” their carbon dioxide emissions by funding environmental endeavors, which range from planting trees to clean energy projects, with lots of variety in between.

Carbon offsetting schemes remain controversial, as they do not actually directly cancel out emissions. The programs allow corporations to appear “environmentally friendly” with their contributions while continuing to burn fossil fuels. Ideally, corporations will work on both reducing their emissions and “neutralizing” the damage done with projects that renew the earth.

For web developers, awareness of your product’s CO2 footprint is the first step, and carbon offsetting programs are usually fine-tuned to make this data relatable. This awareness is especially critical if the software you are building is used on millions of devices. Aris Stathopoulos, a WordPress developer known best for authoring the Kirki Customizer Framework, has created a plugin called Carbon Offset that calculates the greenhouse emissions from your website visits and integrates with the Cloverly API for offsets and payments.

“The internet is a huge machine consuming vast amounts of energy,” Stathopoulos said. “The whole chain from server farms to ISPs to client devices are usually powered by non-renewable sources of power. What really rang the ‘danger’ bell in my mind was reading Mozilla’s Internet-Health report two years ago.

“Since then I’ve been trying to help make the web a bit more sustainable. Sometimes that means converting a script to vanilla JS, building a theme, or just talking to people about things they can do to make their site more performant and more eco-friendly/sustainable. Carbon Offset is my latest effort on that front.”

The first version of the plugin includes a details page with the calculated impact of your site’s carbon footprint, displayed next to the weight of the carbon offset. I could see this page evolving to be more visually compelling in the future. The settings page is where users can hook up their sites the Cloverly API.

Cloverly offers offsets on demand, which means that users fund clean energy for one of the projects the company has selected. These include initiatives that do things like capture fugitive gas emissions, improve forest management, and convert methane from manure into renewable energy.

Browsing the WordPress.org plugin repository, it seems the platform only has a handful of plugins designed to raise users’ awareness about carbon emissions. The Website Carbon plugin gives users a broad overview of the impact of their site’s emissions, including reporting on if the data center the site is hosted in is powered by renewable energy. CO2ok for WooCommerce is another plugin that integrates with a service for purchasing offsets.

Stathopoulos wants to expand his plugin to integrate with additional services so that users have more choices in offsetting their websites’ carbon footprints. He has no affiliation with Cloverly. He said the only reason he chose to integrate with it is because they have a great API that is easy to work with. He made his implementation extensible so that adding extra services will be easy when he finds another one with a good API.

Breaking Website Owners Out of Complacency: Awareness Is the First Step Towards Reducing Emissions

“There are sites out there that measure a site’s carbon footprint and they give an idea of how much carbon is generated whenever someone visits a webpage,” Stathopoulos said. “If you start testing websites you see some good, some bad and some shockingly costly. Take for example w.org: Each visit produces 0.68g of carbon emissions, and that’s one of the good sites. NYTimes.com generates 3.2grams of carbon every time someone visits their site.”

Stathopoulos wants to use his plugin to raise awareness among WordPress site owners, since the software is so widely used but oftentimes weighed down by third-party extensions.

“With WordPress powering 30%+ of the web, we’re talking about millions of daily views,” he said. “In the unlikely optimistic scenario that all of them generate no more than 0.5g per page-load, WP sites generate no less than 500 metric tons of carbon/day. This has nothing to do with WordPress. Instead it’s about the 5MB image that the user wants on their frontpage, the fancy wiggling JS animation that requires that extra 5kb of JS, developers insisting on using jQuery in their themes and plugins, the unused 300kb of CSS that a site has, the Facebook widget, social sharing buttons than use 100kb of JS, or the horrendous use of images of text instead of plain text.

“It’s all data that gets downloaded every single time and each time it does, the server runs a few milliseconds more, the browser takes a few more milliseconds to render. It all adds up to wasted energy, energy that took real resources to generate and in the process of doing that, it generated some more carbon emissions.”

It’s easy for anyone to get complacent when the data usage seems to run on magic and doesn’t immediately impact the site owner. Plugins like Carbon Offset aim to make wasted resources more of a reality. Stathopoulos is currently working to add e-commerce support that will allow customers to offset the carbon footprint of their purchases’ delivery, or even allow shop owners to fund the offset instead. He said this will usually amount to a few cents per sale, but it can make a meaningful impact if done on a large scale.

“One of my hopes is that it will help increase sensitivity and awareness,” Stathopoulos said. “Hopefully, some people will understand that their website is part of the problem. Hopefully, it will urge them to rethink how they build their sites and want to be part of the solution – ideally by striving to lower the carbon emissions of our websites.

“But since for various reasons that is not always possible, the plugin will show how much our website costs the environment, and some may choose to give something back.”

Stathopoulos said that purchasing offsets was “surprisingly cheap.” He purchased offsets for 50kg of CO2 for approximately $4, and his website ‘burns’ 0.2g/visit.

“This means I’m good for the next 2.5 million visits,” he said. “If my site was as heavy as the NYTimes, then that would buy me 15k views worth of damage to the environment, which would be a pretty good indication that I have to change some things on my site.

“The cost is not the point. The point is being conscious about what we build, how much damage we do, and helping undo that damage as much as possible. After all, a sustainable website is a lot faster and more performant than a non-sustainable one. Everyone wins.”

by Sarah Gooding at May 28, 2020 01:48 AM under Plugins

May 27, 2020

WPTavern: Happy 17th, WordPress

Seventeen. It is almost a lost year between sweet 16 and the adulthood that comes along with 18. For many, 17 is a rebellious age when they feel like they have already reached grown-up status but still have some hard lessons to learn, some growing to do. The past year of WordPress’s life has felt much the same. Our community has worked and is still working through some rough patches. We are still learning. We are still growing. For better or worse, we are still coming together to build a better web.

By its next birthday, we should expect to see a much different WordPress. It will have grown from a simple blogging platform to nearly a full site builder. The community will likely stumble a few times as users and developers acquaint themselves with an evolving platform. With luck, we can work through most of the kinks before that day arrives. For now, we will need to suffer a bit through this messy teenage rebellion.

Teens often see the world differently than those of us well into adulthood do. We must be there to temper the worst ideas but encourage the hopes and dreams that accompany the vision of youth. It is this vision that will change the world. I expect no less from WordPress in the coming years.

Currently, WordPress powers 36.7% of the top 10 million websites. It has come a long way since its humble beginnings as the basic fork of B2/cafelog that Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little kick-started in 2003. It has brought online publishing to millions and provided careers for 1,000s — I have been blessed with a 12-year career thanks to WordPress.

The first official release of WordPress landed on May 27, 2003. The platform included texturize (so good it’ll make your quotes curl), a link manager for building blogrolls, improved automatic line breaks, manual excerpts, XHTML 1.1, new default templates, and a fresh admin interface. Needless to say, the software has changed since its first release — can we make blogrolls cool again?

Perhaps the saddest part of WordPress’s 17th birthday is that most of us cannot celebrate it together in person. No slices of birthday cake will be passed to WordCamp attendees. We cannot share a hug or a handshake. We cannot clink our glasses together in a toast. However, we can still celebrate in spirit.

In Celebrate Seventeen, Mullenweg urges the community to enjoy this day:

If you’d like to celebrate with me, put on some jazz, eat some BBQ, light a candle for the contributors who have passed on, help a friend or stranger less technical than you build a home online, and remember that technology is at its best when it brings people together.

My addition to his list would be to hop over to your WordPress website and write a blog post. It can be anything. Write in celebration of WordPress turning 17. Write about your children, cats, or dogs. Share your feelings surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Whatever it is, just write. The best celebration of WordPress is to use the platform to do the one thing it was meant to do 17 years ago — publish something on the web.

Then, take a moment to appreciate the ability that we have to share our thoughts with the world. WordPress represents the most important, inalienable right that all humans share — freedom of expression. It has provided an avenue for people all over the world to share their thoughts for 17 years. That is not something to be taken lightly. So, let today be a celebration, despite the rough patch the world is going through. Let today be a celebration, regardless of our weekly arguments about the project’s future. Let today be a celebration of the people from all walks of life who have come together to build this amazing piece of software.

Most of all, take time to appreciate that we have an even brighter future to look forward to. WordPress may be a bit of a dinosaur in this fast-paced world of technological advancement, but it is not done yet. It may be going through a huge transitional phase at the moment, but we are not to the halfway point. We are just getting to the good stuff.

Buckle up. Look for the next 17 years to be an even wilder ride. I welcome the adventure.

by Justin Tadlock at May 27, 2020 07:53 PM under birthday

Matt: Celebrate Seventeen

May 27th, 17 years ago, the first release of WordPress was put into the world by Mike Little and myself. It did not have an installer, upgrades, WYSIWYG editor (or hardly any Javascript), comment spam protection, clean permalinks, caching, widgets, themes, plugins, business model, or any funding.

The main feedback we got at the time was that the blogging software market was saturated and there wasn’t room or need for anything new.

WordPress did have a philosophy, an active blog, a license that protected the freedom of its users and developers, a love of typography, a belief that code is poetry, fantastic support forums and mailing lists and IRC, and firm sense that building software is more fun when you do it together as a community.

We have relentlessly iterated across 38 major releases since then, and here we are.

If you’d like to celebrate with me, put on some jazz, eat some BBQ, light a candle for the contributors who have passed on, help a friend or stranger less technical than you build a home online, and remember that technology is at its best when it brings people together.

by Matt at May 27, 2020 03:48 PM under WordPress

HeroPress: How the WordPress community contributes to human development

Pull Quote: WordPress and the open-source community in general seem to reflect the “ubuntu” ethics.

