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July 14, 2020

WPTavern: WordCamp Europe Goes Virtual for 2021, In-Person Conference to Resume 2022

While much of the world is currently suspended in the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, WordCamp Europe delivered a surprisingly decisive announcement today regarding the status of the 2021 event in Porto. Organizers moved to make it a virtual conference, 10 months in advance of the planned dates, June 3-5, 2021:

After careful consideration, and following guidance from WordCamp Central, we have agreed to hold WCEU 2021 online.

Although it was a difficult decision, it also seems the right thing to do. Considering the continuing uncertainty regarding COVID-19, we are hesitant to draw so many individuals from so many different places into one physical space.

We understand that this decision will come as a disappointment to many. We know that this event is a much-needed social outlet for many in our community and that an online event isn’t quite the same as a physical event. We’re so sad to not be able to greet you all in person in Porto in June.

The announcement cited several positive aspects of going virtual, including eliminating the uncertainty for attendees and their travel arrangements, allowing for a larger global audience without the expense and risk, and having more time for creating a better online experience. The 2020 event had just three months to convert to a virtual conference but was able to reach more than 8,000 attendees.

In the absence of a vaccine ready for mass distribution or any proven commercially available therapeutics specifically designed to target the virus, it is impossible for organizers to nail down a safe timeline for a multinational event in 2021. Hugh Lashbrooke, who is assisting the WCEU organizing team as a mentor from WordCamp Central, identified risk mitigation as one of the primary factors in their decision.

“Attendee safety is a primary concern in WordCamp organizing,” Lashbrooke said. “While the pandemic is progressing differently in different regions of the world, it seems that large in-person events that bring together thousands of people from multiple countries in a single shared space are still a risky proposition — and it’s not clear when this will be safe again.”

WordCampers reacting to the news today seemed to understand the need for such a disruptive change, but most expressed deep disappointment.

“I’m sure the decision won’t have been taken lightly,” Simon Dickson said. “But WCEU is so important in terms of defining and sustaining the European – and indeed, global – WordPress community. With all due respect to online alternatives, two blank years will hit community spirit hard.”

The goal for WordCamp Europe is to resume the in-person event in 2022 and organizers have booked the Super Bock Arena (Pavilhão Rosa Mota) for June 2 – June 4, 2022. 

If WCEU can resume normal operations in 2022, it will be the first time in three years that the European WordPress community has had the opportunity to gather in-person in one place. One disappointed attendee said, “Understandable. As we say in Portugal: À terceira será de vez! Até 2022,” which roughly translates to the English saying, “Third time’s a charm.”

WordPress Community Team Is Working Towards Facilitating More Effective Events

Lashbrooke said adjusting to emerging world events has been hard on all WordCamp organizing teams this year, as well as sponsors, speakers, and attendees. WordCamp Asia was forced to cancel, WordCamp US has gone virtual, and many other smaller camps have gone online or been postponed. The WordPress Community team is discussing how they can improve online events to provide a better experience for the community. Some of the broader ideas for creating more effective events include the following:

  • Decouple online events from geography
  • Encourage events and workshops defined by topics, languages, etc.
  • Explore shorter, “snack-sized” online events
  • Experiment with the frequency of events

A peripheral discussion regarding sponsors is happening on Twitter, after recent online WordCamps failed to deliver a positive experience of virtual sponsor booths.

“If you want to offer sponsors a ‘Virtual Booth’ as a benefit of sponsorship, you’re going to have to do something during the main event to make that attractive and easy for attendees to attend — otherwise it’s not a sponsor benefit,” Matt Cromwell said.

“If attendees have to log off the regular WordCamp platform, then go find some other link to some other virtual platform the experience becomes arduous and full of friction for the attendee making it highly unlikely they’ll attend. WordCamps that are switching to virtual should look into more robust platforms like Hopin which allow for various rooms that are consolidated to the same platform for attendees.”

WordCamp Europe 2020 organizer Bernhard Kau said his team looked into using Hopin but found it wasn’t fully accessible.

“Hopin looked promising at first, not only for sponsors, but also for networking between attendees,” Kau said. “But it lacks basic accessibility. It’s unusable with keyboard only for example. I’d love to see it improve, so we could use it in the future.”

Lashbrooke said WordCamp Central has also considered Hopin, among other apps, while doing extensive research on accessible platforms.

“Right now, everyone’s still working on a way to make that work for everyone, and we’re lucky that our sponsors are so honest with us about their experiences, because it helps us improve,” Lashbrooke said.

“One thing that is of paramount importance to us as a team is that all WordPress events maintain a high level of accessibility, and unfortunately when it comes to streaming platforms we have very limited options when it comes to accessible streaming services. Zoom is about the only fully-accessible platform, so it’s the only option to use for sponsor booths.”

With ten months of lead time, WordCamp Europe organizers will have plenty of opportunities to experiment with new ideas to make the event more engaging for both attendees and sponsors. All the other WordCamps on the schedule through the end of the year have already been converted to online events. For the time being, it looks like virtual camps are here to stay.

“I really doubt we’ll be abandoning online events, after COVID-19 is more under control worldwide,” WordPress Community organizer Andrea Middleton said. “I think that we’ll need to figure out how in-person events and online events can best coexist, but it seems like we’ll have time to figure that out.”

by Sarah Gooding at July 14, 2020 11:55 PM under WordCamp Europe

WPTavern: Call for Block Plugins: The WordPress Block Directory Is Open for Business

WordPress block directory.

Over the weekend, Alex Shiels announced an open call for plugin authors to begin submitting one-off block plugins to the official block directory. In the upcoming WordPress 5.5 update, slated for release on August 11, end-users will be able to search for, install, and add blocks directly from the editor. With little time left before release, will plugin authors make this a worthwhile feature for users?

“The Block Directory is a subset of plugins in the plugin directory that can be instantly and seamlessly installed from the Gutenberg editor with a single click,” wrote Shiels in the announcement. “We call these new plugins ‘block plugins’ and have worked hard to make it easier for people to contribute to this new feature coming to WordPress 5.5.”

WordPress plugin authors now have a new block validation tool at their disposal. The validator can check an SVN repository URL, Github URL, or plugin slug to determine if it is suitable for inclusion into the WordPress block directory. It is still under development, so plugin authors should report any issues they run into.

For existing plugins in the plugin directory, developers can publish them to the block directory after passing validation with the tool. Plugin authors can also remove their plugins from the block directory at the click of the button.

The block plugin guidelines are still under development. The draft ticket has been open since November 21, 2019. It has seen little activity in the months since. Presumably, there will be a finalized version on WordPress.org rather than GitHub before WordPress 5.5 lands.

Developers who want to begin building block plugins should follow the updated block development tutorial.

A Late Rallying Cry

Technically, plugin authors have been able to submit blocks to the directory for months. It was a bit of a hidden feature that few developers took advantage of. The user base was primarily Gutenberg plugin users who had enabled the experimental block directory search feature. Despite the small user base, it was an ideal time for plugin authors to begin experimenting and building an audience. It could have also been a great opportunity for relatively unknown developers to make their mark upon the WordPress world. There is still some time for that, but the community has not been actively encouraged to create blocks for the directory. With WordPress 5.5 looming ahead, the past few months seem like a missed opportunity.

Nick Hamze, one of the most prolific publishers of one-off blocks, is taking a break. He originally had plans to release 99 plugins throughout 2020, but the WordPress plugin review team asked him to dial things back a bit. His routine releases were putting a strain on the team. The problem is that he was one of the few plugin authors putting in the work to make the block directory a great thing.

As a former reviewer for the themes team, I understand how easy it is to get overwhelmed with a wave of new projects that need a code review. At the same time, I would be willing to bump Hamze’s work to the front of the line, regardless of how often he was releasing new plugins. It may be a bit unfair to other plugin authors, but few others were betting big on what will be one of WordPress 5.5’s highlights: a searchable block directory.

“If someone would have just given me the barest encouragement I would have kept going, but due to my experience, I stopped submitting blocks and won’t do it anymore in the future,” said Hamze.

If no one else was putting in the work, there should have been no harm in giving him a bit of priority or a helping hand. That way, when WordPress 5.5 launches, there is something to show for this feature.

Now, we are in the 11th hour, mere weeks before 5.5’s official release, with a meager offering of blocks — instead of hundreds of blocks, we are currently nearing the 60 mark. It is a last-minute rallying call to get plugin authors churning away before the final bell rings. Yet, WordPress just benched what was essentially its star player.

I have no doubt the block directory will continue to grow. More developers will buy into it, especially as full-site editing creates more possibilities in WordPress 5.6 later this year. Some authors will likely produce more blocks than the totality of the current number in the directory.

If the Gutenberg team had managed to squeeze the directory and management screens into WordPress 5.5 admin, it would have made for a far bigger splash. It would have been good visibility for block makers. WordPress will support a block directory search for now. However, there is no way for end-users to more casually browse blocks via their admin. There is no way to see the latest block plugin releases or view the most popular blocks. Some of these things may have made one-off block development a bit more enticing to plugin authors.

I am still optimistic that more plugin authors will jump onto the block bandwagon. It will just be a while before we start seeing the wealth of blocks that cover the entire spectrum of what users need.

by Justin Tadlock at July 14, 2020 08:09 PM under Opinion

WordPress.org blog: WordPress 5.5 Beta 2


WordPress 5.5 Beta 2 is now available!

This software is still in development, so it’s not recommended to run this version on a production site. Consider setting up a test site to play with the new version.

You can test WordPress 5.5 beta 2 in two ways:

WordPress 5.5 is slated for release on August 11th, 2020, and we need your help to get there!

Thank you to all of the contributors that tested the beta 1 development release and provided feedback. Testing for bugs is an important part of polishing each release and a great way to contribute to WordPress. Here are some of the changes since beta 1 to pay close attention to while testing.

Some highlights

Since beta 1, 48 bugs have been fixed. Here is a summary of a few changes included in beta 2:

  • 19 additional bugs have been fixed in the block editor (see #23903 and #23905).
  • The Dashicons icon font has been updated (see #49913).
  • Broken widgets stemming from changes in Beta 1 have been fixed (see #50609).
  • Query handling when counting revisions has been improved (see #34560).
  • An alternate, expanded view was added for wp_list_table (see #49715).
  • Some adjustments were made to the handling of default terms for custom taxonomies (see #43517)

Several updates have been made to the block editor. For details, see #23903 and #23905.

Developer notes

WordPress 5.5 has lots of refinements to polish the developer experience. To keep up, subscribe to the Make WordPress Core blog and pay special attention to the developers’ notes for updates on those and other changes that could affect your products.

How to Help

Do you speak a language other than English? Help us translate WordPress into more than 100 languages!

If you think you’ve found a bug, you can post to the Alpha/Beta area in the support forums. We’d love to hear from you!

If you’re comfortable writing a reproducible bug report, file one on WordPress Trac, where you can also find a list of known bugs.

by Jake Spurlock at July 14, 2020 05:24 PM under Releases

July 13, 2020

WPTavern: Admin 2020 Reimagines WordPress Admin and Media Library

Unless I’m trying to be aware of it, I don’t see the WordPress admin anymore. When you work inside it every day, it becomes a means to an end, like a subway ride to work. You scan your ticket (log in) and you’re on your way to whatever admin business is the order of the day. After awhile, you accept its appearance and no longer spend conscious thoughts critiquing it.

WordPress doesn’t overhaul its admin design very often, since it requires a massive effort from contributors. The beauty of this pluggable system is that anyone with the skills can change the design to suit their own aesthetic. That is what WordPress developer Mark Ashton has done with Admin 2020, a plugin that completely reskins the admin to give it a different look.

Browsing the Admin 2020 demo, you might not even know you were using WordPress. The design is built on top of UIkit, a lightweight UI framework that has a softer, rounder look to it. Users can switch between light and dark mode. Admin 2020 features white labeling, allowing users to upload their own logos and brand the dashboard for themselves. The admin area can also be radically simplified based on user role. The plugin allows for admin menu items to be renamed or toggled for visibility.

Admin 2020 dashboard overview dark mode

Admin 2020 has an Overview page that can sync with Google Analytics to show reports that can be filtered by date, including Users, Page Views, Sessions, and device breakdown. It also displays summaries of recent comments, popular pages, system info, new users, and other content-related data.

The plugin gives WordPress’ media library a new look, along with folders and filters for an alternative way to organize images. Ashton claims it is up to 50% faster than the classic WordPress media library. The gallery editor also adds filters, free draw, icons/shapes, text and other mask filters for enhancing images.

Admin 2020 media library

“A lot of what admin 2020 does is built on existing WordPress functions, it just uses them in a different way,” Ashton said. “Instant search for example leverages AJAX and you can search all of your content from one place.”

The Admin 2020 plugin started out as a personal passion project. After building everything from plugins to themes to a hospitality reservation management system using WordPress, Ashton thought he would try his hand at making an admin theme he would enjoy using.

“It was something I have always wanted and basically got tired of waiting for,” he said. “I’ve been using WordPress for my projects for many years and while I love the platform I have never enjoyed using the backend. I wanted to create something with a strong emphasis on modern UI but also something that brought useful features that would speed up my workflow.”

