[00:00:00] Nathan Wrigley: Welcome to the Jukebox podcast from WP Tavern. My name is Nathan Wrigley.

Jukebox is a podcast which is dedicated to all things WordPress. The people, the events, the plugins, the blocks, the themes, and in this case, the revamp of the WordPress showcase website.

If you’d like to subscribe to the podcast, you can do that by searching for WP Tavern in your podcast player of choice. Or by going to WPTavern.com forward slash feed forward slash podcast. And you can copy that URL into most podcast players.

If you have a topic that you’d like us to feature on the podcast, I’m keen to hear from you and hopefully get you, or your idea featured on the show. Head to WPTavern.com forward slash contact forward slash jukebox and use the form there.

So on the podcast today we have Nick Diego. Nick is a sponsored full-time contributor at Automattic. His official position is a developer relations advocate, which allows him to focus on creating developer orientated content. Apart from his regular responsibilities, Nick is also involved in a separate project called the WordPress Showcase, and this is the focus of the podcast today.

The WordPress showcase is a curated collection of websites built with WordPress. Its purpose is to inspire, and show the breadth of what WordPress can achieve. Currently the showcase features around a hundred sites, including large enterprises like the New York Times and NASA. It aims to challenge misconceptions about WordPress, and highlight the platforms scale and reach.

The design of the showcase is contemporary and visually impactful. It shows that whatever proprietary platforms can do, WordPress can also do.

During the podcast we talk about the intricacies of the Showcase project. We discuss the selection criteria for featured sites, including the possibility of case studies to show the process behind their creation.

We also explore the importance of block themes within the Showcase, and the ongoing efforts to make wordpress.org fully block-based.

We also get into the future iterations of taxonomies and navigation on the site to enhance its functionality. Nick suggests that the categories in the showcase will serve as a valuable resource for novice users, trying to understand the capabilities of WordPress.

The redesigned showcase aims to highlight WordPress in a modern way, inspire web design, and convince clients that WordPress is a credible choice. Everything that you see on the website is open source, meaning that you can download all the theme files for the showcase site to see how it was all put together.

If you’re curious about block development, or how you might convince clients that WordPress is a credible CMS, this podcast is for you.

If you’re interested in finding out more, you can find all of the links in the show notes by heading to WPTavern.com forward slash podcast, where you’ll find all the other episodes as well.

And so without further delay, I bring you Nick Diego.

I am joined on the podcast today by Nick Diego. Hello, Nick.

[00:03:49] Nick Diego: Thanks for having me.

[00:03:50] Nathan Wrigley: You’re very, very welcome. Nick has been on the podcast before, but he’s here to talk about something completely different this time. He’s here to talk about something called, well, I’m going to call it The Showcase. I don’t know if that’s the correct name for it. It might just be the WordPress Showcase or just Showcase. We’ll get into that in a moment.

First of all, Nick, it’s a fairly generic question, but I always begin this way. Could you just tell us who you are, who you work for, what your relationship is with WordPress? All of that kind of quick bio stuff.

[00:04:16] Nick Diego: Absolutely. So I am a sponsored full time contributor working for Automattic. And I work in the. org division. My official title is developer relations advocate. And so a lot of my work is around creating developer oriented content, speaking with developers, kind of helping them navigate modern WordPress development techniques, and that sort of thing.

But what we’re here to talk about today, is about the WordPress Showcase. And that’s kind of a separate project, but also in the .org space, improving the .org website, one component being the Showcase. I’m also working on that as well as my developer content.

[00:04:55] Nathan Wrigley: So you have your fingers in a variety of different pies. But the pie that we’re concerned about today is the WordPress Showcase. I suspect that it may be useful, if you are sitting near a computer or a mobile phone at this point, it may actually be quite useful to pause the podcast and go and have a little poke around the following URL.

It’s really easy to capture. So if you go to wordpress.org/showcase. That’s nice and straightforward. wordpress.org/showcase. You’re going to be presented with a site, and you may think to yourself, well, what’s the purpose of this? Because there’s no real calls to action. There’s nothing really that we are requiring the users to do. But I guess that’s the intent.

So Nick, what is it? Why does this page exist? We’ll talk about its history later. Let’s just outline what it’s for.