In the beginning WordPress being an “open-source” platform concept was only an idea by Matt Mullenweg that was supposed to gather people to contribute for free for a greater cause with no guaranteed success. The idea to gather people around a vague and non-profit cause would not have succeeded without the generosity of WordPress pioneers, believing in humanity and transferring their knowledge to others for free.

Nowadays, the WordPress community gathers millions of professionals worldwide. 

WordPress enthusiasts have changed the world we live in and contributed to human development from many aspects.

In the later text we will explain how contributing to WordPress would be considered contributing to humanity development, similar to “ubuntu” African philosophy.

 

So, let’s start from the beginning.

Many socio-economic theorists condition the survival of humanity by their members’ regular contribution. So, physicists or chemists work jointly as professional communities contributing to overall science development. Farmers work closely with the agricultural industry in finding the solution to resolve the issue of hunger worldwide, etc.

All those community members contribute in many different forms; either by revealing their discoveries to other members, or testing their new hypotheses. Sustainability and survival of communities depend on the contribution of their members.

Thanks to Internet development and its ease of access, breakthroughs in human development are just a click away from us.

As such, web designers and developers play an important role in numerous web data systematizations and content design of each website, enabling a wider global audience to find relevant information and apply those new discoveries in their activities.

Sometimes one-click localization is required, or a plugin/theme code change. Very often those requests  are repetitive and come from different territories, and this is where the WordPress community jumps in with their skills relevant to resolving those requests.

Roughly there are 6.500 different languages in the world.  If there were no WP community efforts, each WordPress developer would have to localize or translate each plugin for themselves for instance. Just imagine the amount of time each of us would have had to spend in order to create a desired website.

WordPress group contributions save significant amount of time for #MakersOfTheWeb, assisting the global non-tech community to present their business or philanthropic achievements worldwide. Timely published information or findings could change people’s lives.

Deductive conclusion could be that efforts related to WordPress development are the direct assistance to human sustainable development.

Time of crisis

Nowadays more than ever, solidarity and compassion have become building blocks of humanity. One could say that hard times bring people together; or perhaps could bring out the best in them, consciously or subconsciously. The current world health crisis has surfaced many social and economic problems, but also has led us to understand new and, perhaps, some forgotten values.

Joining forces, creating new values or adding to the existing ones are critical to community sustainability in general, similar to the concept of “ubuntu.” 

What is the digital “ubuntu” of WordPress?

For all the tech geeks out there, the free, open-source Linux distribution is not the center of our pledge. The “ubuntu” concept, as said by Nelson Mandela, is the profound sense that we are human only through the humanity of others. If we are to accomplish anything in this world, it will in equal measure be due to the work and achievements of others”.

WordPress and the open-source community in general seem to reflect the “ubuntu” ethics.

The number of WordPress contributors have been increasing over the time, surging in the past couple of weeks, aiming at providing ease for groups or individuals worldwide in the time of crisis. Companies and individuals are joining forces to support each other in crisis time proving the postulate that humanity can only exist if individuals join forces.

How can you contribute?

Choose your own way.

  1. You might want to share knowledge, expertise or perhaps come up with new tech solutions and there are plenty of opportunities out there. Each WordCamp hosts a number of tracks which you could join; Polyglots, WPTV, Marketing, Community, Core, etc. Your contribution might look insignificant to you from the perspective of what should be done in general, but combined efforts do make change. After all, Rome was not built in a day.
  2. You might be creative enough and propose a new business model within a certain industry. Challenging times bring out the leaders with unconventional visions. As Roy. T Bennett said: “Never stop dreaming, never stop believing, never give up, never stop trying, and never stop learning.”
  3. You might want to assist elderly in your neighborhood, or provide online support to vulnerable communities.
  4. You might want to save strained animals, or feed those while searching for new owners.

Everything you do, regardless of your intention has a much larger reach that you can even imagine.

Now is the time to adopt new habits and start understanding the consequence of our behavior and intentions. It’s about achieving “ubuntu”, and not getting the recognition for contribution or efforts made.

We found our “ubuntu” and we were not surprised when we learned that WordPress is all about it.

The post How the WordPress community contributes to human development appeared first on HeroPress.

by Maja LoncarNoah PlumbPredrag Zdravkovic at May 27, 2020 08:00 AM

May 26, 2020

WPTavern: Diving Into Automattic’s Block Experiments

One of the repositories I have been keeping an eye on over the past few months is Block Experiments. It is a monorepo of blocks in various stages of development from Automattic. In total, five of the team’s block experiments are now available for download from the plugin directory. Three others seem to still be under development.

My interest was first piqued when I saw the company’s Starscape Block plugin. The plugin essentially did something that I had needed on a separate project more than a year ago. If it had existed at the time, it would have saved me from a headache or two, attempting to mix custom HTML into a page that was mostly made from blocks. Since then, I have taken a few moments to check in on what the team has been building.

Except for Bauhaus Centenary Block, which is likely only of interest to designers as something fun, most of the block plugins should be useful for many users.

Surprisingly, the team has failed to add the “block” tag to all of its block plugins, so not all of these are listed in the official block directory. It is likely an oversight that will be corrected at some point. For now, it just makes it a little harder for those of us looking for standalone block plugins to find them.

Starscape Block

Configuring the Starscape block.

The Starscape Block plugin creates a container with a background of moving stars. End-users can control the density and speed of the stars. The block provides two gradient background options (linear or radial) along with 12 predefined gradient colors to select from. Users can also control the color of the single text input it provides.

The biggest downside of this block at the moment is that it does not behave the same way as the core Cover or Group block. There is no way for users to add anything but a single line of text through a rich text field. If the team would open it up to allow for nested blocks, it would be far more useful.

There is a lot that is possible with this block if the team pushes the envelope a little more. For example, it would also be interesting to have the ability to layer the stars over an image background, such as a cityscape or forest.

Waves Block

Adding custom content within the Waves block.

Similar to Starscape Block, the Waves Block plugin creates a container block with a moving background. Instead of stars, the background is made up of — you guessed it — waves. It is not a simple copy of a plugin that does the same thing. The Waves block is a more robust solution. It works almost the same as the core Cover block and allows other blocks nested inside.

End-users can control the complexity, mouse speed, and fluid speed of the waves. They can also set the minimum height of the container and choose the four colors that create the effect of flowing waves.

This block was fun to play around with. Users could create some interesting hero-style page headers with this plugin, especially when WordPress treats the post title/header area as a block container in the future.

Event Block

Setting up a custom event with the Event block.

More often than not, on most projects that I have worked on that posted events, it was typically a single event once in a while. Many of the event management plugins were overkill. Several times in the past, I have built a widget or a simple shortcode to output a basic event notice. For end-users who need a basic method of outputting an event notification on their sites, the Event Block plugin may be the best option.

It is a standalone block that allows users to enter an event title, date, location, description, and image. It is a simple, no-fuss solution.

One missing component I would like to see with this block is the ability to add both a start and end date. For multi-day events, users must provide that information in the description box, which would be acceptable for most use cases. However, the full event date would be better served via the “when” field.

Layout Grid Block

Creating a book section with the Layout Grid block.

We have previously covered the Layout Grid Block plugin in a post on whether core WordPress should include a grid system. However, it is worth noting this block is a part of Automattic’s experimental block repository. The plugin has also been updated and improved since the Tavern’s last look. It worked well before, but some minor bug fixes have drastically improved its usability.

Layout Grid Block is quickly becoming one of my favorite plugins for creating columns. It is easy to set up between two and four columns of content and change how the content is displayed based on the screen size. Some of the other plugins I have tested are more powerful. However, some of those tend to be more complicated than what the average user may need. This plugin will likely fit the bill for many use cases.

by Justin Tadlock at May 26, 2020 08:34 PM under gutenberg

WPTavern: WordCamp Europe 2020 Announces Schedule, Plans to Debut Networking Rooms and Virtual Sponsor Booths

The 8th annual WordCamp Europe is only 9 days away and organizers have just announced the schedule. Friday and Saturday sessions are split into two tracks that will run 30-minute talks simultaneously. Each talk is followed by a 10-minute Q&A. The schedule also mixes in a few 10-minute lightning talks, with 15-minute breaks every hour.

The WordCamp will feature a variety of topics of interest to WordPress professionals and enthusiasts, including freelancing, code review, art direction with Gutenberg, website security, growing communities, and the challenges of headless WordPress. The online schedule allows users to save their favorite sessions and then email them, share a link, or print the customized schedule.

In converting the event to be fully online, WCEU PR Team co-organizer Evangelia Pappa said they had to re-work some of their original plans for speakers. Not all previously scheduled speakers were available for an online session. The organizers also had to start from scratch in planning the event, determining the platforms and tools to use, as well as figuring out a new routine for working together from home.

For the first time in WCEU history, both the networking activities and sponsor booths are going virtual using Zoom. Organizers are planning to have two networking rooms, which can also be used for speakers who want to continue Q&A times with attendees following their sessions. Sponsors will have their own schedule of activities and webinars, expanding the event to 3-4 total tracks.

Pappa said the organizing team was inspired by WordCamp Spain, which has so far been the largest online WordPress event. The camp used Zoom to support 5,515 online attendees.