Ashton said supporting third-party extensions is one of the most challenging aspects of maintaining the plugin. Admin 2020 includes full support for popular plugins like Jetpack, WooCommerce, Elementor, Yoast SEO, and Divi Builder, but there are thousands of others that have not been tested.

“The process of supporting a plugin usually isn’t that difficult but it’s more the case of there are so many plugins out there,” Ashton said. “Some plugins rely heavily on their own CSS in which case they usually work fine in light mode but don’t look right in dark mode. Then you have plugins that use WP components and they usually work great right out of the box. Some plugins actually disable all custom backend styling, though – they are a real challenge to get around!”

Ashton launched Admin 2020 in April, so it is still relatively new to the commercial plugin scene. It is sold as a single plugin but is built in a modular way so that most parts of it can be disabled. The plugin’s tiered pricing begins at $15 for a single site license. He opted to pursue a fully commercial model as opposed to releasing a free plugin with paid upgrades.

“In short, I wanted the plugin to stay as streamlined as possible,” Ashton said. “I didn’t want to add yet more plugin notices at the top of admin pages bugging you to upgrade. I wanted people to experience the full version of Admin 2020.”

His strategy has been successful so far, as Admin 2020 has become a full-time project after just three months. The London-based company is a one-person effort at the moment, but Ashton is looking to bring another developer on.

“Active installs are around 2,000 now, and as a result I am very busy and Admin 2020 is a full time project,” he said. “I love working on the plugin though, there is a lot of scope on where this can go and the feedback has been great!”

When asked if he worries about the name becoming outdated in the coming years, Ashton said he is happy with the name but if he thinks of something more suitable it may change in the future. He believes there is a market for all kinds of different themes to transform the WordPress admin but isn’t currently planning to add more designs.

“Not everyone is the same, and good design looks different to everybody,” Ashton said. “I am not looking at other designs at the moment – more offering the ability to customize the design yourself through Admin 2020.”

by Sarah Gooding at July 13, 2020 11:21 PM under Plugins

WPTavern: Copy and Paste Editor Blocks via GutenbergHub’s Block Library

GutenbergHub block library.

Spearheaded by Munir Kamal, GutenbergHub launched a free block library to the WordPress community today. Currently, there are 37 custom-designed blocks that users can copy and paste to their website.

Unlike the block directory on WordPress.org, the blocks available from this project are not plugins. They are handled through copying and pasting a bit of code. Technicaly they are blocks that act as a grouping of various core WordPress blocks. However, in reality, they more closely resemble block patterns.

The one caveat is that users must install Kamal’s recently-launched EditorPlus plugin. It allows end-users to style the core WordPress blocks via a slew of custom design options. Because the plugin neither relies on third-party blocks nor creates its own, all of the block designs in GutenbergHub’s library are built directly from the blocks available in WordPress. This makes for a much smaller dependency tree and fewer areas where things could go wrong in the fast-moving world of blocks.

By tying the block designs to the EditorPlus plugin, it gives Kamal much more control over the final output. Having cross-theme consistency is still a tough job, but it improves by working within the confines of the design framework from the plugin.

“I created [EditorPlus] to fulfill my requirements in bringing easily customizable blocks and templates to Gutenberg users,” said Kamal.

He launched a block template library in March. However, it originally asked users to copy block HTML and CSS code separately. Now, both the block and template libraries require the EditorPlus plugin. This allows Kamal to build everything on top of a sort of framework and remove third-party dependencies. Kamal said the system will help make things easier for users while giving him more control over development and maintenance.

Thus far, most of the projects he has launched on GutenbergHub have built on top of the previous project in some way. They were stepping stones that led him to build a bigger yet more well-rounded system. However, we are likely light-years away from seeing how everything takes shape. The Gutenberg project is moving fast, and GutenbergHub will need to react to upcoming changes. It will need to contend with the inclusion of block patterns in WordPress 5.5, full-site editing later this year, and more design options for blocks down the road. Like the block system itself, all of this is still a bit experimental until we begin to see some sort of settling point. It will be interesting to watch how things unfold. Kamal and his GutenbergHub project are in a good position to ride the waves of constant change.

Watch a short video on how GutenbergHub’s block library and EditorPlus plugin work together to create pricing columns:

How the Block Library Works

Currently, users can search the GutenbergHub block library to pick and choose the blocks they want. The library is sub-divided by seven categories:

  • Testimonial
  • Team
  • Feature
  • Card
  • Pricing
  • Call to Action
  • Stats

Users can copy a small bit of JSON code for individual blocks they would like to add to their site. To add a block, installing and activating the EditorPlus plugin is a hard requirement. Once that is done, users can visit the Blocks tab under the EditorPlus settings screen and paste the code.

Adding a block’s code via the EditorPlus plugin.

The blocks tab acts as a central hub to manage blocks from the library. Users can add, delete, or deactivate any blocks added from GutenbergHub.

Each active block added to the site is available through the block inserter on the editor. Perhaps the one downside is the blocks do not have a preview image. Some of the blocks have similar names, such as Card 1, Card 2, etc. Having a preview image would help distinguish them — or just better names.

Inserting a block from GutenbergHub into the editor.

Future Plans

Ideally, the EditorPlus plugin could serve up GutenbergHub’s blocks and templates over an API, providing users with a simple import solution at the click of a mouse. The copy/paste approach means having to visit a separate website instead of staying in the comfort of one’s WordPress admin. Kamal originally went with the copy/paste solution because he wanted everything to be independent of plugins. However, because WordPress did not have the design controls in place, he realized he needed at least one plugin as part of the equation. That is where EditorPlus came in. This should ultimately free him up to build an import feature.

“I will possibly include a direct inserter for templates and blocks in the Editor Plus plugin,” he said. However, there is no indication of when that will happen. It would make the user experience more seamless and efficient.

Kamal is still mulling over how he will eventually monetize the project. Right now, he has put a lot of time and resources behind it with little return on his investment. At some point, this could become unsustainable unless his other commercial ventures can fund it. In the long run, he will need to have a solid business plan behind the entire GutenbergHub project.

“I do plan to monetize the GutenbergHub offering somehow,” he said. “I’ve not yet planned out this, but that could be a premium subscription or offering pro blocks, templates, and an EditorPlus add-on. Another option would be to convert it into a marketplace where designers can create and sell blocks and templates. This is something I’ve yet to plan out to be honest. Rest assured, what is free will remain free and will actually improve over time.”

Kamal said his most immediate plan is to gather more feedback from users. “I ended up creating a Facebook group,” he said. “This would be the best and easiest way for anyone to share ideas, suggestions, and feedback about GutenbergHub.”

by Justin Tadlock at July 13, 2020 09:14 PM under GutenbergHub

July 10, 2020

WPTavern: WordPress Documentation Team Bans Links to Commercial Websites

This week WordPress’ Documentation team announced a ban on links to commercial websites in a revision to its external linking policy:

During discussion about external linking policy, we came to conclusion that we won’t allow, at least in the beginning and for the time being, any commercial blogs. So before you start arguing that some popular plugin’s blogs have valuable information, let me stop you right there.

Allowing “popular plugin’s/theme’s/services’ etc blogs” and all other commercial blogs will put us in a position to protect documentation from being abused as marketing media, to protect ourselves from accusations of being biased and to defend every decision we make along the way. And still, there will be dissatisfied sides claiming we weren’t fair and did them wrong. The idea of allowing external linking will become its own purpose.

Despite the announcement’s abrasive phrasing discouraging further discussion on the matter, the controversial decision stirred up a heated conversation in the comments. Yoast founder Joost de Valk contends that companies contributing to WordPress might as well receive some promotion as a benefit:

I understand that you want to prevent discussions about bias.

But I think your premise here is wrong: you’re saying you’re not “biased” if you’re not linking to commercial companies. I would say we’re all inherently biased, because some of those companies do a lot for the WordPress community, while others do not.

The companies that contribute to WordPress a lot used to get some links, and thus some promotion as benefit from the fact that they’re contributing. By removing that from them, you’re basically treating those that don’t give back the same as companies that do give back, something which I think is simply wrong. So I very heavily disagree with this decision.

Milana Cap, the Documentation Team member who penned the announcement, clarified that the policy change does not remove external links to commercial sites from WordPress.org. It only applies to documentation sites, including HelpHubCode ReferencePlugin and Theme Developer Handbook, Block Editor HandbookCommon APIs Handbook.

“There is no way to make this fair,” Cap said. “And we can discuss about many unfair parallels happening in open source communities; such as how many hours per week can be contributed by a freelancer vs paid company contributor, meeting times (where decisions are made) in the middle of the night in your timezone etc.”

Timi Wahalahti suggested one solution would be to better utilize the Five for the Future pledges page to identify significant contributors to documentation if links to commercial sites are no longer an option.

Several commenters noted the value of linking to additional examples and resources but also recommended WordPress put a version or timestamp in place to give the reader more context.

WordPress agency owner Jon Brown characterized the ban as “undesirable gatekeeping,” saying that the policy suggests all things commercial are “inherently corrupt and not trustworthy nor valuable.”

“A links value is inherently subjective and ought to be delt with subjectively,” Brown said. “Trying to create high level objective rules doesn’t seem beneficial or realistic. I certainly disagree that all ‘commercial’ sites should be blanket banned.

“I do think there are some low level disqualifiers that could guide authors and moderators in what links are appropriate. Those should be criteria that directly impact the users of docs, and being commercial doesn’t. Those are things like, the source being accessible, the source not being pay walled, etc.”

Cap responded, saying that the root of the issue is that allowing commercial links puts the documentation team in the unwanted position of having to find a fair way to decide on which links are allowed to be included. She also indicated that the policy may evolve over time but that for now the decision on the ban is final.

“Perhaps over time we’ll figure that out,” Cap said. “We’ll certainly know more once we start doing it. For now, this is the decision.”

External sources can be valuable supplements to documentation, but this conversation underscores the need for better incentives for people to spend time documenting WordPress. As the team is already running on limited resources, they are trying to avoid having to heavily police links to commercial websites.

“The bottom line is: we haven’t figured out the best way to deal with commercial blogs or sites in a fair manner and thus our focus is going to be on links that don’t drop into that grey zone,” Cap said. “We do expect to eventually get towards discussing how we can safely include commercial blog links (if this even is possible).”

by Sarah Gooding at July 10, 2020 11:22 PM under documentation

WPTavern: Ariele Lite Is a Fun and Refreshing Theme for WordPress Bloggers

Ariele Lite, the latest theme from Rough Pixels, went live in the WordPress theme directory today. In an ecosystem where designers are dubbing most themes as multipurpose, it is refreshing to see a well-designed theme that is unafraid to cater specifically to bloggers.

It is not often that I get the opportunity to test a brand new theme from the official WordPress theme directory that supports block editor styles. Or, at least it’s not often that I test one that lives up to the claim. Despite a couple of trivial issues, Ariele Lite is a theme that will appeal to a wide audience.

Whenever I see the word “lite” appended to the end of a theme name, it is immediately off-putting. Far too often, I have been burned when activating such themes. My already low expectations are generally met with unfulfilled promises, missing styles for basic features, and a metric ton of advertising for the real product (i.e., the non-lite version that I can buy). However, I was pleasantly surprised by the work that went into Ariele Lite. It was a complete and fully-functioning theme and did not feel like crippleware. Plus, most of the upsell features in the commercial version were not that appealing to me. I can find most of them in plugin form. However, they could be nice additions for the user who wants integrated features that will look and feel like they are a part of the theme without the hassle of hunting down the perfect plugin.

What makes Ariele Lite a great theme is that it has an opinionated style, even if it is merely some subtle flavoring, for nearly every element or block. It never goes overboard into lavishness, which means it doesn’t break readability. It is a theme that has fun with its design while being well-groomed enough for professional bloggers.

Even if Ariele Lite is not to your taste, Rough Pixels has a history of releasing clean, well-designed themes. There is a little something for almost anyone. The company is also one of the few theme-makers with multiple themes that support the block editor in the free directory.

Theme Design and Features

Ariele Lite customizer options.

Ariele Lite is not stock full of custom features, but it has enough flexibility to satisfy most people who want to do some customization. More than anything, my favorite thing about the theme is that it does not take much cajoling to achieve the look of the demo the theme author has put together. There should be a WordPress theme directory filter tag titled “what you see in the demo is what you get.”

The theme comes with a reasonable number of theme design options. Users can change nearly every aspect of their front end. The theme has options for all its colors, several labels, and other theme-specific elements. It stops short of adding font settings, which is likely a good thing given the theme’s attention to detail with typography.

The one particular design element that caught my eye was the theme’s blockquote style. Some bloggers may want something a bit less pronounced in design, depending on how they want to present quotes. However, I am a sucker for beautiful quote designs, and Ariele Lite did not disappoint.

Ariele Lite’s blockquote style.

The quote design is representative of the attention that Rough Pixels has given to other elements in the theme. From the bold headings to the caption design that overlays the featured image, the team has left few stones unturned.

