A Conversation Around WooCommerce Blocks

Do the Woo - Woo Perspective Episode 105
Do the Woo - A WooCommerce Podcast
Do the Woo - A WooCommerce Podcast
A Conversation Around WooCommerce Blocks

This is a great conversation as we asked Darren Ethier and Gary Murray from WooCommerce to join Manos Psychogyiopoulos, Head of Product at SomewhereWarm to talk WooCommerce blocks.

This was also the first show for our new co-host, Noëlle Steegs. With her continuing journey as a WooCommerce developer, Manos as a product maker, and two collective block brains from Woo core, it was a great conversation approached from all angles.

And most importantly, this gave Manos the opportunity to ask direct questions, as a developer, to Gary and Darren.

If you want to get the latest on Woo blocks, curious as a developer on how it affects you and hear some great discussion around the future of blocks, tune into this one.

Connect with Gary, Manos, and Darren

Thanks to our Sponsors

Bob: Hey, everyone. Episode 105, Do the Woo. We are Woo Perspectives and there's no better way to have a perspective on Woo than WooCommerce Blocks, that's what we're going to be talking about today, good stuff.

And before I even get into anything, I just have to introduce Noëlle Steegs. If you've been listening to Woo Perspectives which is one every other Tuesday, you've been hearing me, blah, blah, blah. I'm there with the guests, they're always more interesting than myself, but I thought I need to bring in a co-host, so I have brought in Noëlle. She's a developer in the WooCommerce space, she's a highly active in the community, volunteers for a lot of stuff. Co-Host of Woo Live, Noëlle. Welcome to the team.

Noëlle: Thanks so much, Bob. Thanks so much for inviting me to be your co-host. I'm absolutely thrilled.

Bob: Yeah, this is going to be fun. I mean, I hate to say it, but I have Mendel, Brad and Jonathan, the other co-hosts. We need somebody to keep us all in line and I just thought Noëlle's the perfect person to do that. It's time to bring somebody in that can reign us in. I'm looking forward to that. I'm looking forward to the show.

Quick shout-out to my sponsor, before I move on, PayPal. If you are building sites for your clients, likely you or they have PayPal extension in there, or they're using PayPal. Why not use a PayPal checkout extension from WooCommerce, it's free. They can use the Buy Now and Pay Later solutions, so that is an opportunity for your clients to make a few more conversions. Check that out at the WooCommerce marketplace and of course, we will be talking more about them later in the show.

Well, like I said, WooCommerce Blocks. Have we got a show for you. I mean, we got a group here that's diverse all sorts of knowledge, incredibly smarter than myself, and I'm looking forward to it. I'm going to start and then have each one of them introduce themselves. First, we have Darren from WooCommerce, Automattic. Welcome to the show, Darren.

Darren: Hello. Glad to be here. Thank you for having us, Bob. I think this is the second time I've been with you. About last year, we talked a little bit about WooCommerce Blocks. Hey everybody, my name is Darren Ethier, as Bob said, I'm with WooCommerce and Automattic. I'm an Engineering Team Lead for the team in WooCommerce that works on WooCommerce Blocks, been doing that for the past year and a half. I'm really excited to share a little bit today about what we've been working on.

Bob: Cool. We have Gary from Automattic and WooCommerce, which I'm going to go ahead and have introduced. But then we have another guest that's going to kind of bring in a different perspective, which is really the basis of the show. Welcome to the show Gary, and what you do over at Woo.

Gary: Thanks Bob. I lead one of the business and product areas for WooCommerce, which is essentially helping our customers to be able to market and build their stores. So it's anything from getting set up with Facebook or Google, all the way through to essentially building their store using now WooCommerce Blocks.

Bob: Cool. Now I love this introduction because it sounds so cool. We have Manos, from SomewhereWarm. I mean, I've never been able to say that as an introduction to anybody and everybody goes, "Wow, that sounds cool." Manos comes in with a different perspective. Welcome to the show and tell us a little bit about what you do.

