The Full Site Editor for Builders with Anne McCarthy

Do the Woo Podcast Guest Anne McCarthy Episode 128
Do the Woo - A WooCommerce Podcast
Do the Woo - A WooCommerce Podcast
The Full Site Editor for Builders with Anne McCarthy

Likely, even if your focus has been on WooCommerce as of the last few months, you are aware of WordPress 5.8 coming with the full site editor. Or maybe you have been deep into learning what’s coming.

In this episode with Anne McCarthy, Developer Relations Wrangler at Automattic, joins us to take it a bit further. Although the conversation is filled with what you can expect, the biggest takeaways will be what you learn from this as a WooCommerce builder, or, what is termed, extender.

Below are a few general highlights but the conversation goes much deeper than that.

A Chat with Anne

Jonathan and I talk with Anne about:

  • The outreach program for the FSE and developers
  • The basics of the full site editor
  • What experiences or perceptions Jonathan and Bob have on the FSE
  • What does 5.8 mean to users vs. builders and what transpires moving forward to 5.9 +
  • How does 5.8 bring new opportunities for WooCommerce builders
  • And a lot more….

Connect with Anne

Thanks to Our Pod Friends


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Mindsize has helped individual stores handle hundreds of millions of dollars worth of orders. Their Site Performance Audit with ongoing monitoring and iterative performance improvements are key to help you optimize your next client project. Visit to learn more. 

Bob: Hey, everybody. BobWP and we are back with Do the Woo. You missed us last week. I know you all been sitting on the edge of your seats and Episode 128. I have my good friend and cohost, Jonathan joining me. Jonathan, how you doing?

Jonathan: Bob, I'm well. I'm vaccinated, I'm feeling healthy and strong. I'm ready for whatever life brings next.

Bob: Cool. I'm vaccinated. Then I had an interesting week last week, which I'm not going to go into details, but just say I'm crawling out of it like a frog out of a pond or something. I don't know if that's a good analogy.

Anyway, we have a great show. We have a celebrity here because I believe our guests has spoken at more things than you can possibly imagine over the last couple months. I had to basically totter with a lot of delivered packages and swag and all sorts of stuff just to get her to come on the show. No, really. She was very gracious and she was waiting to be honest. We have Anne McCarthy. Hi, Anne, how are you doing?

Anne: I'm doing great. I'm super excited to be here. Thank you so much for having me and flattering me. It always feels like an honor to be on this.

Bob: Cool. We have a lot to talk about. Anne dabbles in WordPress a little bit and I think we'll start out with just having her tell us a little bit about what she does at Automattic, and then yeah, we're going to just dive into all the good stuff that's happening.

Anne: Let's do it. For context, my title is a Developer Relations Wrangler, which is just a fancy way of saying I try to help build positive relationships with folks in WordPress community, specifically developers. And right now, I'm mainly focused on the Full Site Editor Outreach Program, so if you've seen my name pop up there, I'm making a lot of noise, digging in real deep there. But generally speaking too at a high level, a lot of it's just Gutenberg adoption and helping the community prepare for what's to come in future releases and helping to get into a proactive space, which I think is...

I love proactiveness, so it's a really fun role to dig into and help both build excitement and help address concerns as they come up.

Jonathan: I'm super curious about what you've been learning from that experience. If I'm recalling right, the Outreach Program, has it been about a year?

Anne: The Outreach Program started, technically we kicked it off in May, May 1st was when Josepha first posted about it, but it didn't actually get started until December. So I'm actually working on a post that's talking about, hey, we have one year of this Outreach Program, what have I learned? And I'm actually going to share that on my personal site hopefully by the end of this week. It was experiment, totally new for the WordPress community to try something like this.

And I think there's a lot that can be learned if future programs are done. And so I'm a big believer in documenting as I go while I'm in that head space. And the one-year mark felt like a perfect time to sit back and really think about it. And one of the lessons actually is, hey, we shouldn't launch Outreach Program and then wait six months until actually kicking it off. Because there was a precarious time where for me, it was like, we've gathered all these amazing people who are excited, but we weren't yet ready for people to put their hands on stuff.

And now full site editing, you can really put your hands on things and actually try it out for yourself where for a while we were sitting and waiting for better, for worse.

Jonathan: Now, for those in WooCommerce who... I think most folks at this point have probably heard of full site editing at least, but what can you just give a little bit of context if someone hasn't heard of it or they haven't caught up at all. What's happening? What is this Full Site Editing thing?

Anne: At the highest level, it's basically allowing you to use the familiar block paradigm across all areas of your site. That's like the simplest way to put it, but I do actually want to turn this back on you two and say, what do you know about full siting? So beyond just the super high level vision, are there any specific features or just things that it unlocks you've heard about? Because I think a lot of this is where I'll spoil it a little bit.