For bloggers, the most important element is the typography. It is one of those elements that too many theme authors overlook, but it is paramount when catering a theme to bloggers. This is one area the theme excels at. However, if selecting the sidebar-less layout option, there are too many characters per line for comfortable reading. Stick with either the left or right sidebar option to stay on point.

The theme comes with Jetpack infinite scrolling support, a custom posts widget with thumbnails, and enough sidebars to put widgets anywhere you might want. I like the default setup well enough, so these features are less important to me. However, they are likely welcome additions for many users.

Not Without Issues

I have been building this theme up thus far in the review. Now, it is time to take it down a notch or two. Ariele Lite is by no means perfect. No software is. I hit a few snags.

The biggest issue I ran into was the theme did not handle full-aligned blocks well. Instead of capping them to the width of the content container, they would break out into the sidebar. Even when selecting a layout with no sidebar, the same issue persists.

Full-width image creates a design issue.

This would be an absolute deal-breaker for me as a user. As a developer, I know that it is simply an oversight and can be corrected. The theme author can correct it with a single line of CSS. Users should simply be aware of the problem, at least until the theme author has a chance to address it.

Outside of that, nested lists in sidebars need a little TLC. The spacing is off. It is also missing support for pagination via the <!--nextpage--> quick tag on single post views.

These few items are relatively trivial issues to address. They are worth noting for the 1.0.4 version of the theme and will likely be fixed in future iterations.

Note: The above issues were quickly addressed by the theme author in version 1.0.5.

Final Thoughts

Ariele Lite does not break much new ground. It is simply a solid blogging theme that supports the block editor. Nearly two years in, such themes are still few and far between. It is ideally suited for people who love to write, and it has enough options to keep those who want to do a bit of tweaking happy.

If the theme’s development team is proactive about addressing the few minor issues, I would recommend it to anyone who wants a good theme that fully supports the latest version of WordPress.

by Justin Tadlock at July 10, 2020 08:35 PM under Reviews

July 09, 2020

WPTavern: Open Source Initiative to Host Virtual State of the Source Summit, September 9-10

OSI (Open Source Initiative) is hosting a new 24-hour, virtual conference called State of the Source Summit, September 9-10. The non-profit organization plays an important role in the open source ecosystem as stewards of the Open Source Definition (OSD). OSI is responsible for reviewing and approving licenses as OSD-conformant, which indirectly helps mediate community conflicts.

As part of the organization’s overall mission to educate the public on the economic and strategic advantages of open source technologies and licenses, OSI is hosting a global summit to facilitate conversations on the current state of open source software.

“We are so very excited to host our first-ever conference, with a global approach,” OSI Board President Josh Simmons said. “State of the Source provides an opportunity for both the open source software community and the OSI—all those who have contributed so much—to reflect on how we got here, why we have succeeded, and what needs to happen now.”

The conference will run four tracks with sessions that fall under these general groupings:

OSI has identified several example topics for each track, to guide potential presenters in writing a proposal. The first track encompasses more OSI-specific topics, such as license proliferation and license enforcement.

Projects & People includes topics that apply more broadly to communities and organizations – open source business models, sustainability, patents, and trademarks. The Principles, Policy, and Practices track is geared towards application and example topics include things like explaining a license to your peers, learning how to select a license for your project, and compliance, compatibility, and re-licensing.

As more conferences are forced to move to a virtual format, the wider open source community has the opportunity to be more engaged in an event like State of the Source. It’s a good venue for addressing non-technical issues related to the challenges facing open source maintainers and the community. The call for proposals ends July 16, and speakers will be announced August 25.

by Sarah Gooding at July 09, 2020 10:07 PM under OSI

WPTavern: Gutenberg 8.5 Adds Single Gallery Image Editing, Allows Image Uploads From External Sources, and Improves Drag and Drop

On Wednesday, the Gutenberg team released version 8.5 of its plugin to the public. This will be the final major plugin release to make its way into the upcoming WordPress 5.5, which has a target release date of August 11. This update does not include any groundbreaking features, but it does offer several enhancements and polishes the product.

Gutenberg 8.5 introduces the ability to upload images from third-party sites instead of simply hotlinking them. It also improves the drag-and-drop experience with blocks, adds an edit button for images in galleries, and moves reusable blocks to their own tab in the inserter.

Users can also now add an HTML anchor/ID to all static blocks. This was a relatively minor change but provides tremendous value. No longer will users need to switch to code editing mode and risk validation issues to add a basic HTML ID.

Upload External Images

New upload external image button.

The largest enhancement in Gutenberg 8.5 is an improvement to inserting an image from an external URL. This update allows users to upload the image to their media library.

In past versions, users could insert an image from any URL. However, the image would remain hosted on that external site. The problem was that the end-user had no control over what happened to that image in the future. The third-party site could disappear. The site owner could remove or replace the image. The image shown on users’ sites may not have been what they intended.

The upload process is manual rather than automatic. After inserting an image via a URL, the editor toolbar will have a new upload icon with an arrow that points up. Users must click it to add the image to their media library.

The additional benefit of self-hosting the image is that the editor’s other image tools become available. Users can resize, rotate, or crop the image, options which were added to Gutenberg 8.4.

Improved Drag and Drop

Dragging multiple blocks in the editor.

I had forgotten there was even a drag-and-drop feature for the block editor. Since it was introduced, I have never used it outside of testing. It is also not available when using Top Toolbar mode, which is my go-to choice.

The editor now allows dragging and dropping multi-block selections. The dragging-and-scrolling behavior is much approved. Instead of scrolling when reaching the edge of the viewport, the window scrolls almost immediately as you drag.

Despite the improvement, I do not find the drag-and-drop feature efficient in comparison to using the up/down arrows to move a block. However, I have never been much of a fan of dragging and dropping elements. Discoverability suffers because the hand icon that appears when hovering the toolbar is not a great indicator that I can drag the block, especially given its similarity to the normal hand cursor when moving my mouse. Some sort of directional arrow icon would make more sense and distinguish it.

Edit Single Gallery Images

Editing an individual gallery image.

Gutenberg 8.5 features a new edit button on the individual images within a gallery block. This allows end-users to replace the image on the spot.

This is one of my favorite features to make it in before the upcoming WordPress 5.5 deadline. It has been one of those minor nit-picks for the past couple of years that I have wanted to see addressed. Overall, the team has done a solid job of making it work.

However, it is not quite perfect yet. The biggest issue comes after clicking the edit button. Suddenly, there is no good way to cancel the edit if I change my mind. I got around this limitation by choosing to add an image from the media library, which automatically had the previous image selected. My first thought was to click the x icon. However, that removes the image from the gallery. A trashcan icon makes more sense for removing the image while the x icon makes more sense for canceling an action.

Reusable Blocks Tab

New reusable blocks tab in the inserter.

Reusable blocks are no longer tucked away at the bottom of the normal blocks list in the inserter. The team has moved them to their own tab. The inserter is now separated into Blocks, Patterns, and Reusable tabs. This will be an entirely new experience for users when WordPress 5.5 drops because the patterns feature and its corresponding tab are also new.

Moving the reusable blocks to a separate tab better exposes the feature. The previous location in which they were situated at the bottom of the blocks list hid them from anyone who did not scroll to the end. For far too long, this powerful feature was not getting the exposure that it deserved. Perhaps this new location will correct that.

The next step would be to finally add a reusable blocks menu item that is accessible from anywhere in the WordPress admin. We will likely have to wait for the WordPress admin block directory for that to happen.

by Justin Tadlock at July 09, 2020 09:00 PM under gutenberg

WPTavern: WordPress University Was Always Online

Did anybody listen to Peter Thiel? In 2011, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal, dubbed “contrarian investor” by the New York Times, created the Thiel Fellowship. A collection of 24 youngsters under the age of 20 were awarded $100,000 in exchange for dropping out of college to start tech companies.

Thiel said:

I believe you have a bubble whenever you have something that’s overvalued and intensely believed. In education, you have this clear price escalation without incredible improvement in the product. At the same time you have this incredible intensity of belief that this is what people have to do…It seems very similar in some ways to the housing bubble and the tech bubble.

Thiel had struck a raw cultural nerve. For years, as the world reeled and slowly recovered from a financial crisis, the quality of higher education was rapidly degrading while tuition costs were steadily increasing.

As more colleges make the switch to online only in the response to the pandemic, and the “college experience” becomes a relic of a bygone era, one wonders what the future of the university might look like.

Peter Thiel and Elon Musk, founders of PayPal. Typical underachievers.

Does a college education still improve economic outcomes in any significant way?

For people interested in tech careers, the answer is probably no. A college education produces minimal, if any, value. In effect, the university model, with American student loan debt amounting to $1.6 trillion, seems to do more harm than good.

COVID-19 has taught the world many harsh lessons and forced us all to reckon with difficult conclusions. But it has also shown us the promise and potential we might have otherwise passed without comment.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2019 median salary for a web developer comes to $73,760 per year, or $35.46 per hour, with no former work experience in related occupations required. The bureau lists an associate’s degree as the typical entry-level education, which, at most colleges, amounts to 5-6 semesters—considerably smaller investment than a four year degree.

But with readily available—and free—online courses in WordPress, HTML, CSS, PHP, and JavaScript, and the ubiquity of certification programs and “boot camps,” even an associate’s degree seems like overkill. When anyone, from any background, can launch a $70,000 per year career with no more experience than a few free courses available through any public library, we have either entered an era of unparalleled prosperity—or The Twilight Zone.

Should any web developer decide to pick up full stack development skills, or expand into general software engineering, the median salary jumps up to six figures. And this is before we get to the new frontiers of big data and “the cloud.”

Instead of thinking in monotone sentiments like “learn to code,” let’s imagine a generation raised under the banner of learn how to learn.

“The computer was a tool,” says John Dorner, IT coordinator for a USDA grant program, and WordPress developer. Starting his career as a 4-H program leader and agricultural extension agent for the University of Georgia in the 1980s, Dorner discovered computing as a shortcut to efficiency.

It wasn’t so easy to learn computers in those days. Tasks any high-schooler would consider common today required deep knowledge of how hardware and software worked together. There were no hard drives. Dorner had to employ two floppy disks, one with the operating system and application and one with his data, in order to create a spreadsheet.

“Writing code without the Internet was…interesting,” Dorner recalls. Learning PHP and MySQL from a recliner, balancing a laptop on his lap, and a book on the arm of the chair, Dorner demonstrates that the will to learn can exist outside of the classroom.

During our conversation over Google Meet, we talked about the alternatives available to people young and old, and from virtually any socio-economic background, who are interested in pursuing careers in IT or development.

Before opting for an associate’s degree, there are shorter duration programs available. Boot camps and certification programs provide rigorous course work and leave their students with some experience and a portfolio—and no student debt.

Dorner says:

Most web agencies would hire people if [they’ve] got a certificate, a portfolio, or some way to prove [they] have the skills…That’s more important than a full degree. Now, if you want to work at IBM, they might require a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree. And there is a lot you can learn in those [full degree] programs. But somebody coming out of [community college or a boot camp] can get a good job and something starting.

In addition to free courses online, Dorner suggests that WordPress can be a powerful accelerant to tackling bigger concepts in web development. The WordPress path to web mastery works in “layers.”

“WordPress is a good starting point,” Dorner says. “[You] can do a lot in WordPress without knowing any code.” Once one has achieved a level of comfort with the WordPress interface, he can start adding custom CSS rules. From there, he can try his hand at child themes. And before long, full themes and plugins.

“The more you hack, the more you learn.”

In addition to learning the WordPress interface, the learner is being exposed to deeper concepts like web servers, open source philosophy, and version control.

What is left for the universities to cover?

Everybody needs to have some general education, Dorner replies. Basic math, science, and some of the humanities help to round out a liberal education. Beyond the general education, there are life skills and experience that must happen oustide of the classroom.

Dorner not only works in IT, but creates jobs as well. During the hiring process, I asked, what’s the most important criteria an applicant must meet?

It’s very important to be a self-directed, lifelong learner. I hired someone [recently]…[She] had the minimum requirements, but she had the initiative to learn something new. She was self-taught, went out and learned the stuff, and was able to solve the problem. That was more important to me than [the credentials].

The pathways into the tech field are now baked into society itself. Every kid who learns how to Google for information is building a working knowledge of SEO. Every kid who touches an iPhone learns the fundamentals of UX. And so forth.

The question for the coming years is whether or not the university model will meet these kids on the journey to careers in tech with something unique to offer them, or if the kids can get there well enough on their own.

WordPress university was always online.

by Chris Maiorana at July 09, 2020 02:36 PM under education

July 08, 2020

WPTavern: Jetpack 8.7 Adds New Tweetstorm Unroll Feature, Improves Search Customization

Jetpack 8.7 was released this week with an exciting new feature that allows users to “unroll” a tweetstorm and publish it in a post. The feature works inside the Tweet block. After a user embeds a tweet, it will automatically detect a tweetstorm and display a prompt to fetch the rest of the tweets. It functions in a similar way to the Thread Reader app, except the unrolled thread is hosted on your WordPress post.