More than 5,650 people have already registered for WCEU 2020. Tickets continue to be released in batches, and organizers say they have an unlimited number available. Tickets for the virtual Contributor Day, which precedes the camp on June 4, are also still available. Attendees can indicate interest by checking the box for Contributor Day during the regular ticket signup process.

by Sarah Gooding at May 26, 2020 03:03 PM under WordCamp Europe

May 25, 2020

WPTavern: Shinobi Blocks WordPress Plugin Adds How-To and FAQ Blocks

Shinobi Works, a web development and illustration company based in Japan, released Shinobi Blocks last week. It is the second plugin the team has added to the WordPress plugin directory. The plugin is a block collection that currently has two blocks for creating how-to and FAQ sections on a site.

Overall, the blocks work well. The developers also make sure to only load any scripts or styles on the front end when the blocks are in use, so it should not add any weight to page speed across the site.

The largest downside of the plugin is that neither of its blocks has wide or full alignment options. This is one feature that I am hoping more block developers begin to add support for. It takes minimal code and would make blocks more flexible for end-users. The workaround is to wrap the blocks in a core Group block and add alignment to it.

As a user, I would like to see the How-To block split into its own, single-purpose block. It would be a nice addition to the official WordPress block directory as a standalone solution for users.

Right now, there seems to be a bit of a mad race toward who can build the biggest block collection plugins. It is unclear what the future of Shinobi Blocks holds. Given that it is early in its life as a plugin, I would urge the plugin authors to consider building single-use blocks. This way, users can install only the blocks they need on their sites.

In this particular case, the How-To block would make a good option as a single block plugin. As for the FAQ block, users can find such blocks in several other plugins with more options.

How-To Block

Adding step-by-step instructions via the How-To block.

The plugin’s How-To block is what drew me in. Its purpose is to allow end-users to provide step-by-step instructions with both a text block and an image for each step. It is a pattern that is common on sites such as wikiHow and other tutorial websites.

The design of the block is well thought out and easy to use. For more complex tutorials, users can split their how-to into multiple sections, each with their own steps. In tests against several themes, I ran into no issues inputting custom content in the editor and it appearing correctly on the front end.

The plugin provides an option to change the dot type, which is the number for each step. Users can choose between displaying numbers or using an icon for individual steps. The available icons are from the core WordPress Dashicons set. The color of the dot type can also be customized. By default, it displays a gradient, but the user can select a solid color if preferred.

The downside of the available color options is the block does not make use of the active theme’s color palette if registered. Using this would help the block better blend into the user’s current site design.

One option that I would add is to allow the user to input optional, additional text below the image while using the main text as a sort of headline. This would provide more flexibility for how-to instructions that need more information. However, it would also add an extra layer of complexity that may not be desired.

FAQ Block

FAQ block accordion on the front end.

The FAQ block almost feels like an afterthought. It does not have the level of detail that was put into the How-To block. There are no color or other options for changing the design. It is basically a bare-bones tabbed accordion. The block works well enough for what it needs to do. Nevertheless, it still feels like a letdown after tinkering with the plugin’s first block.

Inputting content on the admin side is simple. Both the question and answer inputs are rich text fields, which allow the same formatting as a standard Paragraph block.

Each inner block for the FAQ block offers a single option that allows users to choose whether to display the tab in an open state. One issue I ran into with disabling this option is that it closes the tab in the editor, which essentially disabled editing the answer’s content for the item, at least until I re-ticked the checkbox.

It is not a poorly-designed block. For the most part, I would rather see the How-To and FAQ blocks split into separate, standalone block plugins. They serve two different purposes and would allow users to install just the pieces that they need.

by Justin Tadlock at May 25, 2020 08:34 PM under Reviews

May 22, 2020

WPTavern: Local Brings Back Support for Apache and Site Cloning

Flywheel’s Local development app has received several major updates during the past month. The most recent release brings back support for Apache as a web server choice (version 5.5.1), in response to user feedback. This was the most highly requested feature on the app’s community voting board.

Although nginx is the leader in web server market share for the top 10k, top 100k, and top 1M sites, Apache is still used by more of the web. Lack of support for Apache was a deal breaker for many Local users who support clients on shared hosting, which often runs Apache and MySQL. It was also a blocker for potential new users switching from MAMP. Having the option to choose the web server on a per-site basis makes Local much more flexible.

Site cloning is another highly requested feature that was brought back in version 5.3.3 at the end of April. Users can now right-click on a site in Local’s sites sidebar and click on “Clone Site.” This feature is useful for using one site as a jumping off point or even for setting up a “blueprint” for future sites to use.

Flywheel is gradually adding back a list of features after rebuilding Local’s core architecture in 2019. The “Local Lightning” update moved the app away from virtualization in favor of native, system-level software for running WordPress locally.

“Feature parity with Local Classic is the top item for us in our Q2 roadmap,” Local creator Clay Griffiths said. So far his team has already brought back 64-bit PHP binaries for Windows, site cloning, and Apache support as part of this process.

The app has become an indispensable development tool for many WordPress developers. In February, WP Engine reported that Local is used by more than 50,000 developers. The company has a long-term roadmap that aims to make it easier for users to customize their development environments.

Local has a fairly transparent development process with community feature requests highly prioritized. The app’s community feedback site gives users an overview of all the features that are currently planned, in progress, and complete. Updates currently in progress include a setting for a default browser and improvements to the Live Link feature. The team is also exploring a Local CLI as part of the Q2 roadmap.

by Sarah Gooding at May 22, 2020 10:21 PM under News

WPTavern: Should WordPress Provide an API for Third-Party Editors?

Imagine a future where you log into your website’s admin. You head over to the editor. This particular editor has all the tools and features in place that make you more efficient at producing whatever content you put out for the world to see. You immediately start tapping keys or dragging your mouse around the screen, satisfied with what the software you’re using has to offer.

Today, that editor may be the default block editor for WordPress. Some may be running the Classic Editor plugin for a familiar writing experience. Others will be crafting beautiful layouts with the Elementor page builder.

As of this week, people are finding themselves at home with Iceberg, an interface built on top of the block editor for folks who prefer a minimalist environment and love Markdown.

Some bloggers post by email. Others use apps from their phone. And, an entire class of people works in third-party, offline editors such as Microsoft Word, Atom, and plain ol’ Notepad.

If there is one thing I have come to realize over the years it is that editing environments are as varied as the people who use them. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. The experience I am looking for is not necessarily the same experience you need.

Given the freedom to choose, most people would rearrange their desk, use a different notepad, and opt for a different writing utensil than their neighbor. Even if starting with the same tools, we eventually make tweaks to accommodate our personal tastes.

Throughout most of its history, WordPress has had a single editor that its users shared. It has changed over time — even the addition of TinyMCE was once controversial. However, the default editor has never been sufficient for every user. Personally, I abhorred the classic editing experience. It led me to write in various Markdown editors over the years for efficiency and a true distraction-free experience. It has also led to developers taking on the challenge of creating alternative experiences for large swaths of end-users.

As much as many people love the classic WordPress editor, it was a pain for many others. Otherwise, all of the tools that have cropped up over the years would have been unnecessary.

In much the same way, the block editor is often a love-it-or-hate-it experience. It is the ideal editing environment for many users. For others, it is a roadblock at best. At worst, it is worthy of a gasoline soaking and a book of matches.

The promise of WordPress is to provide an editing experience that allows people from all walks of life to publish their content on the web. The promise is to make that experience as pain-free as possible and to continue iterating toward that unattainable-but-worthwhile-goal of perfecting the publishing process.

WordPress — any publishing platform for that matter — is only as good as its editor.

It is a predicament. There is no way to make the ideal editor for all people.

What’s the next move?

An Editors Registry and API

In the comments of the Tavern’s Iceberg editor coverage, Phil Johnston proposed a solution for WordPress going forward. “With all of the amazing publishing experiences coming out, I wonder if it’s time for WP to include the concept of ‘Editors,'”, he wrote. “Like an official registry of installed Editors.”

He later created a feature request that called for an API that would make it easier for plugin authors to create new editing experiences on top of WordPress. The proposal is a high-level idea about how the editing screen could allow users to choose their preferred editor.

Potentially, users could install and use various editors, depending on what type of content they are building. A user may want something akin to a Markdown editor for blog posts but switch over to a page builder for their site’s pages. eCommerce plugins might have custom editing interfaces that are ideal for shop owners. Ultimately, the possibilities are endless. But, it all starts down at the WordPress level.

The idea is not about dropping the default WordPress editor. It is about creating a flexible framework for plugin developers to cater to more users’ needs. Additional methods of editing content would make WordPress a stronger CMS, drawing in users who would otherwise prefer a different experience, regardless of the type of site they are building.

It is possible to do this now. However, what could WordPress be doing to improve this process for developers?

Jeffrey Carandang, co-creator of Iceberg, believes that core could open the editing space to more third-party solutions. “Creating our own editor mode was challenging but a super exciting experience overall,” he said. “Gutenberg is still far from being extensible compared to other parts of WordPress, but we managed to hack on some areas that needed to work.”

Carandang identified a few hurdles his team had to overcome when building the Iceberg editor:

  • Limited hooks and filters outside of block development, such as the top and bottom areas of the editor and wrappers.
  • Little-to-no options to remove editor components, relying on CSS hacks to hide them.
  • The core editor’s reliance on localStorage.

In addition to the primary issues, his team had to develop against multiple versions of the block editor to ensure a seamless experience for users. Despite the issues, he still believes in a future where the block editor project can open up “potential innovations” in the space.


Today, I am composing this post in an offline Markdown editor. I will copy and paste my second or third draft into the block editor, which does a great job of converting Markdown into blocks, before final edits. On other days, I work directly in WordPress, depending on my mood. However, my preferred writing experience is as simple as it gets and often happens in Atom. It is what I am accustomed to.