Manos: Hey, Bob. I'm real excited to be here today. It's the first time to be on the show and I'm so thankful for the invitation. Right. I lead a team of nine awesome people called SomewhereWarm and for the last, almost one decade really, that's a lot really. For the last nine years to 10, we have been building plugins to help merchants and developers do more with more WooCommerce. I'm happy to do whatever it takes to make that happen.

My role at SomewhereWarm is Head of Product and I'm responsible basically for deciding what to build and how. But I also like to be involved in everything that helps us build better products from, I don't know, writing code to even supporting our customers. But yeah, I think that the part of this job that I enjoy the most is all the different opportunities that WooCommerce is giving us to discover a better version of ourselves while improving our work and it's something that I believe most developers should be familiar with. It's always a strange feeling looking at your work from the past, like six months before, let alone two years before, or three years before and looking at completely a different version of yourself. I'm really grateful for all these moments over the last decade and grateful to everyone who has helped bring WooCommerce to the point it is today, including the gentleman here and of course, Noëlle.

Bob: Excellent. Very cool. Well, let's get started, and I'm going to keep this really general. For those of you that are listening, I'm shooting a conversation between all of us, probably more between my co-host and our three guests. Tell us what's new with Woo Blocks. Just kind of give us a dive into it and then I'd like Manos and Noëlle to kind of bring in their perspectives as well. Why don't both Darren and Gary, give us a little bit of a preview of what's been going on lately with the blocks.

Gary: Essentially, our biggest focus at the moment in the blocks is very much around the cart and the checkout blocks that's been a big focus towards the end of last year into the beginning of this year. It's a significant investment from us essentially, in building out an entirely new cart and checkout process for WooCommerce that has essentially resulted in us putting on the rest of the blocks a little bit on pause essentially, because we just can't essentially work on all of them all at the same time, it's just impossible given the size of the team we have working on the project. But yeah, definitely the latest and greatest thing essentially in the blocks would be the cart and checkout blocks we're working on.

Bob: Darren, you got to have something to add to that. I just notice something that's burning in you to add to that.

Darren: Yeah, basically what Gary said. When I joined Automattic, WooCommerce Blocks had just come out of an initial kind of jumping on the train with what's coming in WordPress and Gutenberg and exploring what that would look in a WooCommerce world. And so a lot of the initial blocks that were developed were essentially blocks of the existing shortcodes to a degree. So much of the functionality there within the existing shortcodes was brought over to some of the blocks. And then shortly after that, we developed our first kind of major new thing block called All Products block, which moved a little bit more into loading some front-end JavaScript and working with React in the front-end from a technical stack point of view. Trying to explore user interfaces improvements we could bring with that.

But, I know there's probably going to come up in the conversation, also introduces a lot of questions around how extensibility is going to work in this new landscape. Not only just for WooCommerce, but for WordPress as a whole, as more teams start building blocks. We know Gutenberg is more of a JavaScript, heavy interface. However, a lot of the static blocks can be just HTML that load on the front-end. But when it comes to e-commerce, it's an interesting dilemma there because we know there's a lot more user interaction from a shopper perspective on the front-end than somebody just reading a WordPress blog for instance. And so, we've been forced to really look at where's that shift going to make in terms of, not only from a merchant standpoint building their scores and working with the user interfaces and the new user experiences from the standpoint of editing the store and creating the pages, but also where's it going to look like from the shopper perspective in this landscape. Given that we have so many more competitors in the market now with Shopify, even Squarespace to a degree.

WooCommerce has really, I think, a tough challenge going into the future in terms of continuing to meet merchant needs in the competitor landscape that we have, but also ensuring that we're staying true to one of our core values of being flexible and extensible and providing freedom to stores to be able to build the way they want to build and use the things they want to use. All that to say that, for me it's really been an interesting journey being a part of this team and some of the explorations we are doing and also being very keen to open to how this impacts the existing WooCommerce community and ecosystem as well.