Tweetstorms remain a controversial way to get a lengthy point across. Twitter users with large followings will often get wider exposure and more traction and interaction on their ideas when they share them in a series of bite-size tweets. Although tweetstorms might be better as a blog, especially for those who are consuming and sharing them, a link to a blog post doesn’t carry the same weight as tweets for capturing Twitter users’ immediate attention.

You may not be able to convince people to stop posting tweetstorms, but with Jetpack 8.7 you can make sure that these tweets are available inside a blog post.

Gary Pendergast, who has been working on the unroll feature for several months, tweeted a demo video of how it works.

If you’re looking to compose and publish tweetstorms from a blog post, with your post as the point of origin, John James Jacoby’s Publishiza plugin performs the opposite function of Jetpack’s new unroll feature. Pendergast said he is also investigating how to add the ability to publish a tweetstorm using the block editor, which seems like an ideal use case for writing content in blocks.

Jetpack 8.7 also brings updates to the recently revamped Search feature, adding more customization options for the search overlay:

  • Choose between minimal and expanded results
  • Change the default sorting to options — like chronological
  • Hide the sort option to reduce the size of the interface

This release also gives users easier access to their Google Photos and the free Pexels library. Access to these services was previously integrated with media library but is now also accessible via the block editor.

Version 8.7 introduces a WhatsApp Button block to allow visitors and customers to get in touch easily. The Jetpack team has also added more customization options to the Calendly, Mailchimp, Eventbrite, and Payment blocks. Check out the release post for a full list of improvements in this update.

by Sarah Gooding at July 08, 2020 08:48 PM under jetpack

WPTavern: After 11 Years, Users Will Be Able to Update Themes and Plugins via a ZIP File

It has been a long road. Eleven long years. WordPress will finally allow end-users to update an installed plugin or theme by uploading a ZIP file. After over a decade, most people who had hoped to see this day have likely moved on. However, for those of us still waiting for this long sought after feature, it will land in WordPress 5.5.

A little patience never hurt anyone. Over the years, we have seen plugins crop up to handle this missing feature. There has been a clear and present need for it. Easy Theme and Plugin Upgrades by Chris Jean has over 200,000 active installs. Update Theme and Plugins from Zip File by Jeff Sherk has another 20,000. The community owes the developers of these plugins at least a small bit of thanks for taking on a job that should have long ago been a part of the core experience.

There was a time when this feature would have been one of the most important tools to land in WordPress. This was a time when one-click updates were not a thing. This was long before the idea of automatic theme and plugin updates, a feature that is also coming in WordPress 5.5, was conceived. While it is still exciting to finally get a feature that has long been on the waiting list, it is far less useful than it once was.

This missing feature has also likely at least partially spurred commercial theme and plugin shops to come up with custom solutions. This represents arguably one of the largest segments of users that still need the feature, at least for those using products from shops that do not provide one-click or automatic updates.

Updating themes via a ZIP file is a bit old-school, but there are scenarios where that is the better or preferred option for some users.

I routinely use a third-party plugin to handle this for various sites I am involved with where I might maintain a custom theme. This is particularly true if I don’t have FTP or other access to the server. It is simple to upload a ZIP file in those cases.

Despite less of a need for this feature in 2020 than in 2009, I can still use it. Judging by the download numbers of existing plugins, a couple hundred thousand others can too.

How Updating via ZIP Works

The new feature is not immediately apparent. However, it is more of a power-user feature that users will need to know about before attempting to use.

Updating a theme or plugin works in the same fashion as uploading a new one. By visiting the Add New plugin or theme screen in the WordPress admin and clicking the upload button, users can drop the ZIP file from their computer. After clicking the Install Now button, WordPress will direct users to a new screen that compares the currently-installed extension with the uploaded versions. Users can then choose between continuing with the installation or canceling.

Steps to updating an existing plugin.

After clicking the “Upload Plugin” button via the new plugin screen, the uploader currently reads, “If you have a plugin in a .zip format, you may install it by uploading it here.” There is no mention that users may upload a plugin that is already installed. A tweak to the language could help make it clear.

The comparison feature is a welcome addition, which should curb users accidentally uploading something they already have installed or rolling back when they already have a newer version active on the site. Some of the existing solutions from third-party plugins do not handle this feature, so this should make for a good upgrade.

by Justin Tadlock at July 08, 2020 08:09 PM under WordPress

July 07, 2020

WPTavern: New Gatsby Source WordPress Plugin Now in Beta

Gatsby announced its new source plugin (v4) for WordPress is now in beta. The plugin has been completely revamped to improve headless WordPress setups where Gatsby powers the frontend. It also integrates with Gatsby Cloud to provide real-time previews and incremental builds.

The Gatsby team has had a long journey towards creating an integration for WordPress sites that would satisfy more complex use cases. There are currently three different avenues for using Gatsby with WordPress, each with different benefits and drawbacks:

  • Gatsby Source WordPress + WP REST API
  • Gatsby Source GraphQL + WPGraphQL
  • Gatsby Source WordPress (v4) + WPGraphQL

The first approach relies on the WP REST API to fetch all data (posts, terms, media, etc) and cache the data in Gatsby’s node cache. The second method allows developers to write GraphQL queries to fetch data from the Gatsby cache and render that data in templates.

According to Gatsby engineer and WPGraphQL creator Jason Bahl, the first two approaches are only adequate for basic use cases.

“When you start adding more advanced functionality, such as Advanced Custom Fields Flex Fields, the WP REST API starts to fall apart and become very difficult to use in a decoupled way,” Bahl said. “The WP REST API has a Schema that can allow plugins and themes to extend the WP REST API and declare what type of data any given endpoint will expose. This is helpful for decoupled applications to know ahead of time what kind of data to expect.

“The problem is that plugins and themes can extend the WP REST API without making use of the Schema, or by simply defining field types in the Schema as `object` or `array` Types. This means there’s no easy way for decoupled applications, including Gatsby, to know what to expect from those fields. Gatsby relies on consistent data, and the WP REST API isn’t consistent. The shape of the data returned from endpoints (especially when plugins extend the REST API) is unpredictable and that is problematic for decoupled applications.”

WPGraphQL was created as an alternative to the WP REST API, addressing many of these pain points with its enforced Schema. This benefits decoupled tools like Gatsby because they can introspect the Schema to determine what data is available before requesting any.

“So even cases such as Advanced Custom Fields Flex Fields, where the data being returned could be one of many possible Flex Field Layouts, Gatsby can still know what the possible data is before asking for the data,” Bahl said. “The enforced Schema of WPGraphQL allows decoupled tools to ship with confidence and eliminates entire classes of bugs.”

The Gatsby Source GraphQL + WPGraphQL approach has some improvements over using the WP REST API but was limited in that it doesn’t cache data to the Gatsby node cache. This prevents WordPress sites from being able to utilize Gatsby’s cloud-based commercial offerings for previews and incremental builds. Bahl explained how the new Gatsby Source WordPress plugin (v4) + WPGraphQL is the “best of both worlds:”

It uses WPGraphQL on the WordPress server to expose WordPress data in a Typed GraphQL Schema. Gatsby Source WordPress v4 uses GraphQL Introspection to read the Schema from the WordPress site and builds a nearly identical Schema in Gatsby. It then fetches data using WPGraphQL and caches the data in Gatsby. Users then use GraphQL to interact with the Gatsby cache and get data to render in Components in their Gatsby site.

The new integration gives content creators the ability to click “preview” to see their changes live in the Gatsby-powered site. Publishing no longer requires a full site rebuild. It will simply push out the changes to the affected pages. Changes will be live in seconds, similar to how users expect WordPress to work without the headless integration. The new plugin, combined with Gatsby Cloud, provide a better marriage of the content creation experience with Gatsby’s React + GraphQL developer experience, while delivering fast static pages on the frontend.

If you want to test the beta of the new Gatsby Source WordPress plugin, you can find it (and its dependencies) on GitHub. The WPGraphQL and WPGatsby plugins are also required.

by Sarah Gooding at July 07, 2020 10:33 PM under gatsby

WordPress.org blog: WordPress 5.5 Beta 1

WordPress 5.5 Beta 1 is now available for testing!

This software is still in development, so it’s not recommended to run this version on a production site. Consider setting up a test site to play with the new version.

You can test the WordPress 5.5 beta in two ways:

The current target for final release is August 11, 2020. This is only five weeks away. Your help is needed to ensure this release is tested properly.

Testing for bugs is an important part of polishing the release during the beta stage and a great way to contribute. Here are some of the big changes and features to pay close attention to while testing.

Block editor: features and improvements

WordPress 5.5 will include ten releases of the Gutenberg plugin, bringing with it a long list of exciting new features. Here are just a few:

  • Inline image editing – Crop, rotate, and zoom photos inline right from image blocks.
  • Block patterns – Building elaborate pages can be a breeze with new block patterns. Several are included by default.
  • Device previews – See how your content will look to users on many different screen sizes.
  • End block overwhelm. The new block inserter panel displays streamlined categories and collections. As a bonus, it supports patterns and integrates with the new block directory right out of the box.
  • Discover, install, and insert third-party blocks from your editor using the new block directory.
  • A better, smoother editing experience with: 
    • Refined drag-and-drop
    • Block movers that you can see and grab
    • Parent block selection
    • Contextual focus highlights
    • Multi-select formatting lets you change a bunch of blocks at once 
    • Ability to copy and relocate blocks easily
    • And, better performance
  • An expanded design toolset for themes.
  • Now add backgrounds and gradients to more kinds of blocks, like groups, columns, media & text
  • And support for more types of measurements — not just pixels. Choose ems, rems, percentages, vh, vw, and more! Plus, adjust line heights while typing, turning writing and typesetting into the seamless act.

In all, WordPress 5.5 brings more than 1,500 useful improvements to the block editor experience. 

To see all of the features for each release in detail check out the release posts: 7.5, 7.6, 7.7, 7.8, 7.9, 8.0, 8.1, 8.2, 8.3, and 8.4.

Wait! There’s more!

XML sitemaps

XML Sitemaps are now included in WordPress and enabled by default. Sitemaps are essential to search engines discovering the content on your website. Your site’s home page, posts, pages, custom post types, and more will be included to improve your site’s visibility.

Auto-updates for plugins and themes

WordPress 5.5 also brings auto-updates for plugins and themes. Easily control which plugins and themes keep themselves up to date on their own. It’s always recommended that you run the latest versions of all plugins and themes. The addition of this feature makes that easier than ever!

Lazy-loading images

WordPress 5.5 will include native support for lazy-loaded images utilizing new browser standards. With lazy-loading, images will not be sent to users until they approach the viewport. This saves bandwidth for everyone (users, hosts, ISPs), makes it easier for those with slower internet speeds to browse the web, saves electricity, and more.

Better accessibility

With every release, WordPress works hard to improve accessibility. Version 5.5 is no different and packs a parcel of accessibility fixes and enhancements. Take a look:

  • List tables now come with extensive, alternate view modes.
  • Link-list widgets can now be converted to HTML5 navigation blocks.
  • Copying links in media screens and modal dialogs can now be done with a simple click of a button.
  • Disabled buttons now actually look disabled.
  • Meta boxes can now be moved with the keyboard.
  • A custom logo on the front page no longer links to the front page.
  • Assistive devices can now see status messages in the Image Editor.
  • The shake animation indicating a login failure now respects the user’s choices in the prefers-reduced-motion media query.
  • Redundant Error: prefixes have been removed from error notices.

Miscellaneous Changes

Keep your eyes on the Make WordPress Core blog for 5.5-related developer notes in the coming weeks, breaking down these and other changes in greater detail.

So far, contributors have fixed more than 360 tickets in WordPress 5.5, including 157 new features and enhancements, and more bug fixes are on the way.

How You Can Help

Do you speak a language other than English? Help translate WordPress into more than 100 languages!

If you think you’ve found a bug, please post to the Alpha/Beta area in the support forums. We would love to hear from you! If you’re comfortable writing a reproducible bug report, file one on WordPress Trac. That’s also where you can find a list of known bugs.

Props to @webcommsat, @yvettesonneveld, @estelaris, and @marybaum for compiling/writing this post, @davidbaumwald for editing/proof reading, and @cbringmann, @desrosj, and @andreamiddleton for final review.

by Jake Spurlock at July 07, 2020 09:49 PM under Releases

WPTavern: Goodbye, ManageWP.org; Hello, WP Content

Yesterday, Iain Poulson and Ashley Rich launched community-curated, news-sharing site WP Content. The launch comes on the heels of ManageWP.org shutting down its own news-sharing service and the WordPress community losing out on a valuable resource.

Both Poulson and Rich are based in the UK and work for Delicious Brains, a development company that focuses on building products for WordPress. Their new venture was met with enthusiasm when Poulson first announced it on Twitter.

Homepage of WPContent.io.

