Like it or not, WordPress Gutenberg aka the block editor is here to stay. The Gutenberg editor was released in version 5.0 to a lukewarm response. Millions of WordPress users still prefer the classic editor as is evident from the 5 million+ downloads of the classic editor plugin.
However, you should remember that the block editor is improving with every release and newer features are being added continuously with the ultimate objective of enabling full-site editing in WordPress using the block editor.
On the other hand, WordPress block themes for full site editing are just taking off. They are still not wildly popular since the block editor is not a very user-friendly editor when compared to established page builders like Elementor, Divi, Beaver, etc.
What are WordPress block themes?
Block-based themes make use of the WordPress block editor to enable full-site editing (FSE) experience. You are no longer limited by the theme features. Rather you can, in theory, customize every aspect of your website with the help of Gutenberg blocks.
They differ from the conventional themes that merely support the block editor and block-based plugins but do not allow full site editing using the block editor presently.
Till now, the WordPress block themes required the Gutenberg plugin to work but after the integration of FSE into the WordPress core with the release of version 5.9, the plugin is no longer required.
Rather when you switch to a block theme, the familiar Customizer is replaced with the Editor panel under the Appearance menu.
Block-based themes also offer one distinct advantage over conventional themes: performance.
Since the block editor is part of the WordPress core, using blocks to create and style your website adds minimal CSS overhead when compared to the CSS added by the popular WordPress page builders.
The second advantage is flexibility. Until the release of WordPress 5.9, you could not edit your theme’s template files unless you were a developer. But now, you can edit any template of a block theme like the header, footer, post, or page.
What’s more, you can have complete control over the styles including the colors, typography, and the layout.
That’s why you should take a peek at the 12 block WordPress themes that I have listed on this page.
1. Twenty Twenty-Two
Twenty Twenty-Two is the first official and default WordPress block theme that was shipped with WordPress 5.9. On activating the theme, the Customizer makes way for the Editor panel.
In the Site Editor, you can edit any template like the Home, Header, Footer, Archive, etc. You can play around with the styles settings like colors, typography and layout.
The interesting part is that you can edit the style settings for individual blocks from the Editor.
You can easily jump between the settings for the Site, Template, and Template Parts from the Editor.
I was impressed with the Template Parts feature as it lets us create custom templates like header, footer, or a call to action (CTA).
Finally, I should mention a bit about the Block Patterns that you can access while creating or editing a post. Patterns are ready to use templates that you can customize as per need.
There are patterns available under different categories like header, footer, pages, buttons, gallery, etc. Let your creativity go wild.
Blockbase by Automattic is an experimental full-site editing theme. Once you activate Blockbase, you will notice the Site Editor tab which opens the full-site editor.
You can edit different templates with the help of the site editor, including, the Index template, Front Page template, Singular template, 404-page template, and Search page template.
You can change the complete layout of the post or page by editing the Singular template. There are useful dynamic elements to play around with like Post Title, Post Content, Post Author, Post Date, etc.
The best part is that you can add pre-defined block patterns to your pages and then further customize them according to your needs.
Blockbase also allows users to add Template Parts like header, footer, sidebar, etc. to the content and save your custom template parts. Think of template parts like sections or patterns to be reused multiple times.
The templates and template parts created by you are available under the Appearance menu within the WordPress dashboard.
There is also a child theme of Blockbase called the Mayland (Blocks) theme that has been recently released by Automattic.
Frost is a WordPress block theme created by celebrated designer Brian Gardner of Genesis themes fame. So you can expect high quality coding standards with Frost WP.
Earlier the theme was premium-only but after being acquired by WP Engine, Frost is available for free download from its homepage.
Frost has something for everyone – designers, developers, and creators. It offers a mindboggling variety of block patterns like Call-to-Action, Header section, Featured boxes, Pricing table, Testimonials, etc.
You can customize each pattern block to its fullest extent. With the help of these patterns, you can create unlimited website designs. I highly recommend that you try out the Frost block theme if you’re just starting out with full site editing.
Although this is a post about WordPress block themes, I should share a non-native block theme, used to design PassionWP, that is versatile, fast, and feature-rich.
GeneratePress, which is one of the most popular WordPress themes, does not make use of the Gutenberg plugin to deliver a fantastic block-building experience. Rather, you should use the GenerateBlocks plugin (from the same developer) to take full advantage of this block theme.
PassionWP is designed using the combination of GeneratePress and GenerateBlocks, so I recommend this theme from my first-hand experience.
You can build any type of layout and customize every aspect of your website with this theme and the GenerateBlocks plugin. For more details, go through my detailed GeneratePress theme review and also understand the difference between the free and premium features of GeneratePress.
Naledi by Anariel Design is another experimental full-site editing WordPress block theme. It works exactly the same way as Blockbase except that it offers few more templates to play around with.
Also, the default homepage template has been nicely designed and you should experience greater fun in customizing the theme template.
Tove is a beautiful WordPress block theme created by celebrated designer Anders Noren. Although it has been designed with restaurants and coffee shops in mind, you can easily customize the theme for your needs.
I liked the expansive layout which combined with the large typography makes the content stand out and easy to read.
Armando has been created by Carolina Nymark especially for blogs and sports teams. It includes a host of templates like About, News, Sidebar, Testimonials, and Tours.
Apart from this, you can edit the blog pages and posts directly from the Site Editor navigation panel.
Hansen by uxl is the most popular block-based theme currently with 200+ active installations.
Hansen offers the highest number of page templates and block patterns of all the block themes mentioned on this page.
Ona by DeoThemes is arguably the most beautiful full site editing theme for WordPress. The header is attractively designed and the theme follows a minimalist design philosophy.
As with other FSE themes, you can edit the different theme templates to customize your website just the way you want.
Wabi by Rich Tabor is a full site editing theme for writers and publishers. What differentiates Wabi from other block themes is the accent color feature for each post you create.
The accent color feature enables writers to pick a different page title background color making it stand out from other pages or posts. The focus of this theme is on a minimalistic layout that writers will instantly take a liking to.
If you’re a writer, you should surely check out this theme.
Other WordPress block themes
There are a handful of other block-based themes that allow full-site editing on an experimental basis that are worth mentioning.
WordPress Block Themes: Conclusion
Full site editing is a truly breakthrough feature in WordPress development. Block theming has come a long way since two years back when users cast serious doubts over the robustness of the block editor.
But that is the past. The future belongs to WordPress block themes.
The fortunes of WordPress block themes, in turn, are tied up with the development of the Gutenberg editor.
As the WordPress development team irons out the inconsistencies in the block editor and introduces newer features, patterns, and blocks, it will be used more extensively by novice WordPress users. That’s when the block-based themes will really take off for good. Until then, keep experimenting.
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