But people talk about full siting like it's a monolith, like it's on or off and it's not. It's actually very much like interrelated projects and features, so it's interesting to hear what stands out.

Jonathan: I'll give my initial reactions, my thoughts about it, like my understanding. As it first came on the radar, I saw it initially as an answer to like the disjointedness and the downsides of all of the builders that we see in the space. Where it's like from an end user's perspective, it was like more and more is becoming like, which of these different builders are you using? And they don't work well with each other. And I saw that from a user perspective as, all right, this is holding us back.

It's nice to have choice and these different things, but they don't really work well together and there needs to be something that brings it together. So for me, Full Site Editing was, I saw it as, I understood it as this direction towards offering a way of doing this, that's like the WordPress way that can be built on top of and within the context of... And I guess it's the promise of blocks more fully realized is how I've understood it.

I played with it briefly a couple of months back and as I... I was like, "Oh, let me see if I can just do a full site in this if I can build something." I used the theme-

Anne: TT1 Block theme?

Jonathan: Yes, I used that one. Yup. And a couple of things stood out to me. I was immediately, "Oh, wow. There's a lot here in terms of what could be customized." And I'm like, "And I don't think I'm ready to build on this just yet." Because there's a few things like, wow, this is a lot of control here, but in terms of user experience, I felt dropped into it. So yeah.

Anne: And TT1 is built actually intentionally for that. That's actually something Justin Tadlock at WP Tavern said in the latest post about the FSE Outreach Program. Is like, "Man, there's just these things that I feel like it keeps relying on core functionality rather than offering its own." And that's intentional, the people who are working on TT1 are purposely trying to find the gaps in core as they're building out theme functionality, so that then it can be done in core.

Jonathan: That makes sense.

Anne: So it's a way to uncover it, but it is like TT1 is like a more frustrating... because of that, there's a more frustrating friction going on, where other block themes, experimental block themes have been worked on do offer more integrated stuff where they're actually adding their own like bells and whistles, so to speak, to make it easier to use.

Jonathan: From a big picture perspective, I think what I'd add to that is like, I see it as the future. And I'm really interested in unpacking more of your thoughts and that idea of the monolith contrast, because I'd say that's... I hadn't thought of it consciously, but that's fair, I could have slotted into that thinking. But my thinking about it is like it's offering this foundation that can be built upon. It's like, "Hey, this is how we're going to do the blocks going forward. This is the foundation."

And then my expectation from an ecosystem perspective is that it becomes what builders can then build on top of where it's like, we're going to create value, we're going to differentiate, but we're going to share this infrastructure piece which is good for the ecosystem as a whole. You can move from one to the other, there's this shared concept. So I see it as the future. Yes.

Anne: And you're not locked in, because I think that that's a huge part is that people have gotten locked in, even family and friends of mine have gotten locked into one and they have to redo everything. So what you're talking about is that it's shared foundation, I think is a really key point. Someone did recently say to me, because site builders come up a ton when it comes to talking of full siting and is like, "I feel like I could write a thesis on that at this point." But that's one of the big things that does come up and it's some of what's being built.

A lot of what's being built is built so site builders could build on top of if they choose to. And someone made a really good point, I can't remember who right now, it's my brain and the pandemic, but he was basically saying, "If you were a new page builder or site builder, this would be a great time to start building on top of. But if you're a previous one, there is a level of needing to recreate what you've been doing and level up." So there is this interesting dichotomy of like, yes, but I could also see where you could have some differentiation where some people just go completely off and don't try to build with it. But again, as we saw a couple of years ago with Gutenberg in general when it was released, early adopters have benefited from early adoption. So I think this is another moment of being early adopters, we're preparing for the future. And I do think you're right, I loved how you said, it's like realizing the power of blocks.

Especially when you then add in patterns and the knowledge, just the pattern directory, but also integrated patterns so that when you're adding like a really powerful block, you have patterns integrated into the experience of setting up that block. So all of a sudden like content creation and actually making what you want becomes way easier. And themes can provide that and they can provide certain styling that works really well with a theme. There's a lot of really cool stuff coming.

Jonathan: As someone who authors in WordPress on a regular basis, I still feel the edges. I try on purpose to play with like different builders on a regular basis like doing this and doing this one and I still feel the edges. Yet at this point, I can't imagine going back. Like the block paradigm, like the way things are working just in general, it's like I have a lot of times where it fades away in favor of just creating. And that, to me, that's the idea. And then ultimately Full Site Editing is taking that to the next step.

Like letting someone work on a site and eventually, and I think the builder ecosystem is a big part of this. Eventually, getting to a point where... WordPress to me has always been about empowering creativity. And if we can... Just removing more obstacles to that. If someone's got a vision, I want to do this with a site. I think about my kids doing stuff in WordPress and it's like, how can we abstract it away enough to where like, "Oh, I get this idea of a block."

