Blocks versus Page Builders

Miscellaneous Lego pieces, very colorful

Blocks came out in late 2018 initially for blog posts and page contents. The Block Editor project, originally named Gutenberg, has gradually expanded since. Starting January this year WordPress core introduced Block Themes (AKA Full Site Editing) where Blocks are used for templates, headers, footers, sidebars and more. That made 2022 a game changer because you no longer need a third party page builder to edit site templates without code. Default themes were Twenty-Twenty One Blocks experiment, Twenty Twenty-Two, and now Twenty Twenty-Three.

WordPress editing is becoming more performant, accessible, standardized and interoperable among themes and plugins. Plus for WooCommerce sites the core system has been rapidly developing and releasing Blocks and Templates in support of the new standards.

Modern Block standards are inspired by non WordPress systems as well as WordPress specific Page Builders. The biggest problem with third party Page Builders has been lacking standards recently termed subtractive competition by Darrin Ethier at WordCamp Europe 2022. Divi was an original success story but it fell behind Elementor since Elementor offers a GPL compliant free version. WP Bakery has been popular because its leaner and its licensing allowed it to be bundled into themes, but is regarded as ugly and difficult to use. There have been several other builders claiming to be the best WordPress building experience, but without massive popularity these projects are unlikely to stand the test of time.

A Block Theme can be as simple as a few basic files that tell WordPress to engage Block building; specifically style.css headers, theme.json setup details, and templates/index.html containing the post contents block. The default themes mentioned above contain a bit more but remain largely blank canvases.

For those wishing to skip the blank canvas they could install one of the ~200 prebuilt Block Themes from the open-source Theme Repository. Existing templates comprised of Blocks can be transferred between Block Themes by a developer as there’s no automated transfer process as yet. Regardless of theme and templates, Block Patterns bring over canned page sections into Blocks.

There remains some commonly used features missing in the core Blocks. Here’s block add-on projects I suggest having a look at:

Open-source single block plugins

Open-source block kit plugins

Open-source block management plugins

  • Create Block Theme (use Google or custom fonts, import/export theme files)
    • 2k installations
    • 680KB

I suggest approaching these add-ons as follows:

  • Use sparingly! Use core blocks as much as possible. Beware anybody editing the site could use add-on blocks unknowingly.
  • Decide whether to use one or more single-service plugins or a single kit plugin, never multiple kits on a given site.
  • Begin with installing the smaller and simpler option and work into a bigger option only when necessary.
  • Never use layouts from an add-on. Only use specific blocks that aren’t otherwise available in core. You can do all kinds of layouts in core, especially if you have a Block Theme that supports the full use of Columns, Group, Stack, and Row containers at full, wide, standard, or custom widths. Remember you can nest these containers and set backgrounds and padding within each.

That wraps-up my latest news on Blocks. If you have a funded WooCommerce project that needs help with Blocks, contact me.

Share this:

Note: I may receive compensation for referrals.

WP Engine - A smarter way to WordPress
The best email marketing tool, responsive templates, automations, Worldwide support, tracking and reports, Benchmark Email, free plan available
Sell everywhere. Use Shopify to sell in-store and online.
Klaviyo partner badge
Okendo Partner, certified
WooCommerce, the most customizable eCommerce platform for building your online business. Click to get started.
Jetpack, a stronger, customizable site without sacrificing safety. Click to get started.