[00:05:39] Nick Diego: The page is designed to Showcase what can be built with WordPress. And right now there’s about 100 sites, and this is kind of looked at as like a beginning. You know, the Showcase can grow as folks submit entries to the Showcase. But it’s really just to highlight and kind of inspire people about what can be built with WordPress.

We have sites like NASA and, you know, government sites like wordpress.gov. We have artist blogs and portfolios and businesses, and there’s a construction company on there. I mean, it’s just to try to show all the different types of sites that can be built with the WordPress platform.

[00:06:14] Nathan Wrigley: So given that WordPress has been around for a really, really long time now. We’re into the second decade, we’ve gone through 20 years already. So it’s been around for absolutely ages and, you know, people have been building websites.

Does the WordPress community or the wider world, maybe that’s who it’s aimed at more. Do they not know what WordPress is capable of? In other words, is this here for people who are trying to make a decision about whether to use WordPress or not? And it’s trying to encourage them that, look, there is no perfect template. There isn’t one size fits all. WordPress can do more or less anything.

[00:06:43] Nick Diego: Yeah, I think so. I think that part of this new Showcase, and we’ll kind of talk about, again, you said the history of the page and, you know, how it came to be. But the Showcase is now a top level navigation item when you go to wordpress.org. And the idea is for somebody who maybe is very new to WordPress, never used WordPress before, is just looking to get a presence online. It’s a quick place for them to go to just see what’s possible.

But there’s all sorts of different audiences that come to WordPress. And there’s a lot of people who have some idea, or thoughts about what WordPress is. Oh, it’s just a blogging platform. Or, oh, it can’t do certain things, or it can do certain things.

This is trying to show the breadth of what WordPress can do. Whether you’re a new user or whether you have some, you know, misconceptions about what the WordPress platform can do. This is trying to capture all the different ways to build with WordPress.

[00:07:33] Nathan Wrigley: It’s fairly impactful in terms of its design. In other words, the design is very contemporary, and it’s quite stark. There’s a lot of black, there’s a lot of white. And essentially you are putting the sites, there’s these little, they look like desktop versions of the site in every case that I’m looking at, at the moment.

And there’s just dozens and dozens of them lined up after one another. And each of them is really incredibly different from the other. But the thing that I’m taking away from it all, is just how large the reach of WordPress is. So more or less everything that I can see is something that I’ve heard of. So there’s museums here, there’s software companies, there’s enormous publications, and so on.

So is there a bit of that thrown into it as well? We’re trying to sort of impress with the scale of what WordPress is able to achieve. So I’m looking, I can see the New York Times, and various other different enterprises. Is that a part of it as well? Just look at the enormous projects that WordPress has captured, NASA and so on.

[00:08:27] Nick Diego: Yeah, I think so personally. There are a lot of other competitors, quote unquote, that WordPress competes with. We have things like Squarespace and Wix and others. This Showcase was not a direct response to those sites. The Showcase has been around on WordPress for a very long time. But one of the unique things about WordPress powering 43 percent of the internet is that, there’s a lot of high quality sites built with WordPress.

Being able to Showcase that the breadth of what you can build with WordPress, I do think is one of the unique things that WordPress has that allows it to stand out from maybe some of the other platforms.

And so showcasing things like the New York Times, again, I said NASA. NASA is at the top of mind because they recently just converted everything over to WordPress, which is a massive undertaking.

But, I mean, showcasing these kind of sites, as well as smaller sites. There are some restaurants on there. There’s a couple, ones that were built purely with the block editor, which is pretty cool. And so really having that juxtaposition of large enterprise sites versus small. Small business, you know, individual portfolio.

Hopefully, that shows a new user, someone who is just exploring WordPress all the different ways that you can build with the platform. And hopefully inspire them to dig a little deeper, download WordPress, get hosting, so on and so forth.

[00:09:40] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. So just a couple of things on the navigation. For a start, it really is front and center on the wordpress.org navigation. Currently, as things stand, we’re recording this in November 2023. It’s the second item in the menu. After news comes Showcase and after that is hosting.

But then also if you actually go onto the Showcase site, there’s a couple of menu items on the right hand side where it says submit a site. And then there’s view all sites. But it’s the submit a site bit that I’m interested in. I wonder what the guidelines is around what would ever make it onto this page.