Long before I was a writer for WP Tavern and needed to keep an eye out for the latest news, ManageWP.org was one of my go-to sources for catching up with everything happening in the WordPress community. There is always so much going on that even the Tavern cannot stay on top of it all. ManageWP.org helped me become a voracious reader of ideas, tutorials, and other news within the industry. For that, I am certain I owe the team a debt that cannot be repaid.

After shutting the doors, they left us with a message on the site that read, “After many years of serving the WordPress community, we’ve made the difficult decision to shut down ManageWP.org. Several factors led us here, but it ultimately came down to the team being unable to give ManageWP.org the attention it deserves.”

It is only the news-sharing site at ManageWP.org that is shutting down. The ManageWP.com company and service are still alive and well.

ManageWP.org launched when WordPress held a mere 20% of the web back in 2013. GoDaddy acquired the ManageWP company in 2016 but allowed it to operate independently, including the news-sharing site. In many ways, ManageWP.org felt as much a part of the identity of the WordPress community as our site. For seven years, users have shared articles, upvoted their favorites, and found a legitimate source to stay informed on a wide range of topics around WordPress.

“Thank you to everyone who shared inspiring stories, useful resources, and special announcements with us,” read the final message on the site. “It’s been a treat.”

While many of us were disappointed to see the site shut down, sometimes it is time for something new. We can say goodbye to a great service and make room for someone else to take up the mantle. So, goodbye, ManageWP.org. Thanks for all the good years. And, welcome, WP Content.

“After @managewp closed down their community news site, we felt there should be a place where the #WordPress community can submit articles and up vote them,” tweeted the WP Content team.

The newly-built WP Content site is simple to use. It works similarly to other sharing sites such as Reddit. Users can sign up for an account to share stories themselves or upvote other stories. All visitors are free to follow through and read stories without signing up.

The front page of the site shares the currently trending and most recent stories. The site also breaks stories down into the following categories:

  • Business
  • Community
  • Development
  • Plugins
  • Security
  • Tutorials

I welcome the new venture and am glad to see someone filling in what was quickly becoming a missing piece of our community. With luck, WP Content will serve as a great resource for many years to come. The team has some big shoes to fill, but they are off to a great start.

by Justin Tadlock at July 07, 2020 06:31 PM under News

July 06, 2020

WPTavern: WordCamp Attendance Badges Could Be a Good Thing, but That’s the Wrong Discussion

WordPress profile badges.

On July 3, Timi Wahalahti opened a discussion on the Community WordPress blog on whether WordCamp volunteers, WordCamp attendees, or Meetup attendees should be awarded a WordPress.org profile badge. The discussion stemmed from a nearly two-year-old Meta ticket that was recently resurfaced.

The general consensus from the comments on the post seems to be that volunteers should receive badges because they are making direct contributions to the community. Most argue that merely attending an event is not badge-worthy. There are also some technical concerns. However, they should not be a real issue considering we are a community of programmers and problem solvers.

I see the rationale behind not giving badges to attendees. In one way, it feels like it diminishes the badges that others have earned, quite often, through hours of valuable time freely given back to the project.

I am taking a wild guess here and will say that most people would agree that direct, measurable contributions should be rewarded. Whether it is contributing a patch to core, reviewing code as part of the Themes Team, or handing out sandwiches at your local WordCamp lunch line, you should be recognized for giving back to the community.

WordCamp attendance badges would become the participation trophies of the WordPress world.

I get the argument. I do. When I first read the community post, my gut reaction was to make that same argument.

In some parts of American culture, at least, participation trophies are often looked upon as something to be ashamed of — if you don’t earn MVP, it’s not a real trophy. I have seen the culture change, seemingly overnight, in my local community. Fathers will not allow their sons to accept a trophy for merely being on the football team (anyone deserves a trophy for making it through training camp in Alabama’s sweltering August heat). I watch as community members — grown adults — tear down others’ kids on Facebook over the same idea.

The discussion on WordCamp attendance badges feels much the same. However, the argument is valid only because that is how the system is set up. It was created to award based on merit. The awards go to those who put in the time and effort, typically over the long haul.

On the surface, that feels like a good system. However, other systems have benefits that perhaps our community has been overlooking, particularly those that gamify participation. Currently, WordPress profile badges are not being utilized to their full potential. The missing piece is that we are not encouraging more participation. We are not helping the first-time user level up and earn more badges/awards.

NaNoWriMo writing and personal achievement badges.

In 2018, I successfully completed National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). It is an event where thousands of people go through the insane process of writing a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. One of the things that pushed me through the month, aside from sheer willpower and encouragement from family and friends, was the encouragement from the NaNoWriMo website itself.

The website has two categories of badges. The first category is its writing badges. These badges are awarded based on actually doing work. They are also awarded in stages. Write for a two-day streak. Earn a badge. Surpass 5,000 words. Earn a badge. Finish the month-long challenge. Earn a badge. Throughout the process of NaNoWriMo, earning these writing badges was a big motivator toward keeping the dream of writing a novel alive. If I wasn’t motivated to write on a particular day, I could look at the next badge I would earn by just putting pen to paper for another half hour or so.

The thing about these writing badges that was so important was not that they gave me any bragging rights. The badges were not for showing other people how awesome I was. They were deeply personal. They were things that helped motivate me to continue on. OK, I did brag about them a little bit.

At the end of the day, these achievement-based badges were not about other people. They made me feel good about myself, and that is what mattered.

NaNoWriMo’s second category was for personal badges. They were not awarded for any achievement. Every user on the site could pick and choose the badges they wanted. They were reflections of the person. It told others a little something about you.

One of my favorite badges was the “pantser” badge. It let people in the NaNoWriMo community know that I was writing without a novel outline or any real plan — literally by the seat of my pants. Others would choose the “planner” or even the combo “plantser” badge. And, the site had several other badges that simply added to the fun.

We do not have to think about badges as something that must be awarded based on hard work. Sure, we should have those “gold level” badges that are earned through direct contributions and being on a particular team. Joining the Documentation Team or submitting a plugin to the official plugin directory is a big deal. Those achievements should be shown on your profile. However, they are not the only achievements that matter.

Remember that badges are sometimes personal. Being awarded for even the smallest of things can help build the confidence that some people need to do that second small thing.

Simple badges for asking or answering your first support forum question could be a great motivator to become more involved. Attending a WordCamp for the first time? Get a badge. That might help motivate you to earn the five-time WordCamp attendee badge next.

I would even love to see badges for individual WordCamps. How cool would it be for someone to earn a badge for attending a WordCamp in every corner of the world? Or just on one continent?

There is so much lost potential with the current badge system. We are having the wrong discussion. Whether someone should earn a badge for attending a WordCamp is too narrow of a focus. Let’s start looking at how we can gamify participation in the WordPress community and use that system to get more people involved.

If we maintain the current system of giving badges only for contributions and teams, yeah, WordCamp volunteers should get those. Attendees have done nothing to earn a badge in that system. That seems like an easy call to make and not worth much discussion. But, since we are here, let’s rethink this whole thing.

by Justin Tadlock at July 06, 2020 06:42 PM under Opinion

WPTavern: WordProof Wins €1 Million Grant to Advance Blockchain Timestamping Concept

WordProof, the company behind the WordProof Timestamp plugin for WordPress, has received a €1 million grant from the European Commission as the reward for winning a competition called “Blockchains for Social Good.” The Dutch startup beat 175 other participants from around Europe.

The competition was designed to reward developers’ efforts in exploring decentralized applications of blockchains for social innovation. WordProof was one of five finalists selected to receive €1 million, after submitting its Timestamp Ecosystem concept, which seeks to increase transparency and accountability by proving authenticity of content on the web. In addition to its WordPress plugin, the timestamping ecosystem aims to provide solutions for other content management platforms, e-commerce, and social media.

WordProof founder Sebastiaan van der Lans said the grant is evidence of the company gaining traction with governments and universities.

“With the recognition and financial support from Europe, we can roll out the Timestamp Ecosystem at a higher pace and make WordProof grow even faster as a company,” Van der Lans said. “This will enable Europe to define the standard for a reliable Internet for consumers and organisations.”

Van der Lans said WordProof is still very much “a WordPress-focused company” and plans to use the funds to extend its timestamping plugin to work with WooCommerce. They also plan to begin working with major publishers and WooCommerce shops to integrate timestamping solutions. The company began working with Yoast two months ago on deeply integrating with Schema.org to provide structured data for SEO.

In the coming weeks, van der Lans said the company plans to announce “a significant investment from the WordPress space.” WordProof is currently focused on advocacy with/at the European Commission to make timestamping an open source standard that would be independent from the control of any single company.

by Sarah Gooding at July 06, 2020 03:32 PM under WordProof

Akismet: Akismet Blocks Five Hundred Billion Spam and Counting

It was happening while you ate dinner. While you were at work. While you were on vacation, going for a walk, or daydreaming. It was certainly happening while you were sleeping. All this time — for nearly 15 years — Akismet has been catching and blocking spam from appearing on websites and forums the world over, and Akismet just reached an important milestone: over 500 billion pieces of spam blocked, and counting.

Saving countless hours for you

Think about that number: five hundred billion spam comments blocked — and not just on WordPress sites! Akismet has been ensnaring spam on other platforms including Drupal, Joomla, and more, saving countless hours of moderation time and frustration for millions of people around the world.

To the future!

If you need spam protection for your website or forum, Akismet is here to help. Free up time spent tweezing spam comments and allow Akismet to catch and block it for you. Here’s to the next 500 billion!

by Christopher Finke at July 06, 2020 03:12 PM under Spam

July 03, 2020

WPTavern: New Block-based Navigation and Widgets Screens Sidelined for WordPress 5.5

The new navigation block and navigation and widget screens that were originally planned for WordPress 5.5 have been pushed back to the next release. These projects are currently available in the Gutenberg plugin experiments screen but are not yet ready to land in core.

Converting the widget-editing areas and updating the widgets UI to use the block editor is a project that has been under development since January 2019. The issue tracking the project and the dedicated project board seemed to have stalled out for the time being, so core editor contributors recommended removing it from the priority features for 5.5.

Similarly, the navigation block and screen have several dozen outstanding issues and discussions that need more time before shipping.

“We’re still missing a few key components: drag and drop in the block and in the sidebar, a couple of PRs that lag and are important for feature parity (#22600#22697) and the ongoing work to support more block types in Navigation,” WordPress contributor Andrei Draganescu said regarding the remaining items necessary to ship the navigation screen.

“I believe we’re in a place where a Gutenberg release after 5.5 will include this new screen, but maybe in the next two weeks some acceleration will occur and prove me wrong.

“I believe that it is wiser that this lands as a part of the plugin first, gets some feedback, and then is shipped into core.”

Despite the navigation and widgets screens getting removed from the 5.5 milestone, this release is set to deliver an impressive array of new features for the block editor, including block patterns, block directory search, a new block inserter panel, expanded design tools, and improvements to block movement capabilities. Beta 1 is expected July 7 and the target date for the official release is August 11.

by Sarah Gooding at July 03, 2020 08:54 PM under widgets

WPTavern: Google Launches Beta of AMP-Powered Web Stories Plugin for WordPress

Google announced a public beta of its new Web Stories WordPress plugin this week. The plugin’s description aptly reads, “Visual storytelling for WordPress.” It is essentially a custom editor for creating AMP-powered stories within WordPress.

Users can download the beta plugin directly from the Web Stories beta page. Developers who want to contribute or take a look under the hood can do so from its GitHub repository.

Web Stories is a story format born out of Google’s AMP Project. The goal is to provide visually-rich stories through a mobile-focused format. Stories are used to deliver news and other information in chunks that site visitors can quickly tap through and consume.

With far more users browsing the web via a mobile device in 2020 than just a few short years ago, many no longer engage with content in the same way. People are more likely to quickly browse a lot of content but not be willing to dive quite as deep into the details. The Web Stories format focuses on that user experience by creating bite-sized pieces of content that users can move through without much focus — whether that is a good thing for society is up for debate.

Screenshots from a Story template.

The story format also typically makes more use of visual information than it does text. Each page of a story tends to use images or videos, often in the background with text overlaid, to grab the viewer’s attention. However, there are no hard rules on what content a story page can present.

The Web Stories plugin is slated for an official release sometime late this summer. The team is working toward stabilizing the product and focusing on bug and performance fixes, according to the beta launch page.

In late March, the development team removed support for Stories from version 1.5 of the AMP plugin. They were prepping for the release of the new Web Stories plugin. The Stories feature was listed as a beta feature in the AMP plugin before removal.

Stories support was originally added to the official AMP plugin in June 2019 as part of its version 1.2 release. It was a direct integration with the WordPress block editor. However, it has since changed drastically. The development team has created a custom system outside of WordPress’s primary editor that offers a true what-you-see-is-what-you-get experience.

Getting to Know the Web Stories Plugin

Web Stories for WordPress takes an almost completely custom approach to creating content with WordPress. It has its own drag-and-drop editor, a dashboard for editing stories and finding templates, and custom URLs.

The development team decided to register a custom “web story” post type as the foundation of the plugin. One benefit of this system is that stories can live on their individual pages on the site. This also allows site visitors to subscribe to stories via a feed reader or third-party email system. Instead of pigeon-holing everything into a custom block, the team gained full freedom over the experience by creating a custom story-publishing process on top of the post type system.