And where do I want to put things? And how do I want assemble? This is like Lego is asking this to it.

Anne: I think the cool thing about a lot of what's coming full siting is it's not only doing that for users, in theory, this should actually help with extenders. It's giving extenders a platform to also have that creativity.

Especially with block patterns, especially with theme [Jason 00:10:11], it should make that creation process so much easier. And then creating a custom block, you could add a block plugin to the block directory and have any installation, install your block plugin. There's a lot of things where rather than creating for multiple different interfaces, you can create a block or a pattern and have it be used across all areas of your site. Which as a developer or a designer, I think it's an incredible opportunity there for sure.

You mentioned the monolith and I will say, I think one of the reasons why I have been hoping on that anytime I talk about full siting is because, what we learned from 5.0, and when I say we, I mean the WordPress community and part of Josefa's vision for this Outreach Program was to learn from mistakes of 5.0. And that created, I use the term cultural debt as like a play off of technical debt, and I think it created a lot of cultural debt in the community.

Jonathan: Yep, I feel that.

Anne: And so when it comes to full siting, I've heard a lot of those same fears coming up with like, "I'm not going to upgrade my site because it's going to take it over. I'm not ready for this. I don't want to use this." It's funny because you're like, "I still feel the edges," and I'm like, "All I do every day is play with the edges." I'm just constantly with the Outreach Program, with the different Slack channels, in communities I'm a part of, with the pings, I get, all of it's edges.

So it's kind of funny because I feel like I have to climb up and then see the big picture and go like, "Oh, we're making progress." So if you want to talk edges, we could flip a whole episode on that. But I do think it's one of those things that is important to touch on is, it's purposely being rolled out in a way that like right now, with 5.8, a lot of it's infrastructure work. Most users are not going to interact with block themes, it's not going to take over your site.

You'd have to like hyper opt-in, you'd have to use a block theme and use a Gutenberg plugin with 5.8 in order to get this experience. So I think the fear of like, I don't want to upgrade or it's coming too quickly is actually been part of the strategy is to not do that. Is to offer tools where it's easier to jump in, it's easier to join. But also if you're not ready, you can have staggered approaches where you can have a classic theme, but you're able to create like a block template on top of it and using them for structure.

Jonathan: And it's a huge opportunity for extenders too, because the capability will be there, but the application of it. There's so much opportunity to build compelling applications where it's like, "Okay, if they're running 5.8 and they have the capabilities there, now let's create a really compelling experience where it sounds like, oh yeah, I want to use that. That looks awesome."

And that's that opt-in idea where it's not... They can choose it and the ideal is that over time, that just becomes more and more compelling where people are like... like the major themes begin to support it. New ones come around where people are like, "This is just better. I want more of this."

Anne: I also think this is a cool... I'm so glad you brought this up because another thing I really want to underline is that with 5.8, once it's launched and people can actually play with the infrastructure that's been done, I think there needs to be like this understanding of, we want to hear from extenders. What do you need? What pathway do you want? What feature's missing? What's really frustrating about the experience? Because there are going to be iterations of this.

It's not like this is just being shipped and it's like, "Good luck." It's like, "No, what are the gaps?" Like I said earlier with TT1, the whole time, the whole reason TT1 is being done is to find those gaps. That's one theme and that's one group of people working on one theme. What does it look like when 30 people are doing that? What about 100? What gaps, what patterns can we find? And I think it's really important to... If people are listening to this and you're an extender, and you start using it and you run into a problem, reach out.

I'm @annezazu on Slack, hit me up, drop into the corridor meeting. There's a block themes meeting bi-monthly, join those. I think that's where... I think sometimes people think like, oh, WordPress shaped this, now I have to adapt. But this is the right time where you can shape what the adoption looks like in the future. Truly this is the time where if you want to get involved, if you want to shape what the future looks like, now is the time to join.

And this, I would say between now and 5.9 is the time where you'd have the most impact and we really do want to hear from people.

Jonathan: I'm really curious to get into the program more, but first I want to put Bob on the spot and ask him, hear his answer to the same. Bob, when you think of Full Site Editing, I know that you know a bit more than most, but how do you think about it?

Bob: Actually, I probably don't know a lot more than others in around the full site editor, because I'm taking the approach I took with a Gutenberg with a full side editor. As far as my impression of iit. When I first started reading about it, I saw it as that major next step from Gutenberg and blocks. But it's not taking WordPress into the direction of a page builder. And yeah, I'm excited about it. Like I said, with Gutenberg, I didn't touch it much, just once, early on in beta. I think I did it months, maybe as early as a year before, if that's possible. I can't remember the actual timeline of that, but I didn't even try it much. I just watched what people were doing on videos. I listened to what they were saying. Read posts on it. Kept up on it that way and knew that, when the time comes, I'm going to just dive into it.