Bob: Manos, what is your whole take on the WooCommerce Blocks? I mean, I'm going to have you open up here. I'm not putting you on the spot but, I would like just from your experience and also from what you're doing because you've got your opportunity to talk with either Gary or Darren about this and same with Noëlle. I'm going to swing over to her because she's in a unique situation moving from builders to more into development into WooCommerce. You've got the opportunity here, so talk to Darren and Gary. If you have your own challenges or your own thoughts, I'd love to hear them.

Manos: I have so many questions, but let's start with the context really. I mean, we're really at a point where the world is demanding more of e-commerce, right? And more of a WordPress. WordPress is changing and it's giving us new exciting tools to build better user experiences, right? But a lot about the future of WordPress is Influx, and a lot about the tools it's giving us is in flux. They're constantly changing. What's interesting here is that WooCommerce is called, and all of us actually are called to balance the need to improve what's already there against the need to catch up with what's happening in WordPress. If you take into account that we don't have as many resources as we would like, the team at WooCommerce doesn't, I'm sure of that, and we don't, then it becomes a tough equation to solve, right? So with that said, let's go to the blocks. In my opinion what's there, and you pretty much discovered it indirectly, is that there are actually two products there.

The first one is the product blocks themselves, which are basically a replacement, or the future of what we used to call shortcodes. Product blocks are a great example of something that I believe all of us have been thinking for the last few years ever since Gutenberg came out and that's how, how can we leverage this new technology to build better user experiences? They've taken an old dated concept and they show us how we should be doing it in 2021. They're a big deal. They're beautifully done. Everyone that's writing code and that's deeply technical, they can learn by just looking at how they're built and just go and do it in a similar way. They're insanely helpful to the developer community.

The second part of the blocks plugin is what Darren and Gary said, a brand new cart and checkout, and there's so much to be excited about there. I have to openly say that the first few times that I installed the plugin and started looking at things, I was excited. We get a much more interactive cart and checkout experience and we get it in a way, finally, that works very well inside the Editor. People can actually click the edit button on the checkout page or the cart page, and they can actually see something that they can customize. Whereas before, their reactions were priceless and we've done quite a lot of research on the subject. Looking at different parts of WordPress and WooCommerce has been actually one of the things that we did both when we onboard new comers to the team and when we do interviews.

I've seen reactions from probably dozens of people who had to complete certain tasks to see how well they do in an environment that's unfamiliar to them. So when they saw an empty page, like an empty checkout page or a cart page that just contained the tiny shortcode, their reaction was priceless. Like some of them would laugh. Some others would say like, "What am I supposed to do here? There's nothing to edit." And all of that is finally solved, that's a big deal. And there's even a lot of potential here later from a product perspective to provide even more native functionality around customizing the checkout experience and basically optimizing it for different needs in different stores. Some of them may not need a multi-step checkout, some of them might need just a few fields there because they have found that it converts better. There is immense potential in the future, that's all great.

Another piece of great news is that finally those developers who want to build a completely custom cart and checkout experience outside the server context, at least that's my understanding by looking at things under the hood, please correct me if I'm wrong. They will soon have an API that they can use and they will not have to rely on third parties to get that, that's big news as well.

What I find intimidating as a developer is that the new cart and checkout blocks themselves are built around this new API and one implication of this decision is that a lot of existing customizations and plugin codes will need to be rewritten. What's even more interesting here is that developers will be, or are called to use technologies that are completely new to a large chunk of them, basically the majority, in my opinion. And this are a major decision because the simplicity of WordPress and WooCommerce is an important ingredient of their success. The low barrier of entry is what has made WooCommerce attractive for so many developers and in turn it's what gives merchants so many options to choose from, or to add functionality, or to tailor the platform to their needs, and actually do that at a very reasonable cost, right?