In many ways, the editor feels much like working with a simplified version of a photo editor such as Photoshop or GIMP. In the center of the screen is the canvas. Users can work on the current story page, create new pages, or use the arrows to flip through each.

Creating a story with the Web Stories editor in WordPress.

Two boxes are aligned to the right of the screen. The top box holds the Design and Document tabs. The Design tab allows users to edit options for the currently-selected layer, and the Document tab holds the configuration options for publishing. The Layers box sits below. It lets users quickly select a layer to edit.

On the left side of the screen, users have quick access to their media library. Because stories primarily use visually-driven content, it makes sense to keep media a simple mouse movement away.

The only major problem that I ran into when playing around with the story editor was figuring out how to delete a layer. I eventually realized that I could drag a layer off the canvas and it would disappear. That was probably the least intuitive part of the experience.

Web Stories comes with its own Dashboard screen in the admin. While the normal “All Stories” screen created by the post type exists, the Dashboard provides a visual list of created stories that users can scroll through.

Web Stories Dashboard screen.

For users who are short on ideas or simply need a jumping-off point, the plugin currently supplies eight starter templates to choose from:

  • Beauty
  • Cooking
  • DIY
  • Entertainment
  • Fashion
  • Fitness
  • Travel
  • Wellbeing

The templates offer ample variety to begin learning the system by customizing the various story pages. The editor should be intuitive enough for most users to hit the ground running, but the templates make for some quick inspiration.

Overall, Web Stories looks like it will land with a splash late this summer. It is a showcase of what is possible when you put together a team of top-notch developers and empower them to build something amazing.

by Justin Tadlock at July 03, 2020 06:56 PM under google

July 02, 2020

WPTavern: WordPress Contributors Seek Sponsorship for Improving Gutenberg Developer Docs

WordPress developers Milana Cap and Jonathan Bossenger are starting a fundraiser for improving Gutenberg developer documentation. The conversation began yesterday when Cap tweeted about how documentation is often overlooked when companies hire full-time contributors to work on WordPress.

“When your community is unable to learn your software then you have no contributors,” Cap said. “Documentation and tutorials are far more important for Open Source Software projects than people realize.”

The first time Cap began asking for Gutenberg documentation was at the Community Summit in Paris, 2017. She has been trying to direct the community’s attention to it since then.

“There are many holes in block editor documentation for developers but the most obvious one is how to start,” Cap said. “The beginning of documentation for developers doesn’t say anything about getting started. “It says only what you can do with a block but not _how_. Junior developers, PHP-only developers and anyone for whom is that documentation meant, doesn’t know how a block’s code looks, where to put it, how to include it, etc, let alone how to build a custom block with custom components and settings.”

Part of the challenge of documenting the block editor is that it is under active development. Enhancements and refinements are constantly pushed out to the Gutenberg plugin and keeping track of what is or is not currently available in core is not always easy. As WordPress is imminently introducing block directory search, it is a good time to formalize block creation documentation.

“Code examples are alarmingly missing all over docs,” Cap said. “The most basic examples exist but how to actually build something usable is missing. So, on this first page we are sent to a tutorial but that tutorial is not optimized for people who have never built a block before. Following it, I have and will fail to build the block.”

Marcus Kazmierczak and a team of documentation contributors are attempting to rebuild the tutorial in the official block editor handbook. A GitHub issue focused on addressing gaps in the current developer documentation is home to an active discussion about the best way to rewrite the docs for people who are new to block development.

“This is a very good start but there’s still a lot of work to be done,” Cap said. “Complete documentation is written by people who know and understand React and Gutenberg but are ‘cursed with knowledge.’ They don’t have much time to spend on understanding just how much others don’t know and in what detail documentation should be written. To be honest, I don’t think they should spend their time on that. We have a Documentation Team and we are willing to jump in but some sort of bridge is necessary.”

The Problem with Gutenberg Developer Documentation: It’s Not Friendly for Newcomers

“The ‘problem’ as I see it with the block editor documentation is that, unlike other WordPress documentation, it is written for experienced JavaScript developers, and not aimed at beginners,” Bossenger said. “I should also point out, this is by no means a shot at the folks who have put the current documentation together, and I appreciate any and all work they have done so far, it’s just in serious need of a review and some refinement.”

Bossenger said in the past WordPress made it very easy for anyone with a limited amount of PHP knowledge to quickly build a plugin or theme using action and filter hooks. It was easy to look at the code and understand what it was supposed to do.

“Modern JavaScript, and specifically React, is a very different kettle of fish,” Bossenger said. “It requires a deeper level of knowledge of how React works, including new terminology and practices. Modern JavaScript can also be very confusing, especially if this is the first time you’re seeing things like arrow functions, or less verbose if statements.

“If the closest you have come to working with JavaScript in WordPress has been using jQuery, switching to React based Gutenberg development still requires some learning on your part.”

After taking two courses before he could build anything for the editor, one on React and one on Gutenberg, Bossenger said the current Block Editor handbook is not written for developers with no experience in React and modern JavaScript. He believes it needs a restructuring to better explain new concepts and fit a pattern that is easier for a newcomer to consume. He highlighted the Plugin Developer handbook as an example where the chapters follow a structure and use terminology that is more like a text book, slowly introducing the reader to new concepts.

“I would argue that it would be quite possible for someone with no plugin or PHP knowledge, armed with this handbook and Google, to build a simple plugin to meet their specific requirements quite quickly,” Bossenger said. “Currently the block editor handbook is not conducive to this.”

Bossenger is not alone in his opinion of the current documentation. Peter Tasker at Delicious Brains recently published a tutorial on creating a custom Gutenberg block. Even after working with React full-time for the past year, he found the official block editor docs to be “kind of all over the place” and difficult to parse.

After Cap commented about the lack of companies sponsoring full-time work on documentation, Bossenger tested the waters with a tweet asking if the two of them might be able to raise funds for improving Gutenberg docs.

“Just the same as Block Editor Team (and any other Make team), the Documentation Team is understaffed,” Cap said. “We can’t afford to dedicate few members to first learn and then write documentation on developing with block editor. This is the main reason for my tweet. You’ll see sponsored contributors all over core but not in documentation and I’ll dare to say that both are equally important.”

Before launching their fundraiser, Cap and Bossenger plan to go through the existing documentation, pinpoint obvious holes, and identify questions that remain unanswered for those who are new to developing for the block editor.

“Once we have a plan we can predict how much time is needed for each part,” she said. “With this plan, we will go in search for sponsors. I think there will be an option to donate even before that but nothing is certain at this point.”

Blocks are the new frontier of WordPress development. Investing in solid documentation and tutorials for beginners could have a major impact on expanding the block ecosystem. This also indirectly benefits users as they end up with a more diverse directory of blocks to choose from when customizing their WordPress sites.

Bossenger and Cap are currently working on a plan for the docs ahead of announcing their fundraiser. In the meantime, anyone who wants to contribute to improving the block creation documentation can jump in on the GitHub discussion.

by Sarah Gooding at July 02, 2020 09:07 PM under documentation

WPTavern: Decision Time: What Block Patterns Should Ship With WordPress 5.5?

Inserting the Numbered Features block pattern into the editor.

The first beta release of WordPress 5.5 is mere days away. This test release is expected to ship on July 7, and it carries with it a slew of new features that have primarily been developed between Gutenberg 7.6 and 8.5. One of the more pressing decisions the development team has to make is which block patterns to include in the final release.

For the uninitiated, block patterns are a predefined configuration of multiple blocks. They provide end-users a way to quickly insert more complex layout patterns into the editor. Instead of piecing together multiple blocks, nesting them within the proper group container, and getting everything perfect, the user merely searches the pattern library and selects the pattern they prefer. It is then inserted into the editor where the user can edit the content, such as altering the default text or changing the media.

It is an ingenious solution to an otherwise complicated problem. It also has the potential to move the block editor somewhat in the realm of actual page building.

For end-users, it could mean no longer spending hours learning how to recreate that pretty demo page that sold them on installing a specific theme. No more slogging through tutorials that feel like they were written for people with comp-sci degrees. Just click some buttons and watch the magic happen.

I have said that block patterns will change everything. I was patiently enthusiastic about the API when it first landed in Gutenberg 6.9. I was downright giddy to play around with the first patterns that shipped with Gutenberg 7.7.

Outside of a few that have made their way into Gutenberg in recent versions, I have not been particularly ecstatic about the default patterns the development team has included. In my mind, most were always test cases, patterns meant to iron the bugs out of the system. Then, some of the world-class designers we have in the WordPress ecosystem would design a handful of solid default patterns. I fully expect theme authors to push the limits of the system, but I was hoping that WordPress would use this opportunity to showcase what the block system can really do.

The closest that Gutenberg has come to shipping useful, modern block patterns have been its Testimonials, Numbered Features, and Features and Services patterns. These three were initially set on the chopping block (Testimonials have since been re-added), ready for the ax before WordPress 5.5 goes out to millions of users who could use such features instead of the tired and old solution of theme options. If these go, block patterns will likely land with a thud instead of the flash and bang the feature could make. We need to get users excited. We need to inspire the multitude of theme authors to build something greater — hey, look what you can do with this feature. Our development community needs to stand upon the shoulders of giants rather than feel like they are building from scratch.

We should not be afraid to be bold with the “1.0” of block patterns.

For the most part, with the latest patch on a ticket that is currently in flux, the team has nixed all but the least mundane patterns.

Block patterns are meant to represent common design layouts and configurations that we see around the web today. However, the current crop of patterns does not do justice to the idea. From the developer end of things, it is a powerful API. From the user side of things, it will feel like another half-baked plan to push in an unfinished feature before the deadline.

Maybe I am impatient. Maybe I need to get on board the ship-early-and-iterate-often train. But, the API has been in Gutenberg since November 2019. It is hard not to feel a little disappointed at the potential removal of the most opinionated patterns. They were the ones that I was eagerly awaiting to use. We can already easily put two images, columns of text, or buttons next to each other. The proposed patterns to ship with 5.5 do not feel like they will help users build the type of complex layouts the feature was meant to solve.

My rallying call, my plea to include some patterns with a little pizzazz in WordPress 5.5, might be cutting it close to the 11th hour. However, anyone eagerly awaiting this feature may have been as blindsided as I was yesterday when the pull request came down the pipeline to remove all but three basic patterns.

I want the narrator in the upcoming WordPress 5.5 release video to have a bit of pep in his voice instead of trying to give the hard sell on sticking two images next to each other.

I am not asking for complex pricing tables, a restaurant menu, or — God, forbid — a slider pattern. Those things are a bit more niche and not suitable for core. There is some middle ground we can meet, offering something of a bit more substance. And, if we cannot meet that middle ground, is the feature ready?

I’m the last person to suggest pulling the feature from the release, so I won’t venture down that dark path. I want block patterns. I want them now.

I do question whether we should ship such basic patterns with most users having to wait months for anything more useful. That’s unless their theme authors are generous enough to push out some new patterns between the major release cycles.

I am just a WordPress user asking to be amazed. Whet our appetites for a future where block patterns are everything.

What patterns would you like to see ship with WordPress 5.5?

by Justin Tadlock at July 02, 2020 06:33 PM under gutenberg

WordPress.org blog: The Month in WordPress: June 2020

June was an exciting month for WordPress! Major changes are coming to the Gutenberg plugin, and WordCamp Europe brought the WordPress community closer together. Read on to learn more and to get all the latest updates. 


WordPress 5.4.2 released

We said hello to WordPress 5.4.2 on June 10. This security and maintenance release features 17 fixes and 4 enhancements, so we recommend that you update your sites immediately. To download WordPress 5.4.2, visit your Dashboard, click on Updates, then Update Now, or download the latest version directly from WordPress.org. For more information, visit this post, review the full list of changes on Trac, or check out the HelpHub documentation page for version 5.4.2. WordPress 5.4.2 is a short-cycle maintenance release. The next major release will be version 5.5, planned for August 2020

Want to get involved in building WordPress Core? Follow the Core team blog, and join the #core channel in the Making WordPress Slack group.

Gutenberg 8.3 and 8.4

The core team launched Gutenberg 8.3 and 8.4 this month, paving the way for some exciting block editor features. Version 8.3 introduced enhancements like a reorganized, more intuitive set of block categories, a parent block selector, an experimental spacing control, and user-controlled link color options. Version 8.4 comes with new image-editing tools and the ability to edit options for multiple blocks.  The block directory search feature that was previously available as an experimental feature, is now enabled for all Gutenberg installations. For full details on the latest versions on these Gutenberg releases, visit these posts about 8.3 and 8.4.

Want to get involved in building Gutenberg? Follow the Core team blog, contribute to Gutenberg on GitHub, and join the #core-editor channel in the Making WordPress Slack group.

