Wordpress News

WPTavern: Blocksy Theme Adds New Charity Starter Site, Pro Version to Launch in 2020

Wordpress Planet - Wed, 07/15/2020 - 22:32

Blocksy is one of the best free themes available for the block editor right now and is rapidly growing in popularity. CreativeThemes, the Romania-based company behind the theme, released an update to Blocksy this week, along with a new starter site for charities.

The concept of “starter sites” is an interesting new twist on “starter templates,” which essentially allow users to import the content from a demo. Theme makers for products like Blocksy, Astra, and Go use this approach to help users implement different types of websites by importing the content from a pre-built demo site. The demos use the same base theme but vary widely in how they are customized.

Blocksy’s starter sites are a one-click XML demo import that automatically brings in the pages, images, and theme options. This puts all the blocks in the right place so the user needs only to customize the demo, instead of trying to find the right settings to match the demo.

The new Charity starter site is built with the Stackable plugin’s page builder blocks. It joins four other free starter sites designed specifically for blogs, apps, travel, and e-commerce. The design can be imported under the Blocksy menu in the WordPress admin.

According to the theme’s beautifully designed and user friendly changelog, Blocksy can now automatically detect Custom Post Types and add their appropriate options. The update also adds a sizing option for related posts thumbnails, a new Twitch social icon, and improves compatibility with WooCommerce product display and miscellaneous extensions.

Blocksy Pro Version Coming Soon

When we first reviewed the theme in January 2020, it had 1,000 active installs and 58 five-star reviews. Over the past six months, the theme’s user base has grown to more than 4,000 active installs and a perfect five-star rating on WordPress.org from 191 reviewers. It is currently maintained by a team of two – Sergiu Radu and Andrei Glingeanu.

Blocksy’s creators have been working on custom projects and random jobs to support the time they spend developing the theme but they plan to launch a pro version as early as this summer.

“We plan to add more features in the premium version, more demos, and also offer better and faster support,” Radu said. “I hope after we release the premium version we will be able to take on a few more people in our team to help us, at least with support so we can concentrate better on development.”

Radu said the pro version will include some premium starter sites as well as additional functionality for the base theme. They are aiming to include the following features in the first release:

  • Multiple conditional headers
  • Multiple conditional footers
  • Multiple conditional sidebars
  • More header elements
  • More footer elements
  • White labeling
  • Custom fonts extension
  • Adobe Typekit extension
  • Hooks (conditional)
  • Sticky header

In a second round of updates for the pro version, Blocksy creators plan to include features like custom color palettes, AMP, LearnDash, and EDD integrations, along with extensions for ads, mega menus, and portfolios. In the meantime, Radu says they do not plan to add more features to the free version – only improvements and new starter sites.

WPTavern: Eye-Catching Typography and Personality: Blossom Themes Launches Sarada Lite

Wordpress Planet - Wed, 07/15/2020 - 20:56
Sarada Lite homepage.

Blossom Themes launched Sarada Lite, its 25th theme, on the WordPress theme directory today. The theme is billed as a “feminine blog theme” specifically for professional bloggers. However, it would work well in a variety of contexts. While it is targeted at fashion, travel, and lifestyle bloggers, it is well-rounded enough for anyone who wants a touch of personality as part of their blogging experience.

I nearly passed over this theme. It had no mention of the block editor or Gutenberg in its description. It was not tagged in the directory as having editor styles (technically, it doesn’t have them). There are few themes that I give much attention to if they do not style the latest features and blocks in WordPress. It has to be truly eye-catching otherwise. Sarada Lite is a breathtaking design, so it drew me in. It is the sort of theme that inspires me to write. Plus, its light color scheme along with the author’s choice of images in the demo fit perfectly into the summer season. It simply makes me want to sit on the beach with a mojito and my laptop ready to spin up some great content.