I can imagine if you were an agency, it would be incredible to get your website listed here. Presumably there’d be some kudos to that, and perhaps even other people coming to your agency.

So I wonder around that if there are criteria about what can appear here, what will appear here in the future. And the number a hundred, which is the number of websites that’s there at the moment, seems too coincidental. Is that the target number that you’re always going to feature or does that possibly go up and down depending on submissions?

[00:10:38] Nick Diego: So it’s funny you call out the hundred, because there were some proposals back in March around trying to keep the Showcase to 100. And from some community feedback it was like, oh, that’s a numbers too small. Do we really want to remove people from the Showcase once you’ve been added? You know, so kind of keeping that 100 as it stands right now, based on my understanding, that’s not a hard and fast number to be stuck with.

Interestingly enough, a lot of sites that were on the previous version of the Showcase were pulled over into the new Showcase. And there were some that were in the queue still, that hadn’t been processed, that also got pulled over. There are a handful of new ones as well.

As we went through, double checking, oh, this is still a WordPress site, making sure there were no problems, we randomly got to 100. It was like 108 at one point, and then just like, oh, this is not WordPress anymore. And then it got down to 100, so that’s purely coincidence.

[00:11:27] Nathan Wrigley: In terms of criteria for submission though, what would those be?

[00:11:31] Nick Diego: Exactly. So right now, the submission for submitting to the Showcase has not changed from the previous version. The project around updating the aesthetic, and the design of the site is part of a broader effort across wordpress.org, to kind of modernise and update the site as a whole. The main focus is aesthetics, and also changing all the themes to a block theme. So the new Showcase is entirely a block theme. Previously it was not.

Content moderation and how the submissions are managed, you know, how often new sites get added, that was not within the scope of the project. How the previous Showcase was managed, prior to this new redesign, is all the same.

That being said, there is a lot of work that needs to be done. And this needs to be handled from a community perspective, around content moderation, what is the process around that? So as we move forward in the next few months, that needs to be a focus for the Showcase site, in kind of improving that pipeline for new sites.

As of right now, we get a lot of submissions to the Showcase, because it’s wide open. Anybody can submit. So there is a lot of contributor time that’s needed to go through each submission, double check that it’s WordPress. So there’s a lot of work and man hours that is required for that.

And that’s something that needs to be sorted out in a Make post, and get some folks around that who want to commit time to helping manage that process. So, unfortunately that wasn’t part of the scope of this project, but it is very important to the continued success of a Showcase, and will need to come in the future.

We also have a few issues that were highlighted during the launch and the development of the site, that will also get improved as we go along. So I do really want to stress that, while the aesthetics of the Showcase right now, very different from what was before, so it really feels like a new experience. It is just another iteration, and more iterations will come as, you know, we fix things and improve things.

[00:13:22] Nathan Wrigley: In terms of the criteria for a minimum basic requirement, if you want to feature on this site. I mean, if you click through to any of the websites, the first thing which springs to mind is, you know, it has to be responsive because it’s shown in two different ways. There’s something suggestive of a desktop, and there’s something suggestive of a mobile phone.

It doesn’t actually have the sort of, it’s not encapsulated by the phone UI or anything. But it’s pretty clear that’s what you’re looking for. So that would be a minimum. But beyond that, do you have any things which are utterly essential? So one thing which jumps into my head would be, I don’t know, this website is accessible, for example. Or this website is, well, I’ll hand it over to you. Are there any criteria which, just don’t submit unless you meet this, this and this?

[00:14:01] Nick Diego: Right. So there are currently three bullet points under the submission criteria, and they’re purposely quite broad. You need to be using WordPress in a unique and innovative way, representing a notable organisation, government entity, or corporation as a official blog or website.

The key piece here before I say the last one is that, you need to be doing one or more of the following. So one or more of these, and or you need to be using modern WordPress. So for example, a small little restaurant might have a really cool, interesting design. They’re not a notable organisation or corporation, but they’re using it in a unique and innovative way. Maybe they’re using a block theme to do so. So you don’t have to apply it to all of these, but these are kind of the broad criteria around that.