Speaking of merchants, one thing I'd like to share is that we're already getting quite a few messages, quite often from merchants who are asking us, "Why are your plugins not working with this new checkout?" They see it as something new, as something that's the next step. They don't realize that, I don't know perhaps, it's experimental or that it won't work with every plugin they have. So they won't be improvements, but of course, they also expect things to work with their existing plugins and customizations. My take in relation to that is that, more than ever they want us to deliver more value, they want us to improve. As I said before, we are called to balance the need to move forward with WordPress, with the need to keep delivering value and that's a difficult equation to solve without catching developers and merchants by surprise. So if I have a question to Darren and Gary is, the first one would be, I think new cart and checkout blocks is going to replace what we have now eventually, and if yes, what are the next steps? Is there a rollout plan? What can we expect next?

Gary: I think ultimately, the long-term plan is that the blocks would essentially replace the older shortcodes, that's the long-term plan of where we want to get to. It makes sense, essentially, in terms of the direction that the market's moving in, the direction that WordPress moves in, that we get to the point where we can actually replace the shortcodes with these blocks. But, you do raise the very real point that we've essentially been challenging or challenge with ourselves essentially is, they are a number of stores that potentially use the old shortcodes and they are using extensions that integrate with it that might never actually be able to potentially integrate with the new cart and checkout, and we do have to take that into account. That's essentially why even in terms of how we've developed it, how we've essentially launched it today. We haven't pushed it off from a perspective of, this is what it is, it's in the core, it's available to use.

It has very much been more released through the blocks, shown to be an experimental thing that we essentially are working on so that we, from our own perspective, have working to actually integrate some of the extensions ourselves as a proof of concept, that it does essentially work and that we can integrate and to get an understanding of how much time and effort it actually needs to go into it from a development perspective. There are some that, in terms of like development time, have been probably in a matter of hours, maybe a days worth of integration, but then we look at something at the moment like the checkout field for instance, that's an extension which is going to require significant work to make it work with the new. But then also, in retrospect, as we've been looking at it we also have to go, "Is part of the checkout field editor the reason for the existence of that extension due to some of the shortcomings of the current cart and checkout?" And then it's like, "Do you actually need to put over all that functionality into the new cart and checkout if we actually are already making some of those improvements in the core product itself through the new blocks?"

To answer your question, the long-term plan is definitely. We want to get to the point where these new blocks would be the default experience for customers, but we do have to take into consideration that they probably will be stores, there'll be merchants that might need to use the old cart and checkout for the foreseeable future due to either customizations that they've made to their stores. That's something we discussed internally, we're trying to figure out the best way, essentially, for people to be able to do that because that experience in and of itself, we don't want to... It could get super messy basically, where a person is trying to use the one cart and checkout, they've got the old version. Let's just say, they're using the version, the shortcode version. They want to switch to the new version. How do we actually know from our perspective what extensions they're using that are not compatible with the new cart and checkout? So that's where the experience could become quite a miss and we do need to make sure that we've actually taken that into account in terms of when we do look to roll this out, what is that experience going to be if you switched from the old to the new, or even if you switched from the new back to the old. We've got to try and make sure that there's a clear and easy transition.

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Darren: I think Gary did a good explanation there. Just add some color to the developer experience, which I think is good to highlight that. I think there's two experiences that we're looking at when we're talking about the new products there's, what are we aiming for from the perspective of the merchant and shoppers and their experiences over what they're using now? And then, what are we aiming for in terms of the developer experience, the ecosystem that supports what we're building that actually contributes to success of WooCommerce in terms of the products that we offer? As I've said before, one of the greatest strengths of WooCommerce has been the extensibility. The availability and the possibility for other developers themselves, or stores to build exactly what they want using the existing slate of filters and action hooks.

That's been a strength, but it's also been a weakness in the sense that it's very easy for stores to end up where they're ending up with a poor experience, not only for themselves, but also for the shoppers and not realize that they're shooting themselves in the foot. And I think that's an area where some of the competitors like Shopify and Squarespace excel in, because they've really set boundaries around what is possible that it introduces some less flexibility from the developer standpoint, but man, does it ever really make the user experience great. The challenge is we want to take the best of that curated experience to improve it for merchants and shoppers, but also how do we retain a lot of the developer experience so that they're able to continue building great products for the WooCommerce ecosystem.