WordPress Bumps Minimum Recommended PHP Version to 7.2

In a major update, WordPress has bumped the minimum PHP recommendation to 7.2. The ServeHappy API has been updated to set the minimum acceptable PHP version to 7.2, while the WordPress downloads page recommends 7.3 or newer. Previously, the ServeHappy dashboard widget was showing the upgrade notice to users of PHP 5.6 or lower. This decision comes after discussions with the core Site Health team and the Hosting team, both of which recommended that the upgrade notice be shown to users of PHP <=7.1.

WordCamp Europe 2020 Moved Online

Following the success of a remote WordCamp Spain, WordCamp Europe was held fully online from June 4 to 6. The event drew a record 8,600 signups from people based in 138 countries, along with 2,500 signups for contributor day. WCEU Online also showcased 33 speakers and 40 sponsors, in addition to a Q&A with Matt Mullenweg. You can find the videos of the event in WordPress.tv by following this link, or you can catch the live stream recording of the entire event from the WP Europe YouTube Channel.

Want to get involved with the Community team? Follow the Community blog here, or join them in the #community-events channel in the Making WordPress Slack group. To organize a Meetup or WordCamp, visit the handbook page


Further Reading:

Have a story that we should include in the next “Month in WordPress” post? Please submit it here.

by Hari Shanker R at July 02, 2020 05:52 AM under Month in WordPress

July 01, 2020

WPTavern: Build Static or Dynamic Blocks With the WP Block Builder Script

Today, Jeffrey Carandang released WP Block Builder, an npm script for developers to begin building WordPress blocks. It is just one of many such scripts in a sea of block scaffolding tools, but Carandang may just have the experience and clout to rise above the rest. Thus far, developers have downloaded his custom setup over 500 times.

Developers wanting to take a peek under the hood can also check out the project on GitHub.

It is almost impossible to dive into building blocks for WordPress without coming across some of Carandang’s work in the WordPress block space. He launched the ShareABlock community late last year. He has paved the way for other developers by experimenting with ideas in EditorsKit. He co-founded CoBlocks, which GoDaddy acquired in 2019. And, that’s just the tip of the Icebergyeah, he is involved in that too.

Now, he has decided to launch a block-building script in a field that is becoming increasingly crowded. Core WordPress has its own script. WebDevStudios recently launched a custom fork of that, and several others are floating around the WordPress ecosystem, each with slightly different takes on jump-starting the block-building process. However, when one of the experts in the world of WordPress blocks releases his own spin on getting developers set up, it is at least worth looking into.

“I initially created this tool for myself because I kept repeating similar processes when creating Gutenberg blocks plugins,” said Carandang. “Then upon building it out, I thought it would be helpful to others if I release this to the public since, with minimal configuration, it would be easier to just focus on building blocks. Based on my experience, setting up the webpack config takes time and is sometimes frustrating.”

Carandang has a plethora of experience in building blocks, so I am certain he has added all the small extras that help speed the development process along.

Unlike many similar scripts, WP Block Builder provides two example blocks by default. One is for handling the typical static content that is common with such scripts. However, the second is a dynamic, server-side block. This gives developers a taste of building two different block types with two sets of requirements to run. Other scripts also tend to be hyper-focused on launching a single-block plugin, which would be typical for releasing to the WordPress block directory. WP Block Builder provides a path to launching a plugin with multiple blocks if desired.

“My goal is to make it easy for first-time block developers to create a block, but I’ve also created a sample dynamic block for advanced users,” said Carandang. “This will provide a good playground for experimenting and familiarizing with each section of the block.”

Carandang wants developers to be able to dive directly into building blocks. He wants to bring some of the fun back to experimenting without the technology getting in the way, which often means hours wasted just getting the build tools in place.

“I’m gearing towards that feeling I had when I first started creating a WordPress theme,” he said. “Those times when I was changing codes to know how they work and confident enough that I could just install it freshly again if I ended messing it up.”

Carandang said he has not received any reported issues yet, so launch day is going off without a hitch. He is looking forward to seeing what blocks developers build in the future based on his setup.

“It’s aimed to be general enough to help developers to get started on creating block plugins immediately,” he said. “I’m still waiting for some feedback to help improve the process, but so far it seems to be doing good.”

Setting Up a Block Plugin

Dynamic block code from WP Block Builder.

WP Block Builder is a fork of the core WordPress Create Block script. It includes a few extra npm packages, but it is also heavy on installing several PHP packages via Composer. These are primarily for making sure developers are following coding standards.

Setup is simple. Developers merely need to run the npx wp-block-builder command to kick start the process. Upon running the command, WP Block Builder takes developers through a series of questions, which sets up the following fields:

  • Block slug
  • Namespace
  • Block title
  • Description
  • Author name
  • Plugin license
  • Version number

After installation, the plugin will have two blocks ready for experimentation. The first block is a basic container with text and background color settings. It also supports wide and full alignment. It works similarly to the core WordPress Group block. I prefer this starting point over the standard paragraph block.

The second block is a dynamic posts list. It offers enough complexity to see how dynamic blocks work while using a concept familiar enough for most WordPress developers to grasp: querying and looping through posts. The block has a single custom option for changing the number of posts.

The goal for making these two blocks available is to get plugin developers jumping head first into the code. Break things. Experiment. Study the code.

Long term, Carandang is hopeful the process will become even better for developers. “I’m in touch with Grzegorz Ziółkowski and Fabian Kägy from the Gutenberg team,” he said,” and they are creating a better way to support external npm packages directly with @wordpress/create-block. This would be helpful in both Block Builder and Gutenberg, and would help in improving the Gutenberg plugin development ecosystem.”

by Justin Tadlock at July 01, 2020 08:31 PM under gutenberg

June 30, 2020

WPTavern: Flywheel Relaunches Local Pro with Revamped Live Links and New Host-Agnostic Pre-Launch Tools

Flywheel has relaunched Local Pro, the commercial upgrade for its free local WordPress development product. The first version of Local Pro, launched in July 2019, was heavily geared towards Flywheel customers, but the tool has gradually evolved to be more host-agnostic. This major update focuses on pre-launch features that allow developers to check links, optimize images, share a live link, and make changes with live reload.

“We saw an opportunity to build new tools into Local that pivot away from focusing on Flywheel customers and towards solving common WordPress developer pain-points,” Local product manager Jack Sellwood said.

“Our focus from here will be helping developers with pre-launch tasks like gathering feedback, testing, and optimizing their site before they go-live.”

More than 300,000 developers have tried Local since it first launched in 2017 and active users are up 90% year over year.

“We attribute that increase  to Local ‘Lightning’ which is the more reliable, performant version of Local that we launched last year,” Sellwood said.

This update also expands Local’s MagicSync capabilities to include both Flywheel and WP Engine. MagicSync allows developers to push or pull the files and/or database from staging and production environments. It gives an overview of which files are different and includes controls for ignoring certain files.

“We’d love to bring this to other hosts and we continue to explore how to do that, but the biggest challenge in doing this is maintaining the same, quality experience Local users have come to expect from Local Connect,” Sellwood said.

Live Links Revamped, More Cloud-based Services Coming in 2021

Local Pro also introduces a completely revamped solution for sharing local sites, built specifically for WordPress. For the past 12 months, the team has been building an alternative to ngrok to power its Live Links feature.

“We explored a few ways to improve the existing Live Links experience and found that this was a core technology, and we needed to own the whole stack of technologies involved,” Sellwood said. “A similar notion pushed us to build Lightning, which gave us better insight and ability to tackle bugs. VirtualBox was a black hole.”

Flywheel launched hub.localwp.com for users to manage their Local subscription for services like Live Links Pro that require a cloud component to function. The team plans to launch more later this year and in 2021. The Local Hub is a Laravel project that connects to custom infrastructure on Google Cloud.

“Local’s tunnel, like Local itself, is written in Node.js,” Sellwood said. “As a result, Live Links Pro handles 2x the number of HTTP requests in 50% less time. Live Links Pro is also secure by default with SSL and Privacy Mode (aka basic auth).”

The image optimizer and live reload features are coming soon to the Pro subscription. Building these pre-launch tools into Local allows users to leverage the power of their local machines, instead of relying on plugins. The image optimizer will be able to work offline and can tap into the user’s available computer resources.

Over the past three years, Local’s popularity has largely eclipsed that of other local WordPress development apps and packages like DesktopServer and InstantWP. Sellwood said the app’s most formidable competitors are advanced developer tools like Laravel Valet or custom Docker/VirtualBox setups.

“If you’ve invested a lot of time in a custom stack or setup, it’s hard to abandon that sunk cost,” Sellwood said. “Local abandoned virtualization completely in Lightning, and we knew, before we even launched, that some users would miss virtualization, so we’re exploring Site Environments powered by Docker as an option for advanced users.”

In addition to supporting more advanced development tools, the Local team aims to make advanced parts of WordPress development simpler and more approachable.

“Local has always been about providing an elegant UI that helps people dive deeper and level up as developers,” Sellwood said. “For example, WordPress developers might manage their database or interact with WP-CLI for the first time in Local because these advanced capabilities are available without any configuration. We’ll continue to make advanced parts of WordPress development simpler.

“Obviously, there’s a lot happening in WordPress right now with FSE (Full Site Editing) and headless, so we’re working with the other teams at WP Engine and elsewhere to help Local support this new future.”

by Sarah Gooding at June 30, 2020 10:34 PM under local

WPTavern: GiveWP 2.7 Adds Donation Form Templates and Per-Form Stripe Connections

Earlier today, Impress.org released version 2.7 of its popular donation plugin GiveWP. The update focuses on laying the foundation for donation form templates, handling per-form Stripe accounts, and allowing users to view fundraising reports in multiple currencies.

“GiveWP 2.7 is not just a release,” wrote Devin Walker, the co-founder and CEO of GiveWP, in the announcement. “It’s also the start of even more amazing things to come in future updates. This update paves the way for an even better donation plugin experience with form templates and per-form stripe accounts. We’ve also added to our new reporting dashboard so you can toggle your view to show different currencies.”

Overall, version 2.7 is a solid update. The new form template system is something the team can build upon and continue improving the user experience over time. The per-form Stripe connections will make the plugin more enticing to organizations with multiple chapters, locations, clubs, and more.

It is turning out to be a good year for the GiveWP team. So far in 2020, people have used the plugin to process over $100 million in donations, which is on par with the numbers for the entirety of 2019.

View a quick video for GiveWP 2.7:

Donation Form Templates

Multi-step donation form template.

The most exciting thing about the version 2.7 release is the new form template system. Rather than having a single template for all types of donation forms, the team at GiveWP has created the foundation for niche templates in the future.

The current release has merely two template options: a new multi-step donation form and a legacy donation form.

For some, this simple addition may be exciting. For others, they may be wanting to see more. The good news is the team is well on its way to making that happen.

“Form Templates was made to pave the way for all kinds of form types,” said Matt Cromwell, Partner and COO at Impress.org. “Not just ‘Obama Style’ forms, or ‘Charity Water’ forms, but also how forms function, like implementing Event Fundraising, Crowdfunding, Peer-to-Peer fundraising. It’s an exciting new feature that we’ll be investing into continually going forward.”

Form templates do not currently offer a wide range of customization options. That can sometimes be both a good and bad thing. The good is that the development team can add some quality control to the output, making for a better experience in most use cases. However, there are times when a few extra options could go a long way. For example, with a few themes I tested, the multi-step donation template did not expand the width of the content area. With no way to tweak the width via the UI, it meant doing a little code work to get it perfect.

“The customization is really focused on the colors, messaging, and media at the moment,” said Cromwell. “But we are working on ways that templates can be more extensible programmatically, and also more drag-and-droppable. For now, we wanted to get the core user-interest feature out the door for our core users, and then extend it further for more developer-oriented users later.

Thus far, Impress.org and its team working on GiveWP have made smart, calculated moves toward improving their product. Unlike some product-makers, the team did not try to wow everyone with 100+ form templates out of the gate. Instead, they have focused on slowly and methodically creating an underlying system that they can iterate on. It’s the quality over quantity mantra that has been a staple in how the team has approached development.

Form templates are a big deal. They are the missing link for potentially frustrated users who want something that better aligns with their organization than the old, legacy design that every plugin user had on their site. We are still a bit away from seeing this potential play out. However, as the team continues to release templates into the future, they will add value to the product.

Right now, some free templates are coming down the pipeline. The team teased upcoming templates specific to events, crowdfunding, and peer-to-peer campaigns. But, the possibilities are limited only by what users need.

Some templates may come as part of paid packages. “How we offer more advanced templates is a bit up for grabs at the moment,” said Cromwell. “We are still very much committed to the add-on model, and not necessarily a marketplace model, but there will be new paid add-ons that have advanced types of form templates for sure.”

Per-Form Stripe Accounts

Override the global Stripe account on a per-form basis.

GiveWP’s second big feature, which may excite some users more than form templates, is the ability to set the Stripe account for each form. By default, forms will connect to the global Stripe account added via the plugin’s Stripe gateway settings. However, users can overrule this on individual forms.

Admittedly, I have not seen many plugins that accept payments or donations take this route. It is not something I have ever needed in the past. However, I can now see how it may open up a ton of possibilities for organizations with different chapters or schools with different clubs and fundraisers.