So when it comes to being things like accessibility, and responsiveness or whatever. These are things where there is no criteria right now around a site passing a certain level of accessibility, or a certain lighthouse score. And it’s not to say that those criteria couldn’t exist, but they would need to be decided on collectively as a community. Identified what those are, and then that criteria can be implemented to the sites in the Showcase.

That process is highly opinionated, not highly opinionated, but it requires a lot of group consensus. And that is partially why the whole submission process and, you know, the content moderation was not part of the redesign. Because that requires an, at least personally, that requires its own consideration, its own thought processes, its own discussion with the community. And hopefully that could happen relatively soon as well.

[00:15:38] Nathan Wrigley: It seems like a not particularly onerous submission process, in that case. So long as you hit two out of the three of the criteria that you mentioned, you’re eligible. And then we must wait for the community to decide which go in, and add to the pool that we can currently see.

Doing a quick refresh, there’s always one website which dominates, if you like, it’s in the, you know, the hero section. And there’s one website which get featured. But every time I click refresh, broadly speaking, I get what seems to be something random. Although having refreshed probably 50 times or so now, it would appear that the ones which get into the header, there’s a few that seem to be earmarked.

There’s maybe five or six that I’ve seen so far. I’m seeing the New York Times. I’m seeing Meta. I’m seeing a variety of others that come up. Is there some other criteria there to get right to the top, if you like, of that page?

[00:16:26] Nick Diego: There is not. Behind the scenes, they’re basically a sticky post. And so there’s a server cache that refreshes, I believe it’s every 120 minutes, or every 60 minutes. And once that refreshes you’ll see a new page. The sites that were up there were selected as part of just the redesign aesthetic process just to have something there.

But the mechanism around those six sites can completely change. So if the community decides some brand new site really should be part of that six, then it can be. Should be considered kind of a default just to get the site launched. But I kind of put who those six are, kind of falls into that content moderation bucket, and it really can be anything that the community wants. Obviously that’s within the Showcase.

[00:17:09] Nathan Wrigley: When you click through to any of the particular websites in question, it looks like one of the submission things is A, give us the name. B, give us some imagery, or presumably you scrape that imagery somehow. But then it’s categorised by country, by the word category in this case, I’m looking at one which is categorised as business.

Then there’s flavor, which is quite an interesting term. Publish date, and then there’s a bunch of tags, which obviously refer to the industry that you’re in. So I’m looking at art, hospitality and so on. But there’s probably some more there.

You get a link, which seems to go directly, I don’t know what kind of a link that is, but maybe it’s just a regular old link, going directly to the property itself. And then you get some descriptive text, where you get to establish what this business is, and how the website has been put together.

But it doesn’t seem on the whole, this isn’t really a promotional tool for agency X. This is not a technique for an agency that’s big in the WordPress space, we know all the names. For them to push something and say, look what we did. There’s no link to them anywhere as far as I can see.

[00:18:08] Nick Diego: Correct. And this is something that, again, we tried to stay out of because it really falls into kind of content moderation again. But ideally, the Showcase should be a very exciting, place to Showcase your best work.

So it would be amazing if, you know, some of the largest agencies, even small agencies, submitted their work to the Showcase for review. Because we know that there’s a hundred sites in this Showcase, right? We know that there’s millions of sites out there. Probably many that are better than the ones that are in the Showcase, right? And so having folks submit their work will be awesome.

Now, you’re right. It is not a tool to show off the agencies or promote the agencies. That being said, when you submit a site, you include a description about the site and how it was built. And it would be kind of nice, you know, in the future of these kind of became little mini case studies. Hey, you know, we built this nasa.gov, and we’re using Multisite.

And it’s fine to highlight the agency dimension who built it, that’s okay. But it’s really about showcasing the work, and showcasing what can be built with WordPress. An agency can kind of inadvertently promote their work by being on Showcase, but that’s not the intended purpose. And I don’t know if we want to jump right into it, but I do want to share some thoughts around the taxonomies because you mentioned you have category and flavor.

[00:19:27] Nathan Wrigley: Categories and flavors. Flavor, by the way, you have three options that I can see at the moment. You have WordPress, WordPress enterprise, you might want to pick that one apart for the audience, and WordPress Multisite. They’re the options that you’ve got. So yeah, throw all the taxonomy stuff at us. That’s good.