The challenge is bridging between where we are now and what that's going to look like in the future. In a way that doesn't lead existing stores in the dark, in terms of what they've already got built and what's already really working well for them, but also embrace all the new stores that are coming online, they're expecting that better experience from the get-go. When it comes to things like cart and checkout blocks, one of the ways in which we're trying to experiment with... First, a little bit of background. I've been with WordPress since 2007. I'm a self-taught developer, came up with PHP. I started with just using other plugins, learning PHP. So I've been through all the different trends that have come and gone in the WordPress world and the challenge of being a PHP developer and seeing all this new JS, JavaScript stuff coming, being a little bit intimidated by that. I really, really empathize with the WooCommerce developers and shops that are seeing this shift and what that means for the time investments in that end. Just wanting to throw that in there.

One of the things we're trying to do with the development, we're working on the blocks and feeling out what extensibility is going to look like. There's something we call curated extensibility, where instead of just providing a bunch of filter and action hooks and people develop on top of that, we think about what problems need solved and how can we create integration points that help solve those problems. Under the hood they may use filter and actions in different ways of implementing that particular integration, but presented to the developer a simple way to hook in. And a good example of that at work is with Gutenberg blocks themselves, with the register block interface. It's a really quick interface for registering a block that you can have the PHP side, and you can have a JavaScript side, where it might only be JavaScript, but it's a clear defined contract that exists for developers to be able to hook in and build a block and make it available.

We want to do something similar with some of our extensions, especially in the cart and checkout because that is such a critical piece of any e-commerce store. We want to make sure that we introduce extensibility in a way that if there's a bad plugin that's installed or a bad customization that's installed and something breaks, it doesn't interrupt the flow. And also provides a common way for any integrations or any extensions to hook into the improved UI and UX without having to build out so much of their own stuff. It's like peeling back layers of the onion. If you need to move beyond that interface and the things that are behind you can still use, but then you're kind of on your own at that point and you have to learn the technologies more in depth to be able to work with that.

And then initially for the cart and checkout blocks especially, for developers a lot of the learning will be on the client side. We're trying as much as possible with extensions to preserve how things are processed on the server-side so that once things come into the new API for the checkout, we still fire a lot of the existing backend processing that happens with the hopes that it reduces some of the work needed for customizing and hooking into the new cart and checkout flow. We've already seen that it's working well for a payment methods. We've been doing some work on integrating subscriptions, which has helped influence what extensibility points we put in, but also the server-side, a lot of it's being processed using existing server-side codes. So it limits somewhat the amount of work that's needed to integrate.

Noëlle: From my perspective, coming from building websites for clients and also thinking of how these clients will use the websites, because most of my clients, they're very hands on. So after a page gets built, they would want to add an element maybe themselves or that kind of thing. From that perspective, I think WooCommerce Blocks could be really exciting for them. For me, I am curious because in my WordPress journey in the past eight years, I've got completely involved in the Divi community because I started as a DIY, so to say, myself. I wasn't technical at all at the time. I'm still very involved there and still get hired a lot because of that specialization, but I've been wanting to go and venture out there. I am considering, for example, switching to something like a starter theme, like Underscores in combination with Gutenberg thinking that could be a lot more of a lightweight solution while also making my clients a little bit less dependent on me, like say verses doing all customizations with PHP. Now, I'm very curious because when you look at something like the Divi Builder, the WooCommerce related blocks that they have included are now quite extensive. For example, they allow you to put together a product page layout. Is that something that's on the roadmap for Woo Blocks?