What makes this theme stand out is its typography. The status quo with most free themes in the WordPress theme directory is to simply not give any attention to things like font size, characters per line, line height, or vertical rhythm. Long-form content is practically unreadable with such themes. However, long-winded writers need not be fearful of the reader losing interest because of the design. Sarada Lite creates an inviting atmosphere that beckons the visitor to actually read.

The theme supports several plugins, most of which are a part of the Blossom Themes collection. They are unnecessary for a solid blogging experience with this theme. Users should shy away from taking advantage of every bell and whistle the theme or its add-ons provide. The default setup is mostly where the theme shines.

Users who need a shop can also enjoy WooCommerce integration. The theme does not add much in the way of shop-related features, opting to style the default output of the eCommerce plugin instead.

Design Elements Worth Noting Single post view.

When testing and reviewing themes, it is often easy to get lost in the features. However, with Sarada Lite, it’s not the theme features that are important. They may even be a detriment to the theme (more on that later). The thing that makes this theme special is the small design elements. The author puts a unique spin on things that give the theme a personality of its own. Designers who want to show off their design chops often go overboard, but Sarada Lite has just enough flair to draw attention to important elements without getting in the way of the content.

In particular, the theme’s use of the Caveat font gives secondary text just the right amount of pop. It is not a font that lends itself well to long-form content. However, the theme makes use of it for links, captions, quote citations, and a few other elements.

Sarada Lite’s blockquote design.

The theme offers various layouts with and without a sidebar. For single posts, I recommend dropping the sidebar and choosing the full-width centered layout to make full use of the block editor’s capabilities. This gives enough breathing room for users who like to make liberal use of wide and full-width blocks. The theme has an option to change the layout globally and on a per-post basis.


One of the biggest issues with Sarada Lite is that users do not get a one-to-one match between the editor and the front end. The missing piece is the theme’s beautiful typography. It is nowhere to be found while writing a post. The theme’s admin-side CSS is bare-bones to the point where there is little use in loading the stylesheet. I hope this is merely something the theme author skipped for version 1.0 with a firm plan to add it in the next release. At worst, it is an extra couple of hours of work that offers a huge benefit to theme users.

The other major downside of Sarada Lite is that it tries to do too much. Its customizer options feel a bit overboard and disorganized. In too many cases, I was left wondering what a particular option was for or searching around for specific options in odd places.

I also found the Instagram feed (available via the Blossom Themes Social Feed add-on) in the header to be a horrendous addition, ruining what is an otherwise open and inviting design. Fortunately, this is an optional feature. Once again, the theme is doing too much here. I understand it is a bullet point on the ol’ marketing sheet, but it is an eyesore in practice. The Instagram feed works much better in the footer. My advice for theme users: avoid putting this in your header at all costs. Your site visitors should not need to skip over social media images just to get to your content.

As gracefully as the various sliders on the theme’s homepage are done, I am now and always anti-slider. They offer no real benefit to the reader and often hide away content that would have otherwise been seen. The theme’s slider sections, some of which are optional, are relatively low-key. I have seen far worse, but I would rather not see them at all.

Despite the theme’s issues, they are not so detrimental that I wouldn’t recommend the theme. Assuming the theme author adds in editor styles that match the front end, the other issues can mostly be avoided by user choice. The theme works well without tinkering with its options and adding extra plugins.

Sarada Lite is best without all the extras. What the user does with the theme will make or break the experience.

HeroPress: Second Chances: How A Trip Back Into The WordPress Community Saved My Life

Wordpress Planet - Wed, 07/15/2020 - 11:00

Often, we refuse change and don’t get a second opportunity to make things right. But for me, June 17, 2017, changed my life forever. A life-threatening heart event forced me to start over and in the short time since WordPress helped me rediscover myself and to do the things I truly love.

At 10 am that morning, I was laid out flat on a cold, hard operating table being poked, prodded, and prepped for a surgical procedure. According to my doctors, this procedure was the only sure way to find out what had been plaguing me for five long years. Within the next sixty minutes, if things go sideways, I could be dead.