[00:19:41] Nick Diego: So the taxonomy stuff is an area of the site that needs a future iteration. A lot of it was just pulled over from the old site to make sure that, you know, we kind of had feature parity as we moved over.

Flavor is an interesting one. And I think this is where we can really, maybe flex in the future. You could imagine a flavor being block theme, or hybrid theme. You know, maybe it’s different flavors of how the sites are built. WordPress is just like the catch all, just like normal WordPress. Presumably everything is WordPress.

But in enterprise, again, kind of a nebulous thing around sites that, and there’s only a handful of them that are listed as enterprise, where in doing this and reviewing the sites, we knew that this was a massive site that was enterprise grade, quote unquote, like NASA. With, you know, 60,000 pages. Really massive sites. And then Multisites, obviously for folks that are using Multisite.

Flavor, the current setup for the, you know, the taxonomy needs some work. We left it because it could be reused in a really interesting way in the future. And if folks have ideas around how this taxonomy can be used and additional terms to add, by all means, let us know.

Category is, and this goes back to thinking about some of the competitors of WordPress. Where we have Squarespace and Wix and so on. If you go to their Showcases, they have some very simple categories. You know, these are like five or six, that kind of bucket the sites. So it’s a little bit easier to navigate.

Right now, the category just looks like a normal taxonomy. But one of the ideas, perhaps in a future iteration is like, when you land on the Showcase, maybe there’s, visually you have some, you know, nice little buttons or something to say like business and portfolio. To try and help users navigate around the site a little bit better.

For this iteration of the Showcase, we left it very simple. It’s just another taxonomy term. But it leaves the door open for a new, updated design in the future that kind of leverages those categories a bit more. Makes the site a little bit more navigable for users, especially who are coming there for the first time.

And then your site tags are, it’s supposed to be like a fun expression where, we could have a thousand tags. It’s just a way to provide additional context about what a site is like. So tags are free form. Ideally we’ll have hundreds of them, that really help provide a little bit of fun to the sites and explain a little bit more.

[00:21:57] Nathan Wrigley: I think the categories will be really useful for novice people coming to WordPress, because it really does break out what WordPress is capable of, as much as anything else. So currently, at the time that I’m looking at the screen, the options are business. I would imagine a lot of people would immediately grasp what that is, but community. Oh, okay, WordPress can do that kind of thing. Can it? Okay.

Creative publication, obviously capturing people who are creating blogs or newspapers or whatever that might mean. But also store, you know, okay WordPress can handle that as well, can it? And whilst it’s obvious to you and I that those things are well within the purview of what WordPress can do, it may not be to other people.

So, yeah I think they’ll be really, really useful. And you can stack them on top of each other. So you can filter two or three things at the same time. And it strikes me that that will be, yeah, incredibly useful.

Now you threw out there, dare we say it on a WordPress podcast. You threw out there the name Squarespace, I don’t know if you mentioned Wix. But we know who the commercial competitors are. And you also said, if you look at their Showcases. So I haven’t looked at their Showcases, but I’m guessing that there must have been, in order for this redesign to happen, there must have been a moment in time where the WordPress Showcase, perhaps fell behind in terms of the appeal, or the design or what have you.

Did the WordPress Showcase, in times gone by, a few months ago let’s say, did it not live up to what it does now?

[00:23:18] Nick Diego: I want to be very clear and not disparage anybody that was involved in the original Showcase. It served its purpose, but it felt as old as it was. You know, I don’t know when that original site was launched, but it felt many years old, and it was.

And so when, I mean, WordPress.org is not a commercial entity. But at the same time, we are trying to grow the user base of WordPress. And other proprietary platforms, like Squarespace and Wix are also trying to grow their user base. And part of that is showing off what those platforms can do. And that was, that’s the point of the Showcase, to kind of show what WordPress can do.

And I think it was very fair to say that the previous aesthetic of the Showcase did not showcase WordPress in the best light, especially compared to some of these other tools that people can use.

And what we’re thinking about here is really not, you know, not an agency that already knows WordPress, not people who already know WordPress. But those folks who are just want a website, just want a presence online. And so if you were to compare the old Showcase, and something like Squarespace and Wix, it was a very stark difference there. And it was very clear which direction a user might go if they knew nothing else other than, this looks pretty, I want this.

