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Working on a new theme.

Working on a new theme.

The joy of blogging?

The image is my placeholder for a default thumbnail. A recent update to WordPress made it so my editor styles aren’t applied, so I’m writing this on a white background with black text. Not my favorite.

I know that so-called block themes (made up of WordPress blocks rather than being PHP-first) is the general direction of the WordPress ecosystem, so I decided I’d start working on one. It’s a mixed bag, so far. The documentation ranges from adequate to not so much, and the search results on popular search engines is polluted by years of the old system, such that trying to understand how to do a thing means you’re more likely to be told how you used to do the thing.

The idea of building everything in the site editor is intriguing but not there at all in terms of feature completeness. WYSIWYG (wizzy-wig, or what you see is what you get) has never been true to its awkward acronym, and that remains true in WordPress-land. I try to do more via theme.json and building parts, patterns, templates, but that’s also not great.

One of the biggest drawbacks is how little basic knowledge of HTML and CSS translate to the new stuff. Rather than leaning on that built-up knowledge, the keywords and systems are their own designs within block themes, meaning you have to dig around to figure out how to say the thing you can already say perfectly fine in the common languages of the web.

I’m trying to go with a slightly-dark background with dark text, so it won’t be white, but I won’t have a night/day pair of values to deal with. That’s always a challenge, because for color contrast you can’t go too close to a middle-brightness or you paint away too many values to be functional.

But yeah, the placeholder thumbnail is something I want because many of my oldest posts never had what’s sometimes called a post thumbnail, sometimes called a featured image. And you’d think that WordPress, out of the box, would have some way to define that fallback. You’d be wrong. It’s something that has to be implemented via a plugin or extra efforts as part of the theme.

I don’t really understand that design philosophy of “the obvious feature is not available except by add-on code,” but just have to deal with it, along with using explicit-css-in-json in theme.json, struggling to decide whether to define things on the elements globally or as the elemental children of a core block, and wondering why adding borders to post thumbnails showed up in the site editor but not on the page. Among other things.

Maybe next week you’ll see this site with a shiny new coat of block theme, maybe it’ll take longer. Only one way to find out.


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