I was telling Matt Mullenweg, it was a little bit challenging trying to figure out things, but then workflows became better and I really grew to love it. So I think that's how I'll approach the full site editor. I'm not like. . I don't mess around with betas much anymore. And I look at the full site editor as an improvement to WordPress as a tool, and I will dive into it once it officially released and I'm sure I'm going to benefit from it in my content workflow. And again, I know how little of it really affects the user right now, as much as per se the builders, but yeah it's going to happen. And when it happens, I'm ready for it.

Jonathan: It's interesting, Bob, with most users, I think there's going to be a hesitance. Most users aren't inclined towards beta or to like the cutting edge. Even for me in playing with things, it's like I'll jump in and play with something, but it's a risk-reward trade off because it's like, you want to get something done. That to me makes the way that you guys are approaching this, the 5.8, the way that we're looking at this as a whole, it seems like the extenders are actually the key.

Because for most end users, they're not going to really be affected much as I'm understanding it. There's a little bit more that you could do, a little bit more, but it's really an opportunity for extenders to create that give users a reason to get excited.

Anne: For 5.8, that's true. I think this is what's going to be really interesting is I think people are seeing right now 5.8 is like, oh, this big FSE release. And I'm like, to me, I'm actually more, nervous, isn't the right word, but I'm very curious about 5.9. Because that's where more of the user-facing stuff ideally should come. We'll see, it could be 6.0, could be 6.1. But it is really interesting because 5.8 is basically giving a lot of foundational stuff. It's unlocking a little bit of things like do a tone and template editing depending upon if you opt-in or out and what the opt-in and out strategy is going to be. That is still like TBD. But yeah, it's really interesting to hear you all talk about, especially the page builder stuff, actually I'm taking notes on the side because it's like... One of the things I've heard a lot is like, "Oh, FSE will replace my need of page builders."

And like, well, there is a certain level of FSE is trying to make it so that you're not locked into a page builders and page builders can build on top of. There also is this level of, hey, we're still building for 42% internet right now. It's not going to replicate your favorite page builder, it just can't. As always with WordPress, plugins are going to play a role, there's going to be a need for a more nuanced perspective, whether that's opening up more tools for full siting or shutting down more things. And that's always going to be the case.

I think I've heard some feedback as well where it's like, "Oh yeah, I can't wait to get rid of my page builder." I'm like, "It might not be called a page builder in the future, but you probably will want to use a plugin in some way to have a more nuanced experience for whatever your needs are." So I like to mention that too, because I think some people are doing this false comparison where they're like, "Oh yeah, I'll try out full siting, but man, whenever I went through one of your calls for testing, it doesn't do X, Y, and Z, which I love from my page builder." And it's like, "Oh, that's on purpose."

Jonathan: I like the position of it being a foundation, and that to me is the key within the ecosystem. It's like WordPress at a core level should do things that make the product better and the ecosystem better. And ultimately the opportunity for extenders is to then build on top of that and what we want to see, because... The ability to move from one to the other is good for everyone.

There can be a little bit of like, oh, that means there's a risk there. From my perspective, looking at the ecosystem as a whole, I would rather see things that are winning based on merit versus... So it's like if you can move more readily from one to the other, then there's more incentive and more reward for those who are innovating and doing really creative things on top of it. And yes, you do have to keep moving, but... So to me right now, and I'm also really curious like whether 5.9 or 6.0, whenever that happens.

I think the opportunity is for extenders to both give their feedback and helping shape it and to create compelling applications where they're getting like, oh wow, we could... Like some of the block stuff that we've already seen, there's some really interesting stuff that happens with blocks. And this is now just thinking, okay, now we can move outside the constraint of like the single piece of content. And what does it look like for the whole site- to have that same flexibility.

Anne: And it's so cool because it's reusing... There's a combination, it's reusing the familiar interactions with blocks. Once I adapted, it was like, oh wow, huge workflow changes. And that same knowledge that you've learned will apply whenever you explore full siting, that foundational knowledge will be so useful. And I've often said to people like, "You can choose to teach a client how to use the latest page builder or you can teach them how to use like basic block building type..." or not block building, but like interacting with blocks, that framework.

Because you're going to have to teach them either way, but you might as well do the sure thing that like, I don't know, 42% of the web is working. And it's like, there's a certain level of like it's probably better to go with the sure thing. While there is reusing the familiar interactions, there's also some new interactions that are going to be... And that's one of the things that Outreach Program has found is there are new ideas, like actually being able to directly edit templates is a huge paradigm shift, or to be able to add a site title block.