And so yes, there was a lot of consideration around what others were doing when the Showcase was designed. And it’s not necessarily to compete with these other platforms, but it’s just to really showcase WordPress in a modern way that allows WordPress to kind of, allows us to be excited about directing people to the Showcase, other than perhaps cringing that it was a little bit out of date, and not reflective of the best that WordPress can be.

[00:24:51] Nathan Wrigley: It strikes me that this has lots of layers of use as well. Because, not only could you go to this website, obviously there’s a hundred at the moment, but that number is going to be in flux. Let’s imagine that there’s more in the future. Not only could you go there and just get bucket loads of inspiration, because really, genuinely there’s not one that looks anything like the other. They really are truly different in nature. And I guess that’s part of the Showcase, is to maintain that originality, as you said.

So you can go there to get inspiration. But also, it was always a part of the arsenal, I thought of a freelancer, and an agency when trying to persuade clients that WordPress was a credible choice. It was always really great to, not only show the designs, but also to name the names.

So, you know, The White House, NASA, you just list it. Well, these people are using WordPress, and immediately credibility just falls out of your mouth. I just wondered if there was any bit of this which was designed for that? You know, to help the community to be able to sell WordPress to their clients.

[00:25:54] Nick Diego: Absolutely. I think that WordPress has, in some circles, a negative connotation. You know, it’s just a blogging software. People decry security issues, which we know is not necessarily founded. And, you know, these are things where being able to send some customer or client somewhere and say, hey, do you know Noma? One of the most famous restaurants in the world? They’re using WordPress.

Hey, do you know the Ray Charles Museum? You’ve heard of Ray Charles. They’re using WordPress, so on and so forth. Rolling Stone is using WordPress. And I really think that that, not that we need to prop up the credibility of WordPress, but I think that having something like this really helps with that. And, you know, establishing that credibility, and also showcasing what WordPress can do.

[00:26:33] Nathan Wrigley: This could be completely wrong. Apologies if this comes out and you think, no, no, no, that really wasn’t the intention. The ones that I’m looking at, I’ve got a screen full of, and it probably is by some sort of random query of the database. I’ve got a screen full of things where everything is in English.

I doubt that that’s the case because now that I’ve gone onto the second page, I can see there’s one or two where English as the first language is not there. So is that just a coincidence? It’s not like there’s a proclivity here to showcase English things. Any language is possible. It’s the design that’s the point, not the language.

[00:27:05] Nick Diego: I think that may have been unfortunate happenstance because there was a really strong effort to make sure that there’s a diversity of sites across other languages. Actually, we do have one on the homepage, the Denmark Museum of Design. The featured name is Design Museum Denmark, but then all the navigation is in Danish, I believe.

So that was definitely a huge effort as well. Because WordPress is not just the United States, and the state of the word that’s coming up is taking place in Madrid to kind of show off all the amazing contributors that we have in Spain. You know, so this is really a global Showcase, and it really should reflect that.

So perhaps we need to add a few more items to the homepage that are from different areas, but absolutely not. We really want to have a broad spectrum of sites across the world.

[00:27:51] Nathan Wrigley: So, WordPress is doing a really good job here, we can see that. WordPress is also doing a really good job in the amount of materials that are being created in order to learn how to use WordPress. And I know this isn’t directly within your wheelhouse, but i’m kind of interested where this would go.

I wonder if in the future it would be kind of interesting to match up some of these designs with learn material. So, you see them on YouTube all the time. Somebody dissects a site, and then quickly rebuilds it in WordPress, with blocks or whatever it may be. This just seems to be enormously popular.

You know, people love to consume that kind of content because they learn. They’ve got a template that they can work towards, and they can see how it’s scaffolded and built on the screen. So I’m not holding you to anything, but I do wonder if the Showcase might lean in that direction to help people, not just see what’s beautiful, but also, this is how it was built as well. That would be kind of nice.

[00:28:42] Nick Diego: Absolutely. And I think that there is some work, and I don’t want to, again, put words in anybody’s mouth, but there is some work around. So we have an enterprise section. wordpress.org/enterprise. And I know that there’s some work being done exploring how to create more case studies.