I wonder if there will one day be an editor that will convert me to writing full time from within WordPress. I eagerly await the plugin developers who will make the attempt. My hope is that WordPress cultivates these ideas without standing in the way.

by Justin Tadlock at May 22, 2020 07:05 PM under Opinion

May 21, 2020

WPTavern: Molly Burke on the Power of Universal Design

In a 2017 speech titled “Stop trying to fix disability,” YouTube and motivational speaker Molly Burke says, “I live in a world that wasn’t built for me, but what if it was?” Burke was born with a rare, genetic eye disease that caused her to go blind. In this short but moving 8 minute video, she contends that making the world accessible helps everyone. She introduces the concept of universal design to her audience in simple terms:

“Universal design [is] designing and building everything to be accessed, enjoyed, and understood to its fullest extent by everyone, regardless of their size, their age, their ability, or their perceived disability.”

Burke identified Apple as one company that exemplifies universal design.

“Every product they release, I could buy at a store, open up, and use on my own independently, with no extra cost and no assistance needed,” she said. “I ask you to imagine how liberating, how empowering it is to be shown by a company that they view you as belonging to their customers, when so many others tell you the exact opposite.”

In honor of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, I wanted to highlight this video that tells just one person’s story on the powerful impact of technology that is built with everyone in mind. Burke’s speech is a poignant reminder of how designers and builders can extend a sense of belonging to their customers by making their products accessible.

by Sarah Gooding at May 21, 2020 11:03 PM under accessibility

Matt: Gradually, Then Suddenly

The two main theses of my professional career have been that distributed is the future of work, and that open source is the future of technology and innovation. I’ve built Automattic and WordPress around these, and it’s also informed my investments and hobbies. Just today, we announced an investment into a distributed, open source, and encrypted communication company called New Vector.

On the distributed front, the future of work has been arriving quickly. This week, a wave of companies representing over $800B in market capitalization announced they’re embracing distributed work beyond what’s required by the pandemic:

Change happens slowly, then all at once.

The forces that enable working in a distributed fashion have been in motion for decades, and if you talk to anyone who was working in technology in the ’60s and ’70s they expected this to happen much sooner. Stephan Wolfram has been a remote CEO for 28 years. Automattic has been distributed-first for 15 years.

What’s been holding us back is fear of the unknown, and attachment to the familiar. I can’t tell you how many of the investors I see espousing distributed work once told me that Automattic would never scale past a few dozen people unless we brought everyone into an office. Or the CEOs who said this would never work for them, now proclaiming their company hasn’t missed a beat as tens of thousands of people started working from home.

What’s going to be newsworthy by the end of the year is not technology companies saying they’re embracing distributed work, but those that aren’t. Those who thought this couldn’t work have been forced by the pandemic to do it anyway, and they’ve now seen that it’s possible.

It was probably terrible at first, but now two or three months in it’s gotten better. We’ve learned and adapted, and will continue to do so. Necessity breeds invention. I promise you if you stick with it, you’ll progress through the levels of distributed autonomy. Over time people will be able to move houses, tweak furniture, buy equipment, upgrade their internet, and otherwise adapt to being more productive in a distributed environment than they ever could be in an office. Products and services are being developed all around the world that will make it even better. I’m so excited about how a majority of the economy going distributed will improve people’s quality of life, and unlock incredible creativity and innovation at work. (They go hand in hand.)

At some point, we’ll break bread with our colleagues again, and that will be glorious. I can’t wait. But along the way we’ll discover that things we thought were impossible were just hard at first, and got easier the more we did it. Some will return to physically co-working with strangers, and some employers trapped in the past will force people to go to offices, but the illusion that the office was about work will be shattered forever, and companies that hold on to that legacy will be replaced by companies who embrace the antifragile nature of distributed organizations.

by Matt at May 21, 2020 08:28 PM under distributed work

WPTavern: PHP and WordPress Version Checks Coming to Themes

PHP and WordPress version checks are coming to the WordPress theme system — finally. The feature was pulled into core WordPress three days ago. It will prevent end-users from installing or activating a theme that is incompatible with their current version of PHP or WordPress. The change is slated to land in WordPress 5.5.

This feature has long been on many theme authors’ wish lists, particularly PHP version checking. Plugins authors gained the ability to support specific PHP versions starting with WordPress 5.2. However, theme authors were left feeling like the second-class citizens they usually are when it comes to the addition of core features, waiting patiently as plugin authors received the new and shiny tools they were looking forward to.

Previously, the code for manually handling version checking within individual themes was more complex than in plugins. Theme authors needed to run compatibility checks after theme switch and block theme previews in the customizer using two different methods, depending on the user’s WordPress version. That is assuming theme authors were covering all their bases.

Users had no real way of knowing whether a theme would work on their site before installing and attempting to activate it. It was a poor user experience, even when a theme gracefully failed for the end-user.

This user experience has also held back some theme authors from transitioning to newer versions of PHP. For years, many were supporting PHP 5.2. Slowly, some of these same authors are now making the move toward newer features up to PHP 5.6, which is now the minimum that WordPress supports. However, not many have made the jump to PHP 7 and newer.

Until now, there has been no mechanism for letting the user know they need to upgrade their PHP to use a particular theme.

Some theme authors may choose to continue supporting older versions of PHP, such as 5.6, for a potentially wider user base. However, developers who want to switch to newer features can now do so with the support of the core platform.

Changes for Users

New WordPress and PHP versions added to Twenty Twenty theme.

Users who are browsing the WordPress theme directory may begin to notice new information available for some themes. Similar to plugins, visitors should see a WordPress Version and PHP Version listed for some themes. For example, the Twenty Twenty theme now lists the following minimum requirements:

  • WordPress Version: 4.7 or higher
  • PHP Version: 5.2.4 or higher

Not all themes will have these numbers listed yet. It will take some time before older themes are updated with the data required to populate these fields.

In WordPress 5.5, the admin interface for themes will change. When attempting to install or activate a theme, WordPress will prevent such actions. If a user searches for a theme that has an incompatible WordPress or PHP version, the normal installation button will be replaced with a disabled button that reads “Cannot Install.” If a theme is installed but not activated, the activation link will similarly be replaced with a disabled “Cannot Activate” button. Users will also not be allowed to live preview incompatible themes.

Cannot activate Twenty Twenty theme with incompatible PHP version.

The feature works the same from within the customizer interface as it does via the themes screen in the WordPress admin.

Changes for Theme Authors

The WordPress Themes Team recently announced two new required headers for theme authors to place in their style.css files. The first required field is Tested up to, which is the latest version of WordPress the theme has been tested against. The second is a Requires PHP field, which is the minimum PHP version the theme supports.

It is unclear is why the team decided to require those two fields but not the Requires at least field, which represents the minimum WordPress version needed. Most likely, theme authors will want to place all three headers in their themes.

Theme authors who will still support versions of WordPress earlier than 5.5 will want to continue using their old compatibility checks. However, this is the first step in phasing such code out.

by Justin Tadlock at May 21, 2020 07:57 PM under Themes

WPTavern: WordCamp Kent Online Features Business and Marketing Tracks, May 30-31

One of the exciting things about WordCamps going virtual is the community gaining access to more events and presentations than ever before, from anywhere in the world. Even in this new online-only format, local camps still retain their unique character as they feature speakers from their respective communities.

WordCamp Kent (Ohio) is one of these upcoming events that has been forced online by the pandemic. Organizers will be broadcasting all sessions on the weekend of May 30-31, and tickets are free for anyone who wants to attend.

The schedule for this particular event runs heavy on the business and marketing side of working with WordPress, with very few talks geared towards developers. If you are a freelancer, run an agency, or have a WordPress product business, you will find WordCamp Kent’s program more tailored to topics that help you improve client services.

The schedule on the first day of the event is divided into two tracks: Freelance/Business and User/Marketing. These sessions will run alongside live Q&A and a Help Desk managed by volunteers in the #wp-help-desk channel in the NEO WordPress Slack workspace. The second day of the event will be also be split into two tracks: Freelance/Business/Developer and WordPress 101/User.

Topics include designing websites for generating leads, improving your business model for freelancers and small businesses, client consultations, content marketing, and customer support.

This Kent, Ohio, WordCamp may not have made it on your radar in the past, but the pandemic has opened up events in some ways. It forces a greater number of camps online and allows attendees to join any event without the travel expenses that would ordinarily be prohibitive. In the past, many people who were not local would simply opt to save their money for the bigger camps. The WordPress community has a greater potential to accelerate their learning opportunities, as more smaller camps gain a global audience online.

by Sarah Gooding at May 21, 2020 05:19 PM under wordcamps

May 20, 2020

WPTavern: CampusPress Releases Accessible Content Plugin in Time for Global Accessibility Awareness Day

While it is still Wednesday here in the U.S., some parts of the world are already awakening to the third Thursday in May, which is Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). The purpose of the event is to get more people discussing, learning, and addressing issues related to the inclusion of people with disabilities in the digital world. That is what CampusPress hopes to do with its new plugin.

The CampusPress team announced its Accessible Content plugin for WordPress last week. The goal of the plugin is to help end-users address accessibility issues on their sites. Many tools are built for developers and designers, but the team wanted something to put into the hands of users to allow them to take the extra steps necessary in creating an accessible website.

The plugin is currently available through GitHub, but the team plans to submit it to the official WordPress plugin repository soon. The developers are gathering user feedback from customers and the community first.