Gary: Yeah. The simple answer is yes, essentially, that is on the roadmap. So this was, I'm trying to think exactly in terms of timeframes. In early part, I think of last year, we essentially were doing quite a lot of work on what we were essentially calling product element blocks, which were essentially almost breaking up the various aspects of WooCommerce into blocks which would be able to then be put together to actually allow you to some degree almost unlimited freedom to essentially start creating pages, product pages, your product archive page, all those kinds of things, using elements to then essentially build up a page, so that is definitely something that we had started working on. We paused it halfway through last year essentially to put all of our focus onto the cart and checkout blocks, just to essentially move it forward faster. But yeah, our long-term vision is essentially, that's using the blocks plugin and all of the elements essentially that would be inside of it, you'd essentially sought to be able to build out some of the pages to what offered via the page build the top plugins.

Noëlle: That's very interesting and very exciting. I mean, are we still cooking this year for those kinds of elements or is that information that's not out there just yet?

Gary: I mean, it's on our roadmap to try and get back to it this year, essentially. It's interesting, in terms of the conversation we're having, because in the same, like from Manos's perspective. On his side, looking at the cart and checkout block, for instance, he's looking for a roadmap in terms of how exactly, and when we plan on rolling it out inside of core or when we want to make it available for more extension developers to essentially integrate with. So from our perspective at the moment, we didn't want to put something out that was like, "Yeah, it's 20% of the extensibility points available in the new cart and checkout." And then an extension developer like Manos might come along and go, "Yeah, but it doesn't cater for these things that I'm needing it to do." And then we'd have to go back and try and figure it out.

What we've tried to do, and that's why we essentially put a hundred percent of our focus onto the cart and checkout blocks and integrating a number of our own extensions, was to actually basically try and surface as many of these extensibility points as possible. So that at that point we can then come to the third party, developer community and say to them, "This is where we are. We've got it as far as what we..." Maybe we can get an 80% of the way, or 90% of the way of what we think is going to be needed and then that allows our developer community to start developing on top of it and then we can essentially move back to something, the product element box and push that forward while our developer community starts building for the new cart and checkout.

That's where we currently are. I mean, we'd love to be able to be working on both things simultaneously, but at the moment, as I said, a hundred percent of our focus is on the cart and checkout blocks so we can actually move that forward much faster. Primarily also due to the fact that we've seen that stores that are using the new cart and checkout are actually benefiting from it, it is leading to an increase in conversion rate for those stores.

Noëlle: That's awesome.

Gary: It's in our best interest as a company, as well as for our merchants at the end of the day, for them to be able to be using the new cart and checkout because it is having a significant impact on their business.

Noëlle: Yes. Yeah, no, I completely understand that that focus has shifted onto the cart and checkout, especially the checkout because I, as Bob said, I'm very involved in the Woo community and I'm part of the volunteer team as well. So I see a lot coming past in the official Facebook group and a lot of people looking to improve the checkout with the aim of going after more conversions and often saying, "This platform has it like this, why can't we have it like this? Why out of the box is it "so ugly"?" When I saw, especially the checkout block, for the first time I was just amazed because it is just night and day, it's beautiful. I'm sure a lot of people will get excited, especially as the word comes out more because I still feel it's a little bit, not that many people talking about it yet, correct me if I'm wrong, in your environment. But yeah, very exciting stuff for these people. So when I see these kind of comments come by, I'll definitely make them aware now that I'm learning more about it and how exciting it is and the promising future.

Darren: Part of the challenge too is when, as we're building this, we weighed, should we release this without full extension support? What kind of tension is that going to create for people like Manos, where you have customers coming to them, "We love this cart and checkout block, why isn't your new products working with it?" At the end of the day, we decided the feedback we get in the part of the process is something we need to be able to learning from, not just from merchants using it, but also from people like Manos, who come back and express their concerns about, "Is this going to be able to fulfill our needs for the products we're building?" And so we did decide to release it. I got to say it's been really encouraging to see the feedback about the looks of the cart and checkout, but that's something that could have been accomplished without the technical choices we made.