And if you start editing that site title block, it'll update it everywhere right now. That's a confusing thing. That is a hard thing to understand that you're basically editing this like site-wide variable where it's not just on the page. Because we're so used, our brains with WordPress are so used to what you edit here... Yes, stays here, and this is going to shift that. And one of the things that's big piece of feedback with the Outreach Program is around that dynamic of how do you add necessary friction in a way that actually is intuitive and makes sense and helps users make the decisions that they want to make when they're interacting with these things. And it's a very complex problem and it impacts many different aspects of the full siting features in a pretty interesting way. There's a lot of really cool designs being worked on for that.

Jonathan: Because ultimately comes back to confidence, right? You need to give the end user confidence as they're making changes that what they think is happening is what's happening. I saw that being a thread through the conversations about styles and it's got to look the same. If there's anything that's off about it, then you start to chip away at confidence. That confidence has to be there.

With the page builders, there's a fair amount of criticism that gets thrown about like comparing one to the next or whatever. And when I look at it, it's like I saw... I have been really happy with the growth of the ecosystem. I see some of those pains, especially with the in compatibility between them, but ultimately they were working to solve problems. And the way that I think about full site editing is like this lifecycle. WordPress empowered a bunch of creativity and then this foundation that could be built on, and then these ecosystems were built around it. Page builders began to focus.

They would focus on their markets and you see people get very loyal, they go really deep into those ecosystems. And there is going to be a shift. What people are used to, what they're expecting, the way that it's going to work is going to change. And there'll be pain associated with that shift. Ultimately though, the opportunities for this resetting of the foundation, for the base that we're building on to get better, for that interoperability to be there where you can move from one to the next, I'm excited about it.

I like how you referenced your big picture, thinking like you do have to look further ahead, I think in some of these moments, especially when you're seeing all the edges that you're seeing, where it's like, "Hey, let's remember what we're doing this for." And within the context of the mission to democratize, publishing to make it more accessible to empower more creativity, this to me seems like the clearest path to getting us there.

Anne: Yeah. And I think your point about how basically different ecosystems built up as each phase of WordPress has come out, I do think we're about to enter our next phase of that. I think there's actually... I've heard people say like, "Oh, we're not going to need themes anymore." And it's like, "Whoa, no, actually block things are a huge part of what we need." And not only that, it's not only just themes now, now we're talking about block plugins, now we're talking about block patterns, now we're talking about cool templates you could download.

We have so many things that you can do and reuse and in theory, it should lead to this blossoming creativity. Because rather than having to learn everything, you can like, with a block pattern, with a block pattern directory, it's really neat. You could just be a designer who really loves to create and you could just download. It's just all blocks, it's just all HTML, download it and add it to the block pattern Directory.

So I actually think we're going to see even new players enter that before they were such a barrier to entry. While at the same time, there's also a barrier venture people who've been in WordPress for a long time and are adapting to this still. So there is this interesting influx of probably new people, new creators into the space, and a lot of new opportunities across the spectrum of block things, block patterns, block plugins.

All that stuff being integrated in while at the same time helping people adapt. And so you'll have things called hybrid themes or like universal themes. I don't know if you've heard these terms, but yeah, I imagine we'll see a lot of that work being done, which is pretty cool.

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Bob: I was just going to say that it's interesting what you're talking about with the extenders and the users, and what it makes me think of is it almost seems like from experiences with Gutenberg, all these extenders can flip that experience. And now say, instead of full site editors coming, I'm stressing out, instead somehow conveyed to the user. Because me as a user, when I look at Gutenberg, I don't look at, "Oh, these are nice little things that's happening now." I'm thinking, wow, I can imagine what's going to be built on top of this, now with the full site editor, just what you said.

So if somehow those extenders can conveyed that to their users in a way, in a positive way where it's like this... I want to say this is only the beginning, but in the sense it is. It's getting them in the mindset that, okay, this is a step. You see what's happening right here, but you do realize what that's going to bring down the road months, years, whatever. Because it does build on all of those things that WordPress is doing.

And I'd love to see those people that are doing extensions and themes saying, "Hey, this is exciting, because you don't know what our product could do. And now, you're really going gone see something. You're going to see some new innovations that are going to blow your mind." So it's almost different perception to trying trying to get into the user's brain and get them thinking that way versus just, I'm scared to update type of thing.

Anne: Right. And hopefully, extenders can tap into what's being built so that it is an integrated experience rather than a jarring one. Because I think in the past, I don't know if you all have used different plugins where it's like, whoa, this is a whole other interface that I'm having to also use to get what the functionality I want or instead with some of the stuff that's being done, especially with like integrated patterns when you're adding a block, iI think it'd be really cool or the block patterns in the inserter.

It'll all be integrated where you're not having to go to this specific page and use, and it's find this, whatever it is, like set up the plugin settings. Ideally, it will be much smoother where a plugin author will find it to be a much easier time and actually create better engagement with their user base and better value because they won't have to be toggling between a bunch of different pages and interfaces basically.

