It’s been a while since we talked last. Can you catch me up to speed on what you’ve been doing since we discussed Login Designer back in January?
Wow, it’s been nearly a year already! Professional development wise, 2018 has been the most intense year I’ve experienced yet. I’ve really doubled-down on React, Gutenberg, identifying new product opportunities, learning the ins-and-outs of the new block editor and figuring out how my ThemeBeans themes will interface with Gutenberg. All Gutenberg.
While I have not released any new themes this year, practically every WordPress theme I have has been cleaned up, prepped and ready to roll with the new editor. It’s a lot of work, but I am excited about Gutenberg and where WordPress is headed. I’m all in on Gutenberg. I’m confident the future of WordPress is bright, and I’m ecstatic that I get to play a role in crafting it with my themes and plugins.
Can you go into a little detail about what Block Gallery does and why everyone should download it as soon as Gutenberg goes live to the masses?
While the core gallery block is much more robust than the classic editor’s gallery system, I wanted to give folks more range in how they decide to display media. Whether that means using a masonry grid, carousel or tiled layouts, Block Gallery includes them all.
But the neatest part of the block collection is how each gallery block can morph into another using the transform functionality built into Gutenberg.
Every image, setting, display option, and color selection are migrated instantly — if a user decides to swap out a selected gallery for a different layout. For instance, folks can morph from a masonry gallery to a carousel slider in a single click, without having to re-upload/assign images or select any options. It’s all done behind the scenes.
That alone is a huge advantage of using Block Gallery.
What was the most difficult part of developing Block Gallery both as a plugin general but more specifically as a Gutenberg block?
Hands down, the most difficult part of block development (at least during this beta stage of the editor) is keeping up the pace of development with that of Gutenberg. The project has been moving at an incredible speed, which is great — but also challenging for developers.
I’ve probably re-written most of the Gutenberg blocks that I’ve built a few times over now. The important aspect of block development is ensuring the experience of using a third-party block is starkly similar to that of core blocks. So when blocks are updated with a different method of doing something, I update my block collections to function in the same capacity.
I’m personally way too lazy to learn how to build Gutenberg blocks but my feeling has always been that early adopter developers who make core products will be the ones to succeed long term. Was getting into the gallery game early important to you and how do you feel being one of the first to market will help you?
Galleries are ever so popular in the WordPress space. Folks like to showcase their photos, artwork, kittens, etc. I just wanted to build something to give folks the same familiarity UX of the core gallery block, but give them more layouts and capabilities. Being the first to market has its advantages, but having a great idea and executing that idea is what really takes the cake. I’m banking on the idea that folks will enjoy using Block Gallery and then tell all their friends about it.
Having built a number of popular WordPress themes for creatives, I know the online portfolio space in-and-out. I wanted to explore how my portfolio themes at ThemeBeans will interface with Gutenberg (instead of simply disabling the block editor at the post type level). Block Gallery was born out that exploration, and will likely be the basis of how I push my portfolio themes into this next era of WordPress.
Now for some generic Gutenberg talk: how do you feel about its current state as we near closer to the final release of WordPress 5.0?
Although the block editor has come a very long way, the concerns surrounding accessibility absolutely need to be addressed and resolved. Sure, there are a few quirks that will be ironed out with time and effort, but overall I am stoked about Gutenberg’s progress and where the editor stands today.
Is there anything about Gutenberg you wish was different in terms of usability or the experience of developing blocks for it?
It is a lot of work to develop blocks for the new editor, but in the end – the user experience provided by Gutenberg and the block system is so much better than the classic editor. Tools like create-guten-block make getting started a breeze, and development documentation has improved significantly since the projects inception.
I’d say we’re on the right track usability and development wise, but folks really have to jump on board and learn all sorts of new things. I myself love learning and I’m having a blast making blocks.
Do you have any advice for someone looking to get involved with Gutenberg? Where should they start and what should they focus on?
Start with the Gutenberg handbook, create-guten-block, and the blocks provides in the core Gutenberg project on GitHub. Developers will also need to become familiar with React and JSX. Start small with something rather simple, then continuously build upon that block until you’ve become comfortable at executing whatever you need to do for your block.
It’s hard work, but it’s very rewarding.
What’s next for yourself, your business and Block Gallery the rest of the year?
I’m rounding out updates across my entire theme collection for enhanced support for Gutenberg and WordPress 5.0. The new editor is just around the corner and I’d like to have all my themes ready to go before-hand.
I’ll also continue to develop Block Gallery, adding a couple more gallery blocks to the project and eventually I’ll release a paid version of the block with light-box support, premium gallery blocks and other features.
I have a couple other interesting Gutenberg projects in the works, which I hope to release before the end of the year as well. It’s been a busy season, but I’m excited about the opportunities presented by Gutenberg and to have the capability to lead this next era of WordPress blocks.