As I slowly came to, words floated through a lifting fog of anesthesia. “You had two 100% blocked arteries,” my cardiologist said. A flood of concern and questions seemed to flow freely foremost, “what will happen to me?”

Two Paths Lead to WordPress

Looking back, my WordPress journey has two paths, pre- or post-heart event. When the lead developer and CSS goddess left our public transit agency almost 10 years ago, they left behind a company news blog with the Headway theme. That year we were fortunate to have room in our budget allowing me to attend the WordPress VIP Intensive Developer Workshop in Napa.

At that time my experience was entirely in basic static HTML as a web designer so imagine how lost and out of place I felt being asked to “spin up a virtual box” midway through the first day. Surrounded by the best and the brightest distributed Automatticians from around the world, person after person answered my questions or assisted in any way they could. That day I learned what the phrase WordCamp Community really meant.

Leaving the Past Behind

What if you got a do-over? A mulligan, a reset button? Imagine being totally free from the stressors of the daily grind, similar to being a young child, with nothing to do but play all day.

Staring at the ceiling from my bed while recovering, I decided to stop the world and get off. I took a leave of absence from work beginning September 11. Looking deep within, I searched to rediscover me and the loves of my life – giving selflessly to others, picking up a pencil to sketch, storytelling, and WORDPRESS.

Every day for the next ninety days, I resolved to do only the things reconnected me with things dormant in my past that brought me joy:

  • Each morning I’d pick up a pencil, sketch;
  • I’d exercise and practice mindfulness; and
  • No day would be complete without giving back, doing something with WordPress for others. Like an Agile process, I’d loop through these tasks, reassess, then repeat, each morning becoming stronger than the previous.

Slowly, progress was being made in my recovery. From feeling faint and unable to walk from my bedside to my bathroom; 100 steps turned into 100 yards then one lap at my local park. I set a goal to climb to one of the highest points in our area, the top of Central Park.

The Journey of 4,890 Miles Begins with One Step

My second path into WordPress started later that summer. Untethered, I walked into my first-ever official WordPress Meetup in a coworking space located downtown Los Angeles, apprehensive, unsure what to expect. That evening a wonderful speaker on SEO followed the organizers from WordCamp Los Angeles calling for volunteers and I immediately raised my hand. The old me would not have.

From that point through December, I attended almost twenty (20) WordPress Meetups, attended four WordCamps (Grand Rapids, Los Angeles, Riverside, and United States via Livestream) logging almost 5,000 miles in the process. Rebuilding a website for a printing company pro bono while rehabilitating my heart and body. The energies received in return for giving back to the WordPress Community healed me emotionally, allowing me to contribute creatively — I loved it and wanted to do even more!

Making a List, Checking It Twice

Tired of driving home very late nights from area Meetups from all points around SoCal, I decided to start a meetup locally. On January 26, 2018, at 7:30 pm, I reached the last slide of my first presentation at our official WordPress Santa Clarita Valley Meetup. It read, “host the first annual WordCamp Santa Clarita”.

The faces in the audience – Tom, Steve, Matt, and others new to WordPress all looked at me skeptically, seeing someone full of dreams, spouting enthusiasm. But one thing was clear to me — WordPress had given me a shot at reclaiming something laid dormant and anything seemed possible.

Sixteen (16) months later, the first WordCamp north of Los Angeles and south of Sacramento since 2014 debuted in Santa Clarita. A small, but an incredible team of volunteers bought into my enthusiasm turned around and gave back to our attendees in our WordPress Community.

Speak On It

In my pre-heart event life, I began public speaking in a formal setting completing over 40 presentations but had stepped off the stage years earlier in a company club. Back in 2014 while walking through the break room at WordCamp Los Angeles one of the lead organizers handed me a mic and asked me to speak. Afterward, he said, “you should present at a WordCamp.”