So if you look at a site, take NASA for example, massive site. And I go, how do you even build that sort of thing? Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a case study that said, hey, this is what we did. Hey, we had 50 custom blocks, you know, we did this X, Y, and Z. Being able to show what went behind each Showcase entry, in some sort of case study, would be really, really, really cool.

So I love that idea. And I think that there’s some exploration around how we can do that. Because it’s not only enough to show the site that was built, but how it was built. Maybe even in broad terms, would be incredibly helpful for folks to help kind of recreate that sort of thing.

[00:29:30] Nathan Wrigley: Get the excitement going, but also getting people learning how to build it. You may have already answered this question, towards the beginning of the show. I don’t think you said that all of these, or even many of them, are based upon block themes. Let’s just firstly clear that up. There’s no proclivity here of, well, it must be done with, in air quotes, modern WordPress block based themes, no?

[00:29:51] Nick Diego: Nope. There’s a lot of sites in here that are not. There are some that are, and I think that as we move forward, it would be cool to have maybe a flavor that could clearly call out, okay, this is a full on block theme. Because I think that we do kind of lack some examples of real world examples of block themes.

But to go to the broader effort, so Showcase is just one piece of this wordpress.org redesign. We want wordpress.org to be fully block based. You know, because it’s a massive site. There’s a lot of different pieces of it. There’s a showcase, there’s plugins repo and themes repo. Having that all block based really showcases the power of blocks. So we’re not even close to that yet.

But the cool thing is, is that the Showcase is entirely block based. So if you want to build a site like the Showcase, you can with blocks.

[00:30:34] Nathan Wrigley: I’m going to get you to, somewhat unexpectedly, change the hat that you’re wearing, because I want to just ask you about blocks actually, and block based themes in particular, if that’s okay? So it wasn’t exactly why I got you on the call, but I hope I can smuggle the odd question in.

How is that enterprise going? Because, I’m specifically talking now about block based themes. We’ve had these around for a little while now, and it would appear at least on the face of it, that the stats, if you just took the raw stats, the pendulum doesn’t seem to have swung in the direction of adoption for block based themes, perhaps as much as one would have imagined or hoped, whichever word you prefer there.

What’s your opinion of that? Do you think people are just sticking with what they’re familiar with? They’re waiting for the right moment. Or do you think this is a permanent thing that WordPress is going to face going into the future? Where we’ve got this, well, you have to make a decision right at the outset. Are we going to go with a classic theme? Are we going to go with a block theme?

And that decision will never get resolved. There’ll always be the option for those two things. Or you have some sort of intuition that, perhaps in the future, block based themes will start to consume that pendulum swing?

[00:31:39] Nick Diego: I think that there will always be a choice between the two. But I think that, actually the development of the Showcase site and the other sites that we’re doing for wordpress.org, is a very interesting exploration. Because you’re talking about applying a block theme to a massively trafficed site.

So one of the other projects that we’re working on right now is overhauling the developer resources section. So this takes into account the block editor handbook, the themes handbook, a lot of handbooks. You know, it’s hundreds and hundreds of pages.

Exploring how to build a block theme that supports that sort of thing, can be challenging. And so, I think that there is a certain level of tension around transitioning from an architecture that you already know, to something like a block theme, where you’re going to have to implement things in different ways. Learning how to do that at scale can be challenging.

A good example is that, every page, or almost every page in wordpress.org, actually needs to stay in version control so it can be translated. So when you’re editing things in the block editor, if you’re just on your personal site, when you save something to the site editor, that change is saved in the database.

We can’t do that in wordpress.org. All those changes need to be synced back to the actual template files that power the theme. This is getting very in the weeds I know, but it’s just one of these things you have to kind of account for when building a block theme, on a site of this scale.

Once you figure that out, once you figure out a process for it, it’s not that big of a deal. It’s not that bad. But figuring that out can be a little challenging. For anybody that’s interested in this sort of thing, all the theme files for Showcase and rest of .org. It’s all open source. It’s all available to the public in the WordPress repository on GitHub. So if you want to know, how do they do this block that does the big banner image on the homepage? It’s a custom block, and it’s available in the GitHub repo for you to check out.

