Like it or not, but 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, block-based WordPress themes 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 a full-site editing 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.
Most of the WordPress block themes require the Gutenberg plugin to function. This is because full-site editing has still not been introduced into the WordPress core and is expected to be included with WordPress 5.8 release.
On the other hand, the Gutenberg plugin already includes the latest improvements to the block editor before they are introduced into the WordPress core.
Also, full-site editing themes do not include the WordPress Customizer to make changes to the theme settings. Rather they make use of the Site Editor panel for website customization.
But block-based themes offer one distinct advantage over the 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.
That’s why you should take a peek at the 7 block-based WordPress themes that I have listed on this page.
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 Gutenberg 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.
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.
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.
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.
- Q theme by Ari Stathopoulos
- Block-based Bosco theme by Frank Klein
- TT1 Blocks – block theme based on the Twenty Twenty One default WordPress theme
WordPress Block Themes: Conclusion
Full site editing is an experimental and novel feature in WordPress development. No wonder, block-based themes have very few takers at this point. But after the introduction of full-site editing in WordPress 5.8, block-based themes will surely gain much wider acceptance among the WordPress community.
The fortunes of WordPress block themes is itself tied up with the development of the Gutenberg editor. At this time, the WordPress editor is not very user friendly and also lacks some of the advanced features of the popular page builders. That’s why most WordPress users still prefer page builders over the WordPress editor to design their blog pages.
But as the WordPress development team irons out the inconsistencies in the block editor and introduces newer features and blocks, it will be used more extensively by the novice WordPress user. That’s when the block-based themes will really take off for good. Until then, keep experimenting.
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