Four years later, I stood on stage at WordCamp Chicago sharing my WordPress journey and hoping to inspire others to never give up on going after your dreams. Until that weekend in Chicago, I hadn’t seen any African-American men onstage and felt it important to encourage diversity through my message of rebirth.

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

Mahatma Gandhi

I’ve met the most incredible group of nurturing, giving, and talented people stretching back to Sara (Rosso) in Napa through Angela (Jin) or David (Bisset) on the WordCamp US team. Every time I needed confidence or a word of encouragement Cami (Kaos), Kathy (Drewien), Brandon (Dove), or someone in the Community was that steadying hand on my shoulder.

I think about these words often as inspiration, waking each morning to greet the sunrise full of ideas and promise. How can I give back? What can I do with WordPress today?

The post Second Chances: How A Trip Back Into The WordPress Community Saved My Life appeared first on HeroPress.

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

Wordpress Planet - Tue, 07/14/2020 - 23:55

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.”

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

Wordpress Planet - Tue, 07/14/2020 - 20:09
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.

WordPress.org blog: WordPress 5.5 Beta 2

Wordpress Planet - Tue, 07/14/2020 - 17:24

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.

WordPress 5.5 Beta 2

Wordpress News - Tue, 07/14/2020 - 17:24

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.

WPTavern: Admin 2020 Reimagines WordPress Admin and Media Library

Wordpress Planet - Mon, 07/13/2020 - 23:21

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 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.

“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.”

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

Wordpress Planet - Mon, 07/13/2020 - 21:14
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.”

Construction Zymphonies Theme

Drupal Themes - Sat, 07/11/2020 - 14:48

Construction Zymphonies Theme is a business theme designed specifically for construction, builders and those that offer construction services. Construction Zymphonies Theme is easy to use, feature-rich and visually stunning responsive Drupal multipurpose theme. Read more

Live Demo Advanced Themes

  • Drupal 8 core
  • Bootstrap v4
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  • Social media links
  • Designed using Sass & Compass
  • Custom slider - Unlimited image upload
  • Client/partner listings
  • Home page dynamic layouts
    • 3 column top widget
    • 3 column features widget
    • 4 column updates widget
    • 4 column middle widget
    • 4 column bottom widget
    • 4 column footer widget
Most installed Zymphonies theme Contact Zymphonies

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Sponsored by Zymphonies

WPTavern: WordPress Documentation Team Bans Links to Commercial Websites

Wordpress Planet - Fri, 07/10/2020 - 23:22

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).”

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

Wordpress Planet - Fri, 07/10/2020 - 20:35

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.

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.

Test Hitesh Theme

Drupal Themes - Fri, 07/10/2020 - 06:33

This is for test

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

Wordpress Planet - Thu, 07/09/2020 - 22:07

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.

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

Wordpress Planet - Thu, 07/09/2020 - 21:00

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.

WPTavern: WordPress University Was Always Online

Wordpress Planet - Thu, 07/09/2020 - 14:36

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.

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

Wordpress Planet - Wed, 07/08/2020 - 20:48

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.

If your thread is more than 3 tweets it does not belong on Twitter. Don't @ me. #longlivetheblog

— Jon Desrosiers (@desrosj) March 24, 2020

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.

Not particularly controversial opinion: most tweetstorms should be blog posts.

Putting my money where my mouth is: pic.twitter.com/HFBbmQtwql

— Gary (@GaryPendergast) May 29, 2020

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.

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

Wordpress Planet - Wed, 07/08/2020 - 20:09

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.

WPTavern: New Gatsby Source WordPress Plugin Now in Beta

Wordpress Planet - Tue, 07/07/2020 - 22:33

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.

WordPress.org blog: WordPress 5.5 Beta 1

Wordpress Planet - Tue, 07/07/2020 - 21:49

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 350 tickets in WordPress 5.5, including 155 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.