We take that with, "Yeah, that's awesome. We did that." But then we're also getting feedback in terms of where the demand is for what they want to work with the cart and checkout which is important. To speak too about the whole page builder aspect, I would say even go beyond that site builder aspect of WordPress and what's coming with Gutenberg and how's that impact e-commerce. There's, I would say, such an opportunity here for WordPress to really leap ahead some of the competitors in this space. By competitors, I'm not talking about Divi, I'm not talking about within the WordPress ecosystem, I'm talking about outside the WordPress ecosystem. In terms of people can be able to create their stores and visually see what they're creating and not always having to rely on developers to come in and customize that last mile for what they exactly want. The first mile is picking your theme and then the plugins that go with them, that last mile is, "That's not quite getting where I want with the color or with the layout."

Noëlle: It is.

Darren: That to me, being aware of what's happening in the Gutenberg ecosystem, is the greatest promise we have from what's coming in WordPress future. If you're familiar with foresight editing and some of the work that's happening there. The greatest promise, but also the greatest challenge from our standpoint, again, coming back to this whole developer experience, to build for that is going to require a shift, frankly. It's not something we can avoid, right? Like we can't preserve the old way of doing things to get the new experience, to realize that promise that we want to see in terms of people being able to build. In a way that's sustainable across the whole ecosystem, not just niches for certain solutions that we've seen over the years.

And so, what that means in terms of Woo, I'm excited about, what will the block-based theme look like in the e-commerce ecosystem, where you have just something that's really basic? And then maybe there's a theme ecosystem where they're building different styles of that base theme. Provide the basic colors and basic block patterns that are using the building blocks, the product element blocks that we make available, to get stores started right away. But then as they grow and as they want to customize that last mile of their store for their shoppers, they're able to pull from the ecosystem those little bits, the visual bits that will help them make the store their own and meet their needs. And that's exciting to me, that's something I think we'll have a lot of potential. Manos, what are your thoughts on that?

Manos: I would like to share that... One challenge that seems to be coming up quite often for me, especially with what's happening now with the blocks, is that I have been experiencing quite often a certain amount of uncertainty around changes happening in core and around the fact that, as you said, many of these changes are announced quite early ahead. There are benefits to announcing changes certainly and also a few, I don't know, challenges or things that need to be managed like the uncertainty that comes with announcing things that are not setting stone. I believe that most developers want to work with stable API’s and clear roadmaps. They want to know what's ahead because they want to plan ahead and know how many resources they're going to have to put into the building.

I understand that, of course, this need needs to be balanced against the fact that WooCommerce is an open source platform. In my mind, succeeding with creating a line when using an uncertainty, uncertainty lies in two things. One of them, as you said, is writing code and building core features in a way that's internally validated for extensibility. I believe there's a lot of room for third party developers and especially key partners to help with that. The second one is building upon that foundation to communicate changes more confidently in a way that minimizes uncertainty for developers. As you said, I think it's a great move that you are investing resources in doing exactly that and testing the new technology with existing extensions that you have at your disposal to see how well they can fit into the picture in terms of extensibility. I would also add to that, that it would be a great idea to identify key stakeholders or product from around the ecosystem that are particularly challenging in terms of extensibility and then put them as well into this validation process. We would certainly love to be part of that.

Bob: What I'd like to kind of close out with is, I don't know if Gary, either one of you have any final thoughts or more words of encouragement, or even something you might want to reach out to the community as far as, "As we move ahead, this is what we need your help on." Anything there before we call it a wrap?

Darren: All I would say, thank you for this experience and being able to chat. Manos has already given us some great feedback, in my reviews and then as an issue in our repo. He's one of the few developers that has really hit the nail on the head in terms of some of the things we need to be considering. I definitely am taking to heart what you're suggesting too about bringing some key third party partners in as part of the validation process. That's something that personally would be keen on doing. So, I appreciate raising that point to us.