Jonathan: I want to touch on block patterns for a moment. I think one of the things that I've seen these page builders do really well is, ultimately for a lot of folks, they care about the end result. Like, "I want that." They'll see a site and they'll see demo or something like, "I want that. I want to be able to take that and customize it for what I'm wanting to." And the themes that I've seen do this well are those who get you as fast as possible to that. And I was thinking about my experience with block patterns and the potential there.

I'm volunteering for this event where I raise my hands and I'll help make a flyer for it, which I was like, "What am I doing?" But what I did is I went out to find some templates and I found a design that was okay, I like how this is laid out. I looked at over 100 of them and like, "This is what I want." Our events fits within this and these are the details and it was a good design, good typography, good layout.

The challenge though, and I made that selection, I loaded it up in InDesign, Adobe InDesign. And I'm not very familiar with InDesign. And it immediately became like, what in the world? Clicking this, stretching, like it's vector. It was very... And when I see the potential of block patterns, it's a similar type of thing where it's like, oh, I like that. That combination of things, that's what I want. Then when you pull that in, it's going to be a familiar thing.

You have a sense of how it works and that's going to keep getting better. But to me, there's so much potential in that. And for extenders to be able to show someone, here's what it could be. Whether it's vertically-focused for particular markets or focused on particular functionality, it's like, here's what it could be. And then like you were saying with the inserter and these shared ways of doing things, it's like you know how it works. Like, "Okay, I want that pattern." Boom, it's in. And now I think it's powerful and-

Anne: It's so funny you bring that because I was just talking with some designers who, Sean Andrews, who's been working on building out the pattern site where you could actually add patterns. We were talking about what does placeholder content look like when you add a pattern? So let's say I add a pattern and within that pattern, there is a button with a link. And the user needs to add that link. What is the place holder content look like? What is the dynamic like?

Because right now it's very easy to add, I call them phantom links. You basically publish a page and you're like, "Yeah, I added a pattern, there's a link there." And it's like, oh, I never... there was no indication that I need to change that to something that I wanted. So it's this interesting thing where I think a good example of that on the flip side is like, you could add a pattern and let's say, there's an image that you should be using. It's very easy to say, "This is a placeholder image. Replace it here," whatever. You could have like a flow for that.

But it gets tricky when you get into more complex patterns. And you have columns, you may have a group block. There's all sorts of interesting dynamics there. And that's ideally in my opinion, that is something for core to solve and to create a really intuitive experience, so that those creating the patterns know and can trust that like, oh when this is added. Or we could even say, if someone's creating a super complex pattern, here's some best practices to follow.

Jonathan: I'm curious, for a complex pattern, have you explored or is there explorations on like a "wizard paradigm" where it's like, okay, this block is complex, but it's focused on solving particular things. So you're going to answer these questions and then based on these questions, the block will do its initial population?

Anne: It's more based on these questions. I don't know if you've... Have either you played around with the Query block at all?

Jonathan: No.

Anne: Probably not. Okay.

Jonathan: I've been following, but no. I'm super interested in that.

Anne: Query block and then the Navigation block are both what I would call more complex patterns that require and that do have a setup flow, and Query block in particular. And one of the things that's really neat is like the latest versions of Gutenberg have actually released integrated patterns into the Query block and more are coming.

So if you add the Query block, what happens is the first thing you do is you actually have this kind of carousel of switching through patterns. And you'll see placeholder content and you'll see something and you're like, "Oh, that's cool." You'll flip through and then you can select one, then from there you can populate it. Then afterwards there's actually settings in the sidebar which just gets into a whole other these edge cases or the edges that I feel of full siting is like where settings live. But then there are settings in the sidebar where you can say, "Okay, cool. I added the Query block. I want it to show posts from my portfolio category. I'm going to add this and then I can see what it looks like."

And if I don't like that specific pattern, there's a way to go back and switch and try other patterns. In the future though, I think there will need to be, especially for more complex blocks, that's where integrated patterns are incredibly powerful. So you're able to switch through and have a bit of a like, wizard, I think is the word you use, set up experience. But at the same time, it's almost like, you don't want to go too deep into it where it becomes so many steps.

Jonathan: I'm going to play with the Query block. I think that's part of the opportunity as well. And this is a lot of the opportunity for, I think, for extenders to innovate and experiment and try things. Because ultimately it's like you want to get the end user to success as quickly as possible. And there's always that tension there because some SaaS products will take the approach of just like remove as many options as possible and have the simplest path.

Anne: Yes. Right.

Jonathan: And it's a little bit short-sighted I feel. Because these tools are powerful, yeah, you don't want to overwhelm someone with too many options. Like me loading up InDesign, like, "What?"

Anne: You're like, "What is going on?"

Jonathan: What is going on? This is really not the right tool for me.

