WordPress Theme Development is Changing

When I first started building WordPress themes, was fairly simple. As long as you had some basic HTML and CSS skills, you could quickly transfer that into PHP and you could have a theme in no time.

I remember building my first theme. I used the WordPress theme hierarchy as my digital map of what templates I needed to use and how to build theme.

WordPress Theme Hierarchy

I used this for years until I found builder style themes. A long time Headway Theme’s user, I found that I could build websites quicker when I used these early page builder themes.

Fast forward to the last 5 years, we’ve seen a lot of advancement in page builder themes. Elementor, Beaver Builder, and now Gutenberg have all built quite the following.

For the last 5 years or so, I have been a longtime Beaver Builder user. I still use it for a number of client sites, but the last couple of years, I’ve moved towards the WordPress Block Editor (Gutenberg) for my personal projects and some lite projects that don’t require a lot of customization.

Full Site Editing

Earlier this year, WordPress 5.8 was released and is the first phase of the FSE releases. The biggest feature is that WordPress 5.8 now works with theme.json files. I’ve been playing around with a little and it looks very promising.

It might even make theme building fun again.

That’s not to say that I don’t have a couple of themes I like to use. I love GeneratePress and Kadence. They are my absolute favorite. In fact, combine them with their own block plugins, and they are super powerful.

But at the end of the day, they are another page builder tool in my toolbox. Just like Beaver Builder, Beaver Themer and Astra, GeneratePress and Kadence work well when they are paired with their block plugins.

These are great no-code tools and when I need something fast like others, I have my go-to. They are still there and will still be in my toolbox for other projects I’ve got going.

For my personal site though, it’s really been my playground of sorts. It’s a place that allows me to experiment with ideas (writing and code), new products, more. It’s the one site that I can always work on and continually build.

I’m excited to start building a theme from scratch again. Especially with the FSE theme to see what you can do with no-code (or low code) as a result.

But I do wonder what the development costs are associated with it. Will someone that knows some HTML, CSS and maybe a little PHP be enough to build a FSE theme? How does that work with child themes? What about templates?

I have a lot of questions I would like to see get answered as I dive into what building a FSE theme looks like.

And for the next 30 days, I want to bring you along on the ride. I want to share with you what it looks like to build a FSE theme from scratch. Not just a theme that doesn’t look good. I want to build a FSE theme for myself. To launch the next version of my personal site.

If you are interested in this, I urge you to join my newsletter. You’ll get each of these posts sent to you daily. You can sign up at the end of this post.

A couple of helpful concepts I think are worth mentioning with this experience. I’m going to record a 5-10 minute video each day as I play around with a specific challenge I’m working through. I’ll also be blogging about it.

If you are following along with this as I go, you’ll be able to see the test site as I’m going to run this on a subdomain while I blog over here. In fact, I’m taking this challenge a little further, in that I am going to be building this completely on my iPad.

Might as well go big if I’m going to do it. Are you ready? See you tomorrow as I jump into this head first!