Gary: I think basically to reiterate what Darren said is, we do try to make sure we involve in the community. It's debatable the way that sometimes we are on the right platform looking for that feedback or whatever, but definitely Manos has been one of the developers who has actually given us good constructive feedback in terms of what we're doing. I would strongly encourage that from as many other developers as possible who essentially, are working on integrations that integrate with the cart and checkout areas where they potentially have concerns. That's part of why we essentially released it early through the blocks plugin, was to be able to get those kind of feedback. We could have taken the editor approach and gone and built it in a vacuum and release it, "Here it is," as a bit of a surprise on everyone, but our approach is very much more let's actually involve the community in the work we do in. I was just seconding what Darren said, like a strong encouragement for more developers to essentially get involved, give us your feedback essentially.

Bob: Do you have anything else you'd like to add Manos? I'm sure you have one more little burning thought before we wrap it up.

Manos: Yes, definitely. I have one question and a couple of suggestions, really. One is about merchants and has to do with reducing, perhaps some of their confusion. The suggestion I have would be to perhaps make it clear to them that they're not ready yet for using production. This is something that could go inside the blocks themselves and not be part of the copy and the accompanying text or documentation. And the question is, it's a bit technical, but did you consider the idea of implementing a server-side rendered version of these blocks or why was that put to the side, if it was?

Darren: I can answer to the last one. We did consider it. Part of the challenge with the server-side rendered blocks is maintaining the templates in both the Editor and the PHP side because you're duplicating a lot of things. When it comes to extensibility, in order to get the immediate response reactions to I've changed something and then I see it in the Editor, it actually complicates things for extensibility also, if we want a client-side rendering versus a server-side rendering, because then there's two places that have to be maintained, potentially. In the end we decided that it was less complex, even though it had different code base, to have one source of truth for the templates, and that's why we went with the React components. Can I say that's 100% the best decision? No. It's like with everything there's trade-offs. Personally, my thing that I'm still watching very carefully is performance when it comes to on the front-end. What the performance is not only in the desktop, but also mobile. Whenever you have client-heavy stuff, performance becomes a really big concern. We're still watching that, and that's part of doing the extendability as well as did we make the right trade-offs in terms of building extensions and stuff for that. So, short answer is yes, we did consider it.

To the other point which was, sorry, remind me again. About, oh, letting merchants know more clearly that this is kind of an experiment. Actually, good news on that front. We actually have a pop-up visual model thing that's going to come up when people insert the blocks the first time that lets them know that, "Hey, this may not work with all the extensions that you have. This is a work in progress." It's going to be something that will probably come, maybe not this next release, but the one following. So yes, we are working on making that more visual. We do have some things in our documentation, but as we know that not everybody reads through everything and so it's easily get missed. So we think this is probably the best spot to put it so that people see immediately that this is something being worked on.

Bob: So we're going to go ahead and wrap up. I'm just going to thank PayPal one last time. Do check out their checkout extension and get your clients hooked up with that. Before we head out, I'd like to have each of you share where people can connect with you online. Manos, where can people find you?

Manos: Definitely Twitter. The handle is P-S-Y-X-M-A. For sure, again, Twitter, somewherewarmgr.

Bob: Alrighty, Darren.

Darren: Yeah, Twitter is a good spot for me too. My handle is Darren spelled backwards, so nerrad. N-E-R-R-A-D.

Bob: I never knew that. Wow. I always looked at that and thought, "There's got to be something there." And Gary.

Gary: Yeah, Twitter is best as well. It's garysmurray.

Bob: All right, cool. Noëlle, really appreciate you. You took the dive and headed into the danger zone of joining Bob's team, I really appreciate your insights and stuff. I know we're going to have a lot of fun conversations in the future.

Noëlle: It was a great first time, sure. Thanks everyone. It was really educational and I feel privileged too that I've had this conversation with you guys and would love to revisit in the future.

Bob: All right. Well, yeah. Thank you, the three of you. I really appreciate the time and I'm sure I'll be calling on you for various stuff throughout this journey I'm doing as far as coming in, given your insights to the community. So everybody, connect with these three, connect with Noëlle. You can connect with me if you want, it's no big deal, but make everyone else a priority. But until the next time, keep on doing the Woo.

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