“Our Accessible Content plugin was developed specifically to help with training and putting real-time information into the hands of those creating WordPress pages and posts,” said Ronnie Burt, General Manager at CampusPress. “There are a ton of site checker tools out there, and many work quite well. But all of them will spit out false positives and list issues on a page that have nothing to do with the content (navigation issues and the like). So as a bit of a disclaimer, by design, this plugin will not find or help with all potential accessibility issues on a site. But if used over time, it will help train content creators to understand many of the best practices that they should be following and avoid mistakes.”

CampusPress is a managed WordPress hosting and service provider for organizations in the educational sector. It is a sister service to Edublogs.org, which originally launched 15 years ago.

“In that time, we’ve been quietly catering to the unique needs of schools and universities that use WordPress in various ways,” said Burt. “Historically, that was more on the blogging and learning side, but as WordPress has grown into the CMS of choice, we’ve moved along with it to high-level main websites too.”

Development of the Accessible Content plugin will help the CampusPress team’s customers in education, particularly when diving into the world of accessibility guidelines.

“Overall, awareness around accessibility has improved considerably in recent years, but for many, the topic is overwhelming,” said Burt. “In our case, school administrators know they need a ‘compliant’ site, but when you go to read the compliance standards, some are subjective and, at best, really complex. The biggest hurdle that we see is that we are still in a place where accessibility expertise is left up to specialists or tools that are usually brought in after the fact or at the end of a project. In an ideal world, we’ll get to where the expertise is shared by all developers, content creators, and anyone else working on the site. This is because accessibility is so much better and easier when it is built-in and thought about from the beginning and continuously.”

The team is releasing this plugin not only to its customer base but as a free tool for all WordPress users.

How the Plugin Works

The plugin is simple enough for most people to use. When previewing a post, it labels and points out issues that need attention. The goal is not to focus on larger accessibility issues that may be coming from the theme. Instead, the plugin lists issues directly with the post content.

The interface on the post preview screen is simple enough to understand without documentation. Preview a post and the plugin provides buttons on the sides of the screen to navigate through each issue found. At the bottom of the screen, it leaves a full description of the problem. Users can also access this feature via the toolbar on the site front end when viewing a post.

Accessible Content plugin’s output on post preview.

In some cases, such as missing image alt text, the plugin provides a link to directly add the alt text in the admin. This is done through a custom Alt Text sub-menu under the Media screen in the WordPress admin. Users can also use this screen at any time to manage alt text for images used throughout the site in one location.

Burt said the original spec for the plugin had all of the accessibility checks and information within the block editor interface. However, the team hit a couple of roadblocks and ended up moving the plugin’s interface to the post preview screen as a result.

“Gutenberg is still in flux at a pretty rapid pace,” he said. “Just as we were getting our first proof of concept working on the image block, there was a change and it all broke. No fun! But moving to the previewer had some nice unintended consequences. Namely, the plugin works just as well with Classic Editor and with most page builders. The trade-off is that the warnings and helpful text aren’t quite in as real-time as I hope to get them to someday.”

In the long term, the team still plans on integrating directly with the block editor. For now, the plugin works well as part of the previewer. However, instant feedback in the editor would be a huge boost to fixing accessibility issues as they arise.

Community Accessibility Improvements

Burt was not shy about sharing his thoughts about what the WordPress community can be doing to improve accessibility around the web. He praised some of the work that the WordPress project has done thus far. He also shared some concerns.

“One thing I’m worried about — there’s a trend out there with a few WordPress plugins and a growing number of third-party tools to add a little ‘accessibility’ icon to the corner of your website,” he said. “When clicked, these icons open up options for fonts, contrast ratios, and may give an alternative way of navigating the site. I’ve noticed them on bank websites, government sites, and now the schools we work with are buying into them too because it can be tempting to just add a few snippets of embed code to a site and call it a day. To me, this sorta lets all of us that work on websites off the hook to not be responsible for accessible design and development, which really should be our ultimate goal.”

He stressed that using quality themes and plugins as a good step for most users along with being mindful of the content we create. Taking these simple steps should make for a more accessible user experience overall.

“There is lots of good news when it comes to WordPress and accessibility that we should be shouting from the rooftops,” said Burt. “For one, while there’s still a bit of work to be done, the majority of the issues identified in the WPCampus sponsored audit of Gutenberg have been resolved. That was a great example of the higher-ed community leading the charge to impact change. Without the change, simply put, schools, universities, and government agencies may be forced or encouraged to drop their adoption of WordPress.”

The WPCampus-sponsored audit in 2019 resulted in a 329-page technical analysis by Tenon, LLC. It covered user-based testing that included people with various disabilities. Since then, the Gutenberg project has worked to overcome issues identified by the audit.

“As I use Gutenberg more and more, there are some nice little accessibility Easter eggs for content creators, such as warnings about contrast ratios and the Headings block won’t show you the option for H1 by default,” said Burt. “I love it! If our community can just continue to highlight these improvements whenever possible, it will make a big difference. I’m also hopeful that some of our checks from this plugin can eventually not be needed as future improvements to blocks and the editor are made.”

Burt described the best thing the community can do is to be responsive and treat all accessibility issues as a major bug or even a release blocker before plugins or themes go live. In part, it is about being open to communicating and resolving issues that users bring up.

“With so many competing priorities, it can be tempting to just write off a complaint or suggestion as coming from one user,” he said. “But really this is how we continue to make the most progress on all of our tools and services. Feedback from users on barriers and problems they face in using our stuff is pure gold and useful to help ensure we don’t repeat those same mistakes.”

Burt listed some key questions he believes the community should continue having conversations around:

  • Should all new themes to WordPress.org be required to meet the ‘accessibility-ready’ standards?
  • Are there similar standards and checks we could add to plugins? How can plugin authors declare if their plugin may impact accessibility?
  • Is a separate ‘Accessibility’ team for WordPress core still the best way? How do we improve accessible design and development earlier on in practice? It is usually much harder to fix accessibility issues than it is to prevent them to begin with.

These are definitely worth discussing further. For now, his team is trying to do its small part with the Accessible Content plugin.

by Justin Tadlock at May 20, 2020 07:39 PM under accessibility

May 19, 2020

WPTavern: New Iceberg Plugin Brings a Distraction-Free Writing Experience to WordPress

Ever on the hunt for a more beautiful, simplified writing experience inside WordPress, I jumped at the chance to beta test the new Iceberg plugin. Rich Tabor and Jeffrey Caradang, the same team behind CoBlocks, have created a new markdown editor built on top of Gutenberg that provides the best writing experience for WordPress since core’s retired Distraction Free Writing mode.

Iceberg features a minimalist editor with four color themes, the ability to create a custom theme, and a set of typography controls. In switching to Iceberg, there is not much missing much from the default block editor that would be necessary for writing. Users can drag and drop media into Iceberg and the backslash command works to trigger the block inserter. It also includes a Table of Contents, word and character counts, reading time, keyboard shortcuts, and support for emoji.

“Iceberg was brought to fruition out of an experiment to make WordPress look and feel more like my favorite writing applications,” Tabor said. “My personal publishing flow was to write in an external application, paste it all into the block editor, followed by fixing/adjusting/resizing everything–honestly not fun. You see, writing with blocks is just ‘ok’ – and doesn’t feel natural.

“After chatting with others, I realized a lot of folks shared the same sentiment and that such a small number of folks I talked to actually composed articles within WordPress. And although I appreciate how far the block editor has come over the years as a site editor and page builder, I wanted to morph the experience to better support publishing.”

The Iceberg name is a nod towards Guten “berg.” Tabor said he wanted the project to seem more approachable, without being tied to WordPress or emphasizing blocks.

Tabor said he was inspired by dedicated writing applications like Bear, Ulysses, Dropbox Paper, and Google Docs. What he loves most about Iceberg is that its design is centered around the writer’s preferences.

“The editor themes that sit at the core of Iceberg’s design language empower each writer to define their flavor of the editor,” he said. “Every color variable is auto-generated based on the editor theme and applied throughout the interface as necessary.”

Gutenberg was also a strong inspiration for the design principles that guided Tabor in creating Iceberg.

“Gutenberg itself is undergoing quite a transformation with what’s being dubbed as ‘G2’ – a new design system geared towards improved contrast, modern lines and an overall cleaner look,” he said. “I knew I wanted to push Iceberg in that direction, bringing a clean and modern look to the writing environment.”

Under the hood, Iceberg is simply an extension of the block editor that de-emphasizes blocks to better enable writers. Since the plugin manipulates the editor itself, users’ content remains intact even if it is deactivated.

“It’s a clever combination of React components, styles, CSS custom variables and UX that is centered entirely around the art of writing,” Tabor said. “In short, if folks are familiar with Gutenberg development, they’ll find Iceberg similarly structured.”

Tabor said he wants to keep the plugin simple while also exploring where he can push the writing experience further forward. Possible features coming to the roadmap include goal setting, readability analysis, an improved pre-publish checklist, and better post previews/live previewing.

Iceberg Gets Positive Reviews at Launch, Fills a Gap in the Block Editor’s Support for Writers

Iceberg is launching as a commercial product, priced at $39 for a single site or $99 for unlimited sites. The product seems to have filled a gap in the market, covering Gutenberg’s long-standing deficiency in supporting writers. Community feedback during the beta and on Twitter and Product Hunt has so far been overwhelmingly positive.

“Iceberg is like a noise-cancellation for the WordPress editor,” Rajendra Zore said.

Nick Hamze offered feedback in a Twitter thread, saying he was excited to see a product that can “take markdown back from developers.” He views Iceberg as a positive development in the WordPress product space, and urged the community to support these kinds of innovations:

The fun thing about Iceberg is it’s an enhancement of the block editor not a replacement. No editor can be everything to everyone. Iceberg takes all the parts that are great for writers and emphasizes them while moving everything else into the background.

