I participated in the overview of WordPress (WP 101 in the WordCamp for San Antonio, TX) that was done virtually this weekend, with two goals in mind…learn more about custom post types and figure out how to transition from classic editor to block editor.
I’ve literally had a mental “block” about switching to the block editor. I played with it initially just long enough to get confused, I wasn’t sure about how to align things, all my settings to tweak seemed to disappear, etc. I felt like it was giving me a lot of power over page layout like a graphics layout program used to do for printing paper when all I really wanted/needed was the digital equivalent of a typewriter. Maybe a few graphics to stick in here and there. Certainly things that I could easily do in something like Word without going for the full layout manager of another program.
I didn’t get to do much with custom post types, but I did watch an overview of blocks. And with the number of posts and themes that are going the way of blocks, well, I need to figure this out sooner rather than later. Particularly if I’m going to transform some layouts of things like book reviews that I’m in the process of tweaking right now anyway.
Blame it on the book reviews
My book reviews have a pretty stable layout overall:
- An image that I pull from Good Reads via HTML and that will take me to the GR site if I click on it;
- Three sections of text – Plot / Premise; What I liked; What I didn’t like;
- My multi-star review;
- A text bottom line of a few words;
- Links to GoodReads site;
- Links to my index of other book reviews; and,
- My closing / signoff.
But I’ve made some tweaks before when I had about 90 reviews; again when I had about 130; and again now that I have 180. Each time, I’ve had to go back and reformat quite a bit. So, of course, it makes me wonder…would a block layout let me “fix” it once and move on? The short answer is that in many ways, this is EXACTLY one of three elements that a block editor will give you. So with the book reviews in play, I’m motivated to fix it once.
Options with the block editor
The block editor allows me to have a consistent look and feel (goal 1) while having a lot more flexibility (goal 2). But it is goal 3 that is the most exciting — creating reusable blocks that can be dropped into a post or page, and if later you want to edit it, it will update across all of the site. Sort of like a macro.
For the image, I paste / embed an image from Good Reads, and GR gives me the code to use for embedding. The only real “tweak” I do to it is to increase the size to a specific width. Ideally, I would put the code in a wrap container, it would resize the image, and voila, it would sit there perfectly in the same spot. I can even “save” it as a special block and reuse it, potentially.
For the three headings, they never change so I can preprogram them and set specific font and heading size. If I ever want to change them, as long as I save them as separate reusable chunks, they’ll stay put. If I change one, it will change them all. Similarly, I can add in three paragraph blocks just after them, although those will change.
For the review, some of the block plugins come with review formats, but I kinda like my “reading frog” image. So I’ll likely stick with that. I *could* play with the format and look/feel for a 1 star / 2 star / etc setup and save those. Then, if I ever decide to ditch the frog and go with stars, for example, I just need to edit the block and they’ll all change.
The bottom line is a set header plus a flexible paragraph text, so again, pretty straightforward.
Where things might get interesting is the Good Reads link. Like the image, it is a set “format” but not a set block (the link would be different each time). However, the link to my other reviews is a set block that can be reused easily.
And then there’s my signoff block. It is a standard element I use ALL the time. So it will definitely get turned into a reusable block. And give me maximum flexibility for the future.
Enter the block plugins
The default Gutenberg editor has a lot of default blocks, and they are more than enough to get me going for testing things. But not all blocks can be converted to all other types of blocks, so I don’t want to get too far down the testing and then find another block plugin has this awesome additional block that is perfect for my Good Reads images, for example. So I’m working through a bunch of the main block options.
Update: To see my current collection of blocks, check out the blocks I use.