So I’m hopeful that as we go through these things and we can actually, you know, show how some of these implementations are done, that might help get others over that hump of transitioning. But there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s going to take some time, especially for large sites like this.

But I know, from somebody who, I didn’t do the development work, but I did a lot of, you know, editing and, you know, we’re doing more work now and other sites. Being able to go into a block editor page and scaffold out a design in blocks is so much easier. Like it is so much better.

And it also requires much less development, because you can scaffold out a page and how you want it to look. You can move blocks around. And once you’re done, then you can pass it off the development team. They push it into a theme template, and you’re good to go. So it really cuts down on the development time, once you have the entire architecture set up.

And it also really empowers, which was kind of the promise of the block editor and site editor, empowers the content creator, or the designer, to build most of it themselves. And we’re starting to see that with this .org project. We’re getting to a point where a lot of the ground work is done, a lot of infrastructure is done. And now we can start really moving quickly because it’s just designing in the editor, which is great.

[00:34:32] Nathan Wrigley: I think by pure coincidence, a bit of serendipity, it’s the 7th of November, and it’s a big day for WordPress because 6.4 has landed. I don’t know if you’ve got to get off the call go quickly triage things or anything like that.

It does appear, from my perspective anyway, I keep a pretty close weather eye on what’s happening in the project. It does seem that version by version, minor release by minor release, the promise of what blocks can do and block themes can do, is becoming more and more compelling. I do understand, you know, if your agency is embedded in a workflow which just is going to be so difficult to untangle, I can understand why that inertia might be there.

If you had point somebody, Nick, in the direction of a resource, a good website. I mean, we can probably give it, take it as given that you’d point them in the direction of learn.wordpress.org and various other properties like that. I wondered if you had any good advice as to where to go, to learn about block based themes.

[00:35:24] Nick Diego: Yeah. So, learn.wordpress.org is fantastic. I’ll also give a little self plug from me and my team. I have a small team with a few others and we’re on the developer relations team, and if you’re interested in more developer oriented content, the learn team does a great job with user content and some developer content, but our focus is all developer content.

And so once a month or once or twice a month, we do a developer hours, which is a live series. And it’s always a very specific topic. The last one we just did was theme oriented. We had Jessica and Maggie who helped build the new 2024 theme, and they went through how that theme was built. Code examples and, you know, how the whole thing was built.

And so every month we have these sessions that are very developer oriented, whether it’s building custom blocks, whether it’s building block themes. And that’s where, if you’re a developer and you really want to learn how to build this stuff, as opposed to using a block theme, that’s great for learn. I highly recommend that.

I also want to say again, another shout out. We’re doing a lot of work to overhaul the block editor handbook document, basically the documentation on how to build blocks, and work with the editor. Justin Tadlock, who used to write for WP Tavern, he’s been undertaking a massive project to overhaul the themes handbook.

And so with these two efforts, it’s going to take into 2024 to kind of complete them. But the idea is that both the block editor handbook and the themes handbook will be much more robust, especially when it comes to building with blocks, whether it’s a block theme or building custom blocks.

And we hope that better documentation leads to better projects that people can build. Because right now there’s some, definitely some holes in both of those pieces of documentation which we hope to fix.

And we’re also going to get a brand new design very soon for that developer resources section, which will make navigating the documentation much nicer.

[00:37:17] Nathan Wrigley: And lest anybody forget, this is all free. It’s entirely free, ready for you to utilize.

Nick, thank you so much for chatting to us about the Showcase. My hope is that people listening to this will be able to, A, make use of it, you know, perhaps to pitch their own work, but also perhaps submit their own site so that the number there 100, will continue to rise and we can all benefit from the wonderful things that have been produced.

Where might people find you if they want to communicate with you directly?

[00:37:46] Nick Diego: Absolutely. So anybody is welcome to reach out in the WordPress Slack channel, @ndiego, and also on Twitter, X, whatever we’re calling days @nickmdiego. But happy to answer any questions about block development, block theme development.

[00:38:00] Nathan Wrigley: Nick Diego, thank you so much for chatting to me about the Showcase. I really appreciate it.

[00:38:05] Nick Diego: Thank you so much for having me back.Visit TechPros

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