It’s not a criticism of the block editor but a celebration of it. Even if you aren’t a writer I think you should buy a copy. As a community we need to support people who are doing stuff like this. They’re never going to stop making cool stuff but they might stop making it for WP.

After beta testing the plugin I found that it provides the kind of writing experience that I have been missing in the block editor. Iceberg removes the cumbersome feeling of forcing your writing into blocks. More than anything, I want to see something like this land in WordPress core someday.

It’s somewhat bittersweet to see a better writing experience arrive as a commercial plugin, instead of from core improvements. I desperately want WordPress to be home to the best tools for writers, because it is a publishing platform that is so powerful in nearly every other way. This is not to say that core developers cannot adopt something similar. That’s the beauty of open source software – products inspiring new and improved solutions in a never-ending cycle.

Gutenberg designers and engineers have been working for the past two years to bring the writing experience in the editor to a functional place that meets the needs of those who use WordPress primarily for writing. So far the block editor’s Fullscreen mode is incapable of producing the kind of zen writing experience that most writers crave when turning to third-party writing apps.

Iceberg is GPL-licensed and is even available on GitHub for download and collaboration. I asked Tabor what he planned to do if someone proposed that some version of Iceberg be added to core.

“Honestly, I think it would be great if WordPress adopted the same high level of support for writers as Iceberg does,” he said. “Sure it may not be completely ideal economically, but Iceberg is built on an editor built by thousands of hands. If Iceberg is deemed a clever enough solution to be a part of core, then that’s ok. Although I’m positive there’s room to continue experimenting within the realm of empowering writers.”

As WordPress continues to move full steam ahead on the site building aspects of the editor, a truly distraction-free writing experience is not likely to become a high priority anytime soon. Tabor sees this as an opportunity for products that can transform the editor for different types of users who may not be focused on building websites.

“We’re in such a transformative period of WordPress right now,” Tabor said. “The editing experience we’re building with the block editor is much more focused on designing and publishing websites – not writing posts. Consequently, there’s been much more focus on the site building experience, in lieu of the writing experience. That’s not to say I don’t love the direction WordPress is heading–I absolutely do. But rather that I feel there’s room for a tool to improve the writing experience within the block editor.”

by Sarah Gooding at May 19, 2020 11:16 PM under News

WPTavern: WooCommerce Payments Allows Shop Owners to Manage Payments Without Leaving WordPress Admin

Automattic-owned eCommerce platform WooCommerce launched its new WooCommerce Payments feature today. The company seeks to make it easier for plugin users to manage the entirety of their shop from a single location. For users based in the U.S. with WordPress.com-connected accounts, they can begin managing payments directly from their WordPress admin.

WooCommerce Payments is available as a free download via the WordPress plugin directory. Any costs associated with the plugin are on a per-transaction basis. Fees start at 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction for cards issued in the U.S. An additional 1% fee is tacked on for cards outside the U.S.

Under the hood, payments are handled through Stripe Express. The WooCommerce team developed the front-end so that it would match the look and feel of WooCommerce, making it function like a native part of the plugin. Stripe handles the processing from the backend.

The team began work on the system in 2019 and launched an invitational beta in late February 2020. Since then, it has seen over 1,000 accounts connect to WooCommerce Payments.

“New users have been able to add it to their stores in onboarding,” said Paul Maiorana, General Manager of WooCommerce. “Current customers have heard about it through either our newsletter or virtual community meetups. Through this period, we’ve learned what store owners like about WooCommerce Payments — managing their store and payments in one place; intuitive dashboard views; ‘flow’ and ‘ease.’ We’ve also heard their questions, which are mostly related to features we’ve got planned and are working hard to make available as soon as possible.”

WooCommerce Payments creates an integrated payments dashboard in the WordPress admin. It allows shop owners to manage charges, deposits, refunds, and disputes without leaving their store. By not having to toggle between the store and third-party payment processors, administrators should be able to enjoy a more seamless experience.

The following are some screenshots from a demo install of the WooCommerce Payments plugin:

On the customer end, the experience should also be more convenient for shoppers. Instead of being redirected to a processor like PayPal, customers can make payments directly on the site. This may also help curb cart abandonment, which can often happen when shoppers are redirected.

“Now that we’re announcing general availability in the U.S. and putting focused marketing effort behind it, we’re hoping to draw more store owners to join us on the journey,” said Maiorana.

New account holders will need to wait for seven business days before receiving their first deposit from sales. Afterward, the payments system will bundle daily revenue into a single deposit and automatically transfer it to the users’ bank accounts. This also cuts out the process of logging into an account with a payment processor to manually deposit earnings.

On the Roadmap

Currently, WooCommerce Payments is only available to U.S.-based shops. However, the team expects to begin rolling out support for more countries and local payment methods in 2020.

“We’re launching in the U.S. to start to manage scope, but WooCommerce is a global platform and global support for WooCommerce Payments is a priority for us,” said Maiorana. “Payments is obviously a complex and highly-regulated space. We have a three-year roadmap for WooCommerce Payments that includes feature and geographical expansion. Our legal and business teams are investing the appropriate time and resources to lay a strong foundation for future growth.”

Upcoming releases of the WooCommerce Payments plugin are slated to receive support for subscriptions, saved cards, wallets, and instant deposits.

The WooCommerce team also has no plans of stopping with online sales. It is already taking some steps toward moving into the physical world. “WooCommerce’s mission is to democratize commerce — not only eCommerce — so yes, we’re thinking a lot about how to bring this great payment experience offline to point-of-sale devices too,” said Maiorana.

It would be interesting to see small store owners with physical locations — from a fruit stand to a collectibles shop to a mom-and-pop restaurant — be able to manage payments from a central location, all backed with WooCommerce and the WordPress platform.

The new system does not currently support CBD merchants. WooCommerce has a partnership with Square, and shop owners who are selling CBD-derived products can still use that particular payment processor for the time being. This is likely tied to Stripe’s policies on restricted businesses.

by Justin Tadlock at May 19, 2020 05:39 PM under woocommerce

May 18, 2020

WPTavern: BuddyPress 6.0.0 Released with New Group and Members Blocks

BuddyPress has entered the world of blocks with the release of version 6.0, the latest major update that has been in development since November 2019. The release, code-named “iovine’s” for a favorite pizza restaurant in Paris, introduces blocks for Groups and Members. It also marks the completion of the BP Rest API, adding the final remaining endpoints for Blogs, Blog avatar, Friends, Group Cover Image, Member Cover Image, and User Signups.

The first set of blocks allow community site owners to insert a specific Member or Group from the editor into any WordPress post or page. More advanced customizations are available to developers who want to make blocks available to (or restricted from) specific custom post types. Developers can also override block output using new filters, disable blocks, and specify a custom stylesheet for a block.

New BP Blocks in action

In a previous WP Tavern review of the 6.0 beta, Justin Tadlock noted that the block settings had each setting is placed within its own tabbed section, which increased the number of clicks required. This feedback was incorporated six weeks ago in a patch from BuddyPress core developer Mathieu Viet, which places all settings into one panel until such a time as more panels become necessary.

Next Up for BuddyPress: Block Versions of Existing Widgets and Community-Requested Blocks

The BuddyPress community has a unique opportunity to shape the future of block development for the plugin. The next blocks are not yet set in stone but Viet said contributors will probably start by adding block versions of the existing widgets, followed by block requests based on community feedback.

“The poll we made about BuddyPress blocks showed there were expectations about a block to share a post or a page into the Activity Stream, so l think we should include such a block,” Viet said. “But we’re are very open to new ideas or contributions to the GitHub repository we use to develop them.”

The poll results indicated that in addition to a block to share a post or a page via the Activity Stream, the community is also strongly interested a block to list the recently published posts from across a network, followed by a block to display Sitewide Notices posted by the site administrator. 

Viet said core contributors have not yet set a roadmap but are working in small steps and carefully following the Gutenberg project to see how they can incorporate it more into community features. A block-based activity posting form is one feature they are considering.

Now is an important time for BuddyPress site owners to give input on the future of the project, whether through block recommendations or via the new 2020 BuddyPress Survey. It includes 17 questions, which take approximately 7-10 minutes to complete. Most of the questions are centered around how you are using BuddyPress on production sites, but one interesting question asks about the prospect of breaking up the plugin’s features to make it more modular:

BuddyPress is a large plugin with optional components (3MB zipped). There’s a proposal to reconstitute BuddyPress as core + members only and improved upon with new functionalities and API’s among others for new BP plugins to hook into. The current optional components like groups, friends, private messaging, etc. can be migrated into separate plugins which can be activated as needed. What do you think?

Survey respondents have the opportunity to choose between keeping BuddyPress as is with core + members and optional components, or break it down to put the components into BP plugins. Feedback on this proposal and other important survey questions will help the BP core team know how to prioritize features for the next release and long-term roadmap.

by Sarah Gooding at May 18, 2020 10:06 PM under blocks

WPTavern: WordPress Theme Review Team Changes Name, Now the Themes Team

Last week, the official Theme Review Team (TRT) decided to change its name. The re-branding was mostly about fixing a naming mistake for a team with multiple responsibilities outside of reviews. The hope is that it also shifts the public perception about what the team does.

The idea isn’t new. The team has tossed the concept of a name change around for a few years. It was always going to become the Themes Team unless another naming idea came around and stole the spotlight.

The original concept of changing the name was about inviting others in. To most, the team had been little more than the gatekeepers to the theme directory. However, its members and the work they do for the community reach beyond that scope. Few know or recognize its role outside of reviewing themes, which makes it tougher to bring people on board.