Anne: It's interesting you bring that up because that's actually one of the things that very... Literally yesterday I was catching up, I was out of work yesterday and came back to catching the back school and the 5.8 release leads channel. And one of the things that got brought up from a TS is actually making the Query block view only. So after you add it, you're not going through and being able to change things like the post title, or the post content, or adding a bunch of new blocks. It'll be a very simplified experience that then in the future can be opened up.

But for now it's just very clear, this is an extremely powerful block. This is very new for WordPress to have that kind of power, and so for now, let's have it be view only. So I imagine for 5.8, if you interact and also even the name might change because Query is a bit of a strange name.

Jonathan: If you're not used to it. Yeah.

Anne: Yes. If you're not are developer, if you don't have background, it's like, what is Query, what is loop, what is this like? And so there's some stabilization that's going to happen, I think both around like the nomenclature and around making it view only. And I think the last thing was providing more information when someone's setting it up so it's a bit more intuitive.

Jonathan: There's so much potential, because I remember my early days as a developer, once I understood WP Query, the possibility is like, oh. Because a lot of what I've done in WordPress over the years is like building these custom applications like creating a thing that now exists on the web. And it's like, wait, so I can get data in, I can build interfaces for that, and then I can get data out and present it in a lot of different ways. And that's what I see with the work happening in Query blocks, where it's like, "Hey, you can have data in and you, without writing code can display it in interesting ways."

I see the challenge of getting it right and I see so much opportunity because if you can empower that. If people will create things that you don't expect and will be used in ways that like, "That's not how it's supposed to be used," but that's-

Anne: Oh yeah. We've seen them already with things like reusable blocks. I think I was looking at GITHUB issue recently. It was like, "I have 4,000 reasonable blocks and it's breaking on it." And I was like, "What, you have 4,000 reasonable blocks? What is going on?" I was like, "I wanted to..." I had like 1,000 questions immediately in return because it was like, this is so interesting. What used case do you have where you have 4,000 of these? So this is also where going back to the earlier point of, this is a high impact time to get involved in giving feedback. And I'll shamelessly do a plug for the full setting Outreach Program.

Jonathan: Please, tell us about that.

Anne: At a high level, it's basically just a program that's trying to improve the different full siting features through feedback. But also a really neat thing has happened in the last year that has come up is basically there's like an educational component. So because we can't meet up in-person, there's no... You can't just run into someone in the hallway. We've been doing what I'm calling like hallway hangouts, and so people are streaming, or twitching, or showing different things where it's like, and we're just jumping on Zoom calls and talking about full siting.

I love participating in that and seeing what people are up to and people trying to build block themes and giving feedback. So there's like a combination of regular calls for testing and regular recaps of those calls for testing to give feedback to the product folks. While at the same time, there's just a group of us who are all trying to make full siting great and trying to understand it. And building awareness and helping prepare whether it's like you're preparing clients, or you work for a university, or what have you, or you're helping build these features. It's a great place to hang out and see what's happening.

And there's a current call for testing right now actually for building a portfolio page, using the Query block. And it's a very open-ended. The previous call for testing was more structured and actually guided you through a very specific experience of creation. This one is way more open-ended on purpose that we can catch those edge cases of someone doing something weird and that they really want to do.

Jonathan: Awesome. Last question from me. If you think about folks building for WooCommerce, the extenders within the WooCommerce ecosystem, based on the conversations that you've been having and what you're learning from folks, what guidance do you have to offer for folks who are... Maybe they played a little bit, maybe they don't know much about it, but they're building stuff for WooCommerce? What guidance, what would you say to those extenders?

Anne: Thinking about specifically for developers, one of the big things that comes to mind is I would say focusing on how you can extend core blocks and just thinking about it through the lens of, if I can develop for one system. So if I create a block that, I don't know, has a really cool pricing table, that could be used in the widget area, that could be used in the footer, that can be used in the header, that could be used in the cover block. Thinking about all the different options, and it could also be integrated into a custom pattern.

So I think there's a level of just preparing for the future and realizing that if you commit to the block framework, you're not just building that one block. You're building everything that that block can be integrated into. So I think that's an important mental shift to get into because I think for a lot of people they're like, "Yeah, I'll deal with that later and maybe I'll figure it on." It's like, "No man, if you build this one thing, this could go in so many different interfaces. The possibilities are endless and I think that that's a really cool realization.

And also as I've said earlier, give feedback. If you can start engaging now, if you have the bandwidth, if you have the capacity to prepare for the future, you can actually shape what the future looks like. And I think that that's a really unique proposition right now. So if you want to get in there and get your opinions heard and get your use cases covered, you could actually... I always think about this, I'm like, "How can I help future Anne?"