Beyond just GiveWP and donation plugins, I would like to see this become a standard feature for any plugin that accepts payments.

If nothing else, this feature should continue making GiveWP stand out as the top donations plugin for WordPress. This missing feature in the previous version may have been a holdup for charities that needed the more fine-tuned control of multiple account options. Perhaps it will make some reconsider and make the move to GiveWP.

What Is In the Pipeline?

In the short term, more form templates are definitely in the works. It will be interesting to keep an eye out for what lands in the coming weeks and months.

Beyond that, the team will primarily focus on adding PayPal Commerce support to the free plugin. That is expected to land in version 2.8.

“PayPal has actually done tons of work to improve this new product from all their others (Standard, Express, Pro, Payflow, etc), and it offers a lot to developers specifically,” said Cromwell. “We think it will be a very in-demand option for donors and organizations as well. PayPal is still a highly recognizable name when it comes to payments and within the nonprofit space. We always intend to be leading when it comes to online donations so we want to offer this to our users quickly and effectively.”

by Justin Tadlock at June 30, 2020 09:37 PM under givewp

June 29, 2020

WPTavern: Smash Balloon Joins Awesome Motive

On June 23, Awesome Motive announced it had acquired Smash Balloon, a company that focuses on a family of social feed plugins for WordPress. John Brackett, the founder of Smash Balloon, is now a partner at Awesome Motive through the deal. His entire team will be staying on as part of the larger company.

Currently, Smash Balloon’s plugins are installed and active on around 1.3 million WordPress-powered sites. The team has thus far built social feed plugins for Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. Smash Balloon Social Photo Feed, its Instagram plugin, is by far the company’s most popular plugin with over a million active installations, a feat it surpassed in April.

Brackett launched Smash Balloon in 2013. Since then, the company has specialized in creating plugins that allow users to display social media content on their websites.

“With Awesome Motive’s vast resources and deep understanding of the WordPress industry, I know we’ll be able to bring even more powerful solutions to the Smash Balloon community,” said Brackett in the announcement on the Smash Balloon blog.

“I’m really excited and proud to now be a partner at Awesome Motive,” he said. “They have a really great group of partners there and I’m really humbled to now be a part of the team. I’ll be continuing in my role leading the Smash Balloon business unit.”

Brackett said the biggest factor in making the deal was the expertise and experience that Awesome Motive brought to the table in the WordPress plugin space. “They’ve built a proven model for plugin growth, which is evident from their large user base of 15 million websites,” he said. “Of course, there were other factors too, such as the AM growth playbooks, back office resources, various operational/marketing processes, etc., which make it easier for us to grow and scale as a business.”

Awesome Motive is the company behind WPBeginner, OptinMonster, WPForms, MonsterInsights, and more. It has a history of buying smaller businesses and growing them into larger, more successful endeavors. In February this year, the company acquired the All in One SEO Pack plugin.

“Adding social proof is crucial for business websites,” said Syed Balkhi, CEO of Awesome Motive. “In WPBeginner support, we see many readers asking for ways to display their social media content on their site, especially Instagram and Facebook. Displaying social media content on your site can not only help you grow your social followers, but it can also help you improve your sales conversions on your store.”

Balkhi said his team at WPBeginner has been recommending the Smash Balloon plugins all the way back to 2016. “When I was presented with the opportunity to join forces with John and the Smash Balloon team, it was a no brainer,” he said.

“Smash Balloon is the market leader when it comes to creating custom social media feeds in WordPress,” said Balkhi. “Over 1.3 million website owners use Smash Balloon plugins to display custom Instagram feeds, custom Facebook feeds, custom Twitter feeds, and custom YouTube feeds. The best part is that the plugins are always reliable, and they come with a very smart feed backup / caching which keeps your site loading fast even when the social API is down.”

What Does the Future Hold?

Awesome Motive is actively hiring developers, support staff, and writers. At least some of those hires will be working on Smash Balloon’s product line.

Balkhi doesn’t like to talk about team size, remaining humble as ever as the leader of his continually growing company. “What’s more important for us is to make sure that we adequately serve our growing customer base while continuing to add new features that they’re asking for,” he said.

He does have big plans for Smash Balloon’s products. “We’re of course going to update the existing plugins to add new features that users are asking for, and we will be adding seamless integrations with our other products such as MonsterInsights (analytics), RafflePress (contests & giveaways), SeedProd (landing pages), etc.,” he said.

A large part of the company’s plans is to continue making the process of creating custom social media feeds easier. The team will be doing this through more detailed tutorials and product education going forward.

However, there are no plans at stopping there. New projects are in the pipeline. “We’re also working on a brand new product that a lot of WPBeginner readers and Smash Balloon customers have been asking for,” he said. “I can’t share too much details, but it’s going to be awesome.”

by Justin Tadlock at June 29, 2020 09:09 PM under Smash Balloon

WPTavern: WooCommerce 4.3 to Introduce New Home Screen

As the pandemic and lockdown measures have caused major shifts in consumer behavior, accelerating the trend towards e-commerce, many WooCommerce-powered stores have seen a significant boost in sales. Major retailers like Amazon, Walmart, and Target have strained to meet the increase in consumer demand, creating an unprecedented opportunity for independent stores.

According to the latest ACI Worldwide report, e-commerce sales are up 81% year over year in May 2020. Transactional volume has also increased 23 percent compared to May 2019. Despite the pandemic’s devastating blow to the hospitality, travel, and entertainment industries, merchants selling products catering to the homebound population are doing more business than ever. This prompted the WooCommerce team to begin publishing tips and resources for store owners who are managing a sudden surge in sales.

The WooCommerce core development team is also keeping pace with new features that help administrators see store activity at a glance. Version 4.3, expected to be released July 7, will include a new home screen, featuring an inbox, quick access to store management links, and an overview of stats on sales, orders, and visitors.

WooCommerce plans to enhance the new Home screen with the ability to complete basics tasks, such as fulfilling orders or tweaking settings without having to leave the screen. As WooCommerce is a complex plugin with menus that drill down several levels deep, this screen will become the store owner’s command center by simplifying access to important stats and commonly performed actions. It will set as the default screen for new stores when version 4.3 of the plugin is released.

The new Home screen will not be turned on by default for existing store owners. They will need to enable it under the Advanced > Features setting in the plugin.

WooCommerce received positive feedback after sharing a preview of the new Home screen last week. A few users requested that it integrate with third party plugins, such as Woo Bookings, and provide better support for stores primarily selling digital products. If WooCommerce makes it easy to extend, plugin authors can make the screen more useful to a diverse range of stores. Users are encouraged to submit their ideas for core improvements on the WooCommerce Ideas Board.

by Sarah Gooding at June 29, 2020 08:12 PM under woocommerce

June 26, 2020

WPTavern: The Best Documentation Is No Documentation

Hear me out before telling me how wrong I am.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have read a few different articles on writing good user documentation from a software developer’s perspective. It is an area I was always told I excelled at by people who read the docs I wrote through the years. However, by the time I stepped away from my WordPress business of over a decade, I had almost completely stopped writing user documentation. Few users seemed to have noticed or questioned why there were no step-by-step explanations of certain features.

Like many WordPress plugin and theme developers, I am a firm believer in having documentation on hand. As someone who has been fiddling with code since 2003, documentation has been my best friend. I have written at least a few hundred tutorials or pages of docs throughout my career. I have published two development books and was a technical editor on a third. I am fairly certain I have created a plugin or two with more inline documentation than actual code.

However, I also ran support for end-users for over a decade. The one thing I learned with any surety is that many users simply do not read the documentation. Even if they were reading it, they should not have needed to most of the time.

Despite iterating, redesigning, and trying my hand at everything to lead users to documentation before running to the support forum with every question, repeat questions never failed to land in the support queue every day.

It took me years — far more than it should have — to realize that the solution was not in the documentation and the problem was not in the user’s ability to read it. The problem was the product. If users were asking repeat questions, it meant there was something wrong with the user experience. Eventually, I shifted my focus. Instead of writing more docs, I focused on addressing the problems that continued to crop up in the software.

The activity that I had failed at was listening.

One of the best skills a developer can obtain is the ability to listen and then translate what users are saying into better code, user interfaces, and user experiences.

In my younger years — and I suspect many developers were the same when starting — I felt like I knew the answer to every question and was always right. I was highly skilled, and I knew it. For a young, 20-something developer, that tends to mean trouble. It means that you believe the problem is not with the things you have built. No, the problem was that the user was doing something wrong. These are the types of developers who say, “RTFM,” and point a user to an overly technical document that does not solve their problems.

Some lessons are learned the hard way, but learn them we must to build better products.

I promise if you do this one activity — listen, really listen — to users, you will spend far less time explaining how something works. The question you need to ask yourself is why a piece of documentation needs to exist in the first place. If it takes 500 words to explain a feature, there is a good chance the feature does not make for an ideal user experience.

When building products, we should always strive to build them so that there is no need for documentation. Or, at least build them so that reading the manual is a last resort for addressing problems.

For practical purposes, as a fulltime developer in the past, I kept a simple text file with a list of repeat questions. This could be a more elaborate setup for a team, such as creating GitHub issues. My text file worked fine because I was a one-person show. I would make it a habit to routinely go through the list and ask how I could improve each point. Some items were never scratched off the list. However, more often than not, I learned important lessons about building for end-users first. I could see the things that made sense in my head but were confusing to others.

The biggest improvements were not in finding solutions to existing problems but in recognizing problems within new products that I was building based on past experience.

Over time, most of my documentation became geared toward developers. These were primarily tutorials on using APIs, hooks, and other developer-related features — things that were not exposed through a plugin’s UI. I was writing far less for end-users because I was updating projects based on their feedback and questions. Yes, I absolutely failed from time to time, but I was getting better at being someone who listened to problems and made changes based on what users were telling me in their own way.

When I say that the best documentation is no documentation, I do not mean that you should skip it altogether. I want you to ask the question about why the documentation needs to exist. Are there things you can do to make the user experience easier? Are you actively tracking support questions and addressing those in the product itself?

In development, we often talk about writing “self-documenting code.” This is a way of saying to write code in a way that you should not have to explain it to another developer via inline documentation. For example, the wp_insert_post() function in WordPress tells you that its purpose is to insert a post. The goal of any software should also be to create self-documenting interfaces and other elements that a user interacts with. Users should be able to automatically understand the purpose of a button, text field, or checkbox without consulting the docs.

The next time you sit down to write a new user-oriented piece of documentation, make sure that you are not using it as a crutch to prop up a poor user experience.

by Justin Tadlock at June 26, 2020 09:34 PM under Opinion

WPTavern: WordCamp Tulsa 2020 Canceled

Tulsa’s first ever WordCamp, which was scheduled for August 29-30, 2020, has officially been canceled due to uncertainty surrounding the pandemic. The event would have been the second WordCamp in Oklahoma in four years, following WordCamp OKC in 2016.

“We were trying to go for a hybrid event that was live streamed and included an audience,” lead organizer James Bullis said. “This was something that hadn’t been tried before and with Oklahoma opening up it was a possibility.”

The six-person organizing team had already selected speakers and were going to notify them but had not yet set the WordCamp schedule.

“Unfortunately we were told that due to uncertainty we had to choose to do a virtual event or postpone it,” Bullis said. He said WordCamp Central cited a few reasons why a hybrid event would not be possible: social distancing, cleaning requirements throughout the day, the extra cost of a local crew to film, and the quality of the stream with live audience elements.

When presented with the choice to either go full virtual or postpone the event, the organizing team took advice from WordCamp Central’s approved streaming company. Having free virtual tickets available would likely limit the in-person ticket sales and put a greater burden on local sponsorships.

“Since this was the first WordCamp in Tulsa, the organizing team felt it would be better to postpone until 2021,” Bullis said.

Oklahoma is currently in Phase 3 of reopening, with businesses back to operating normally for the most part. Despite COVID-19 cases steadily rising in Oklahoma, along with hospitalizations, Governor Kevin Stitt, said he has no plans to scale back the reopening process. While there is a chance that Oklahoma would be open at the end of August, the situation is too precarious for WordCampers to pin their hopes on an in-person event.

Although many WordCamps are opting to go virtual and have attracted record numbers of online attendees, it’s not easy to measure attendees’ engagement without comprehensive streaming data broken down by hour/session. Bullis and his team decided against holding Tulsa’s inaugural WordCamp as a virtual conference, because they didn’t think it would hold the same value without the in-person interaction.

“We noticed that other WordCamps had gone virtual,” Bullis said. “People on our organizing team registered for these virtual WordCamps but didn’t go to them, or they left early. We felt like this was a pretty common response. We felt that a virtual WordCamp wouldn’t be as effective and would take away from the real value of a WordCamp.”

WordCamp Tulsa is technically canceled but the organizers plan to attempt an in-person event next spring. They will have to start the application process over again to plan for 2021 but hope to host the WordCamp on the first weekend in March or May.

by Sarah Gooding at June 26, 2020 07:13 PM under wordcamp

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