“We realized that we are doing all these theme-related things — work on Twenty Twenty, coding standards, meta stuff, reviews, helping out with full-site editing in any capacity we can, etc. — that being just the Theme Review Team just didn’t make any sense,” said Denis Žoljom, the team’s automation representative. “So we discussed that idea with Josepha [Haden]. In principle, she had nothing against it, so we decided to just go ahead and do the name change.”

The team is in the process of renaming some things, such as its GitHub organization. It will take a little time to get everything in order.

The Themes Team’s primary mission is not changing in terms of reviewing themes. They will continue taking on that role of making sure themes meet coding and security standards, which is a vital and oftentimes thankless task.

“We are reviewing themes as usual, but we are more experimenting with full-site editing,” said Žoljom. “I’m playing with Gutenberg outside of the editor context in my own projects, so that also gives me a perspective to see what things will change. We are still maintaining the WPThemeReview. Theme Check has seen tons of improvements by Carolina [Nymark], which should be merged on .ORG soon. Ari [Stathopoulos] is working on some Gutenberg-related projects. I have the GitHub review flow that I’d like to explore soon.”

Žoljom recently dropped the Theme Sniffer plugin, which was a useful tool for theme authors to check their theme against the WPThemeReview coding standards. He did not have the help from the larger theme developer community to continue working on it. Developers can still use the CLI to check their themes. The plugin was a nice stepping stone for theme authors who are less savvy at typing commands, but projects live and die based on participation.

The team representatives want to bring new contributors to the team. “Reviewing themes is an exhausting and complicated process,” said Žoljom, “and, unfortunately, most people give up very fast.” The team also needs fresh blood so that it can rotate through reps. Few people have the necessary experience to fill this role, and the current reps will eventually burn out.

“We want to work on more interesting projects that will bring new people who are willing to help with them,” said Žoljom. “Especially around full-site editing that is coming to core soon. It’s a big change, and the more contributors we have to help and test things the better.”

The Evolving Team

Ari Stathopoulos, the theme packages representative, pointed out the elephant in the room. The name of the team represented a public perception issue. In part, the team name did not make an appealing case for a newcomer to join the team. On the other side of the aisle, it meant the team was sometimes left out on the .ORG side of things, such as not being brought in on key decisions that affect themes.

“People don’t know that we do all the things we do,” said Stathopoulos. “They believe that all this team does is reviews because that’s what the name of the team was. The truth is that if something has to do with themes, we work on it. There are cases that we don’t, but that’s usually because of miscommunication. People don’t think of consulting with ‘reviewers’ before making changes that have an impact on themes. Hopefully, this re-branding of the team will eventually lead to better communication and understanding. It may take some time, but we’ll get there.”

The Themes Team is beginning to take on even more responsibility. It has been holding block-based themes meetings every two weeks in an attempt to keep everyone updated with the rapid theme-related changes happening in the Gutenberg project. The Make Themes blog will also be receiving weekly updates to help those who are unable to attend the meetings and offer another line of communication.

Arguably, the Themes Team will become one of the most important teams over the next year or so. It must bring in new volunteers to help the community transition to a different theme development experience.

“There is a definite shift of focus, and future themes should be easier to review, leaving this team more time and energy to focus on actions that will have more impact for the community,” said Stathopoulos. “So changing the name was not only correcting an old mistake but also paving the way for future actions we want to take.”

by Justin Tadlock at May 18, 2020 07:29 PM under theme review team

May 15, 2020

WPTavern: iA Writer Adds Expanded Support for IndieWeb Tools and WordPress Publishing

iA Writer has been delighting users with its minimal writing experience for nearly a decade, racking up more than 3 million downloads. The most recent version 5.5 release for Mac and iOS moves the bar higher for competing writing apps with new support for previewing PDFs and improved support for publishing to self-hosted WordPress sites.

In 2019, MacStories selected iA Writer as App of the Year, describing it as “a case study on how to build a desktop-class iOS/iPadOS app in 2019 that understands the traits of each platform while offering an opinionated, sophisticated design at the same time.” MacStories’ writeup details many reasons why the app continues to find success in 2020.

This week’s update introduces support for Micropub, which allows users to publish to Micro.blog and other IndieWeb tools. It also expands the availability of the the IndieAuth system for publishing to WordPress. Users are no longer limited to using Jetpack to authenticate their self-hosted sites.

iA Writer users can now use the more lightweight IndieAuth plugin to publish to their self-hosted sites. The plugin acts as an extension to OAuth, allowing the user’s website to be their own OAuth server. This option is helpful for iA Writer users who were reluctant to install Jetpack just to hook up their accounts for publishing.

Continued support for WordPress publishing comes as no surprise, not just because of its ubiquity on the web, but also because the iA company website and blog rely on WordPress.

iA Writer 5.5 also improves account management for connected services, allowing for the use and reordering of multiple accounts for WordPress, Medium, Ghost and Micropub. Check out the release post for a more detailed look at the Mac and iOS-specific updates in this release.

by Sarah Gooding at May 15, 2020 09:46 PM under ia Writer

WPTavern: Gutenberg 8.1 Includes Block Copying, Testimonials Pattern, and Patterns UI Update

On Wednesday, the Gutenberg team released version 8.1.0 of the plugin. The update includes a new block-copying feature, block pattern search, testimonials pattern, and API changes. The new version does not add a lot of major user-facing changes but improves the experience overall.

The update included two dozen bug fixes and nearly as many enhancements. This release feels more like a solid update that addresses many minor items and nit-picks, such as the addition of black and white colors for the default color palette. The ability to paste a document into the post title input, which gets transformed into proper blocks, works great too.

One nice improvement is the ability to transform the HTML block to the Code block and vice versa. File this one under why has this not already been possible?

If you are following along with the Gutenberg plugin, there are some definite improvements to look forward to in this release, particularly around the block patterns feature.

Copy Blocks with Ease

Copying a pullquote block.

Admittedly, this is quickly becoming one of my favorite features of Gutenberg 8.1. The editor toolbar now has a copy button, which allows end-users to copy one or more blocks at the click of a button. It is tucked under the “more rich text controls” dropdown menu.

To use the new copy feature, simply select the block or blocks you want to copy. Then, click the copy button. From that point, the block can be pasted back into the editor.

For theme authors, plugin developers, or anyone who wants to share the code for a block, copying a block also produces the HTML that can be pasted into a text editor. No more switching to the code view of the editor and hunting down the HTML you want to copy. For example, the pullquote copied from the post in the above screenshot produced the following HTML when pasting into my text editor:

<!-- wp:pullquote {"align":"wide"} -->
<figure class="wp-block-pullquote alignwide"><blockquote><p><span class="rtex-highlighter-0">What has the Duke of Devonshire? The only great instance that I have ever known of the enjoyment of wealth was, that of Jamaica Dawkins...</span></p></blockquote></figure>
<!-- /wp:pullquote -->

This should make it easy for developers to copy the code of their custom block patterns.

Testimonials Pattern

New pattern for testimonials.

The team added to its growing collection of block patterns with the addition of the Testimonials pattern. The new pattern brings the library to eight in total. It is unclear which patterns will launch when the feature lands in WordPress core. It is still under heavy development and is experimental.

The Testimonials pattern is one of the more complex patterns the team has introduced. It is a mix of groups, columns, images, and paragraphs. At points, the blocks are six levels deep.

Overall, it worked well among the various themes I tested it against with custom block styles. Visually, it is not inspiring, at least in comparison to what a good designer can do with a testimonials section, but it is a solid stepping stone on the way to more interesting layouts.

Inserter UI Adds Search and Titles

Search for block patterns via the inserter section.

Crossing off two out of three big wish list items from my Gutenberg 8.0 post, the team added search functionality and reintroduced the pattern titles below each pattern in the inserter. These are major improvements. The only item left on my list is for the team to introduce a categorization system for patterns.

The search box switches from searching for blocks to patterns once clicking on the patterns tab. The one issue is the search label and placeholder reads “Search for a block” in both instances. Instead, it should read “Search for a pattern” when searching patterns.

With my wish list nearly fulfilled for block patterns, I have one more item to add. I would like to see the team introduce slash commands to insert patterns. Typing /testimonials should provide users the option to insert the new Testimonials pattern without clicking the inserter button.

Developers: Block Patterns API Changes

The Block Patterns API methods of registering and unregistering patterns have changed. In previous versions, developers used the register_pattern() and unregister_pattern() functions. These have been deprecated. Beginning with 8.1.0, developers should update their code to use the register_block_pattern() and unregister_block_pattern() functions.

This API change is welcome. It is needed for clarity. However, this sort of API change, even on an experimental feature, is one of the many things that frustrates developers who are attempting to keep up with the project. It is especially frustrating when the discussion was originally opened when the feature was first merged. Naming things is hard. It is one of the hardest things to do in programming, but good naming schemes can also be the difference between great software and poor software. There should be more careful thought and thorough explanations when these issues pop up in tickets.

by Justin Tadlock at May 15, 2020 08:04 PM under gutenberg

May 14, 2020

WPTavern: Google Patches Critical Vulnerability in Site Kit Plugin

In late April Wordfence discovered a critical vulnerability in Google’s Site Kit plugin for WordPress that would make it possible for any user on the site to gain full access to the Google Search Console without verifying ownership. Google patched the vulnerability and released the fix in version 1.8.0 on May 7, 2020.