So I'm like, "Argh." When I travel, I hate dealing with transportation, so I'm like, "Okay, future Anne's going to schedule Lyft." Things like that where it just makes it easier in the morning. Or like when I return from traveling, I was saying earlier like, "I like to have food." So whenever I come back, there's frozen food ready. That kind of dynamic, do that for yourself. This is one of those things where you can bet on this. We're living in very uncertain times and I think it's delightful that there is certainty of what you can bet on.

And this is kind of one of those things that you... Matt has said, this is... He's thinking about this for the next decade of WordPress. And I really respect his ability to think that far out. And so I think it's a really compelling thing to get behind. That's my spiel and that's how also I'm approaching it, to be honest. And I do think... Someone said, I can't remember if it was Mathias who said it, but "Something about full siting will make sense to different people at different points in time."

And so I'm really excited for when it starts clicking for more and more people and what creativity comes from that and what opportunities come from that. Because I think it's going to be huge.

Bob: With that all said, in a sense, what you've just said and talking about WooCommerce is really, I think the importance because somebody might be coming in saying, "Hey, I need to know how this affects WooCommerce." It's not potentially that initial a lot of effect. But the last year with the Firehose's stuff as coming out of WordPress, I think these kind of things that anybody, whether they're developing for WooCommerce or whatever, because let's face it, WooCommerce sits on top of WordPress. There's going to be something going on there that they need to stay on top of this.

They need to not just say, "What is this going to do for me now?" Like you said, it's, what does this mean? And it's going to affect everybody at different intervals. But I think this is been really good because I honestly feel sometimes just talking to some of the people in WooCommerce set there, oh yeah, talking about the full site editor, but do they really know the impact of it and how they're probably going to be able to take advantage of it, whether it's sooner down the road, whatever.

So I guess your final thoughts is just anything on that as far as, yeah, take advantage of this, stay on top of it. Don't be left behind because I think that can be the thing is, can get left behind with all this fast pace that we're moving out.

Anne: Yeah. And I think part of it too is it's also like in order to take advantage of it in the future, you can make that easier for yourself by being involved with it now. And I think that that's the cool part is like, I think if you're in that head space of like, "Oh yeah, I'll take advantage of it later." You could make it even easier if you get involved now by shaping what happens. And I do very much think it would be amazing to hear from more use cases.

For example, I've been reaching out to the WP campus community. I used to work in higher ed. I know what it's like with those. You have like three different development in... It's a whole different ball game working in that world. And you're typically low resource and all that sort of stuff. So it's very interesting to hear from them and to hear what they're most concerned about. And also like what we can put them at ease about and also what we can say, "Hey, pay attention to this. This is coming, this is important. You need to give feedback on this if you're really worried about this, if this might disrupt your workflows."

And I'd love to have folks from the ecommerce space, especially, as you said, as we've seen last year, ecommerce has exploded. I've had more people in my life reach out about creating a shop online than ever before any other year. This might get philosophical, but especially when you think about integrations with things like Instagram and Facebook , you don't have control over that. And I've had friends who were creators on those platforms get shut down and completely lose revenue stream.

And horrifying, you don't own it. So it's like, let's help each other own this and let's make it easier than ever. Especially, I will say my final plug would with the pattern directory. I think that it'd really neat to get some... The pricing table is the thing that's coming to mind because I think Justin Tadlock did a cool pricing table show of that with patterns recently. But let's see some of those on there. Let's integrate those experiences.

Jonathan: Product Patterns, actually. There's just a ton of opportunity to display like a digital product, physical product. There's so many things where you can do it with Woo, without Woo. There's so much opportunity just the different types of products and what that looks like.

Anne: Because at the end of the day, we are in a fight for what's the easiest solution. And is it scrolling through Instagram and shopping on there? How do we create the compelling experiences and how can we reuse the block framework to do that so that the open web wins. Right?

Jonathan: Yes. On that, Anne, it's been fantastic. For folks who are interested in learning more, what resources, what would you point them to, where can they follow on what you've been working on?

Anne: Great question. You can contact me on Slack @annezazu. I welcome pings. I am also is my personal website. I have a contact form on there. As long as you're patient, because I don't believe in this hyper, always on culture. I will always reply to you and I'll give a quality reply, so you can ask me whatever and I'll send things your way. There's also\test is where the full siting program is run.

I think the last 20 posts were all from me, so it will be very easy to find me and find the posts happening there. They're also tagged in a nice way and there's a page in the handbook that's all about the program and you can find information on that. So hopefully that helps direct folks to the goodness that's happening. And I really hope to see people getting involved, so don't be shy in pinging or saying hi in the FSE Outreach Experiment channel and Slack.

Jonathan: Awesome. Anne, thank you so much for all that you're doing and a special thanks to our pod friends, Mindsize over at and FooSales at for their support of Do the Woo and all the cool things that are happening here. And that is a wrap on Episode 128. Thank you, Anne.

Anne: Thank you.

Thanks to our Pod Friends for their support