Wordfence published a timeline of the vulnerability, describing it as a proxySetupURL disclosure:

In order to establish the first connection with Site Kit and Google Search Console, the plugin generates a proxySetupURL that is used to redirect a site’s administrator to Google OAuth and run the site owner verification process through a proxy. Due to the lack of capability checks on the admin_enqueue_scripts action, the proxySetupURL was displayed as part of the HTML source code of admin pages to any authenticated user accessing the /wp-admin dashboard.

The other aspect of the vulnerability is related to the site ownership verification request, which used a registered admin action that was missing capability checks. As a result, any authenticated WordPress user was capable of initiating the request.

Wordfence identified several ways a malicious attacker might use this vulnerability to the detriment of the site’s ranking and reputation, including manipulating search engine results, requesting removal of a competitor’s URLs from the search engine, modifying sitemaps, viewing performance data, and more.

The security fixes are not detailed in the plugin’s changelog on GitHub. It does, however, include a note at the top that states, “This release includes security fixes. An update is strongly recommended.” Google has not published a post to notify users on the news section of the plugin’s official website. Without Wordfence’s public disclosure, users may not know about the importance of the update.

Google’s Site Kit plugin has more than 400,000 active installs, according to WordPress.org. Details of the 1.8.0 update are not available to users in the admin, since the plugin’s changelog is hosted on GitHub. There is no way for users to know that the update includes security fixes without clicking through to research. Due to the great deal of sensitive information to which attackers could gain access, users are advised to update the plugin as soon as possible.

by Sarah Gooding at May 14, 2020 10:39 PM under security

BuddyPress: BuddyPress 6.0.0 “iovine’s”

This major release introduces the first two BuddyPress Blocks!!

We are very excited to announce the immediate availability of BuddyPress 6.0.0 code-named “iovine’s“. You can get it clicking on the above button, downloading it from the WordPress.org plugin directory or checking it out from our Subversion repository.

If you’re upgrading from a previous version of BuddyPress, it’s always a good idea to back-up your WordPress database and files ahead of time.

You can review all of the changes in this 6.0.0 release in the release notes. Below are a few of the key features we know you are going to love!

BP Blocks

BuddyPress 6.0.0 comes with two awesome new blocks for your WordPress Editor: Members and Groups. Made available from the BuddyPress blocks category of your WordPress Block menu, these lovely blocks let you insert a rich content block featuring a specific Member or Group from your community site inside any WordPress Post or Page.

If you’re an Advanced BuddyPresser and wish to fine-tune the BuddyPress blocks for your community site, learn more in this section of our development note about these new blocks.

The BP REST API is now complete!

In 5.0.0, we introduced the first REST API endpoints and provided reference documentation for them. In 6.0.0, we are adding the 6 remaining endpoints you were waiting for: Blogs, Blog avatar, Friends, Group Cover Image, Member Cover Image, and User Signups. You can now build full-featured applications using the BuddyPress REST API!

BP Nouveau has been improved

Does your theme support wide layouts? Awesome! The BP Nouveau template-pack now supports wide (and really, really wide) content areas! This is the first of the many improvements we are bringing to our default set of styling components. It never looked so beautiful in your theme.

Under the hood

6.0.0 includes more than 80 changes to improve your BuddyPress experience as users, as contributors to our code and as contributors to our translations. The biggest change moves local avatar management to the Members component. Read more about it in this development note.

We want to hear your voice

Knowing how you use BuddyPress and getting your point of view about future BuddyPress development is very important to us. Please, take some time to help us decide what’s best for the BuddyPress project.

Many thanks to our 42 contributors to 6.0.0

This BuddyPress release is only possible thanks to the contributions of the community. Special thanks to the following folks who contributed code, translations, and testing to the release: Adil Oztaser (oztaser), Amit Dudhat (wpamitkumar), Andrea Tarantini (dontdream), Ankit Panchal (ankitmaru), Arslan Ahmed (passoniate), Boone B Gorges (boonebgorges), Brajesh Singh (sbrajesh), Bunty (bhargavbhandari90), Dan Caragea (dancaragea), David Cavins (dcavins), Dominik Schilling (ocean90), etatus, Fayaz Gabol (fayazgabol), Hugo Ashmore (hnla), Jb Audras (audrasjb), Jennifer Burnett (jenfraggle), John James Jacoby (johnjamesjacoby), Justin Tadlock (greenshady), Kashif Gabol(kashifgabol), laudag, Mario Badilla (marbaque), Mathieu Viet (imath), mattjones2207, mercime, mo3aser, modemlooper, Morteza Geransayeh (man4toman), Mukesh Panchal (mukesh27), Paul Gibbs (DJPaul), Pooja N Muchandikar (pooja1210), r-a-y, Renato Alves (espellcaste), santiazpi2, shanebp, Sharaz Shahid (sharaz), sjregan, Stephen Edgar (netweb), Tammie Lister (karmatosed), Tor-Bjorn Fjellner (tobifjellner), Towhidul Islam (itowhid06), twmcmahan, Zishan (zishanj).

BuddyPress iovine’s

If you come to Paris (France), you’ll probably want to visit the Louvre Museum. The greatest Pizza restaurant around is Nicola Iovine’s place. You’ll fall in love with how he cares to respect culinary traditions, share authentic flavors, select great quality products imported from Italy and use the real neapolitan pizza dough.

Simply delicious, just like BuddyPress 6.0.0 😉

Photo credits: iovine’s

Feedback is always welcome <3

Receiving your feedback and suggestions for future versions of BuddyPress genuinely motivates and encourages our contributors. Please share your feedback about this version of BuddyPress in the comments area of this post. And of course, if you’ve found a bug: please tell us about it into our Support forums.

by Mathieu Viet at May 14, 2020 10:30 PM under releases

WPTavern: Envato Launches Template Kits Marketplace for Elementor

Watch out block patterns. There is an old player in town making the hard sell before you have even rolled out of bed. Envato just dropped a massive library of template kits for Elementor in your front yard.

Not to worry, the company plans to open things up for the block editor in the future. The Elementor page builder just makes the most sense right now. It was the first to market. It is mature and has a backing of 5 million users, many of whom will be accustomed to commercial upsells, and $15 million in recent funding. Financially, it is the smart play. The company can also test the waters of this new category of products before opening it to other page builders and the block editor in a proven market.

Envato, the company behind ThemeForest and other marketplaces for creators, launched over 200 template kits today to its large audience of end-users and site builders. The kits cover a wide range of niches. Everything from book authors to medical practices to restaurants is covered.

“Launching template kits is our latest response to the growing demand for page builders and customers looking for design inspiration that is simple and easy to apply to their website,” said Cameron Gough, General Manager of Envato’s Content team.

While this is not an official partnership between Envato and Elementor, at least not on paper, it further broadens the appeal of the Elementor page builder. It is sure to spur massive growth beyond its current 5 million users. If there is one thing Envato knows how to do and do well, it is selling products. When we questioned whether page builders would be able to compete in the long term with the block editor, the largest third-party theme marketplace is betting at least this one particular page builder can.

The marketplace is completely open. “We’re encouraging new and existing authors in the Envato community to create their own template kits and upload them,” said Gough. “It’s a great way to break into this market, especially at this early point.”

For site designers who have worked with Elementor, now is a great opportunity to submit a kit. You can set your own price — most kits range between $15-$30. The great thing is that designers are not responsible for building a full WordPress theme from scratch. Instead, they can essentially create multiple templates with a page builder, bundle them via the Template Kit – Export plugin, and cash in.

The interesting aspect here is that people with an eye for design and the skillset to build those designs in Elementor can sell their creations without learning to code.

What Are Template Kits?

Template kits walk-through.

“A template kit is a collection of page and block templates or layouts, each with a similar visual style and typically focused on a particular niche,” said Gough. “See some of the examples in our launch collection like a restaurant, or a gym, or a web/design agency. You could liken it sort of the demo content layer that you can find in some premium themes.”

Currently, end-users must have a theme installed that integrates with the Elementor page builder for these template kits to work. After purchasing and downloading a kit, users can simply upload templates to their sites via the Template Kit – Import plugin.

Kits are merely a starting point. Users will need to fill in their custom content. They also have the power to change the design through Elementor’s built-in tools.

Envato launched the template kits marketplace on its ThemeForest website. The current 200+ kits are broken down into 22 categories, the most popular of which are Business Services, Food and Drink, and Technology Apps.

Example template kit screenshots.

Sales are already starting to roll in on launch day. There are no clear favorites at the moment with the top sellers hitting only two sales thus far. This should change in the coming days and weeks. The highest-priced kits tend to contain dozens of templates. Some kits, like Spring Watercolor and Floral, contain over 100 in the collection.

“We know many WordPress professionals that want a pre-packaged, fully functional website template may continue to favor our existing collection of WordPress themes,” said Gough. “But we increasingly see customers wanting to develop websites from a page builder foundation rather than a full WordPress theme. For these customers, template kits provide a leg up on design, and it’s important we continue to support those changing needs.”

For the launch, there is at least one free template kit called SaaSy. It is a SaaS and app landing page kit that includes 10 page templates and 26 block templates. It will be available for free until May 31.

SaaSy Template Kit – Live Preview

“We know that the WordPress world continues to evolve and respond exceptionally well to the changing needs of the wider web design industry, and you only have to look at Gutenberg as one example of how the platform is evolving to meet the increasing demand for easier tools that provide a leg up on website design,” said Gough.

“Couple this with the strength of page builders such as Elementor and others, plus a vibrant and active community of developers, hosting providers, and more, we think there’s never been a better time to provide a new and easier way to bring WordPress websites to life.”

by Justin Tadlock at May 14, 2020 08:03 PM under themeforest

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June 02, 2020 06:45 AM
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