This week, we put together a different post. Each member of the team took some time to reflect on the past year and jot down some hopes and ideas for 2022. What a busy year it was!
For the majority of us, it was the first time we could work on WordPress.org full time, which is a big shift from being individual volunteer contributors. It’s a privilege to be able to help the web move forward, and, at times, challenging. Being able to work as a team helped us all grow and improve our technical and soft skills. The team is taking a break over the end of the gregorian year, and the blog will be back in January.
Looking back at 2021, I realize that even though I didn’t manage to accomplish everything I set out to do, I still accomplished a lot in a relatively short time. It was an exhausting year but ultimately very fulfilling.
My goal for 2021 was to do my best to move WordPress towards a more sustainable and performant future. The introduction and development of block themes (previously known as FSE, or Full Site Editing) presented a unique opportunity to do something good in that area. As a result, a lot of my energy went to Gutenberg and block themes.
Gutenberg and block themes
In collaboration with a fantastic team working on Gutenberg, we improved how block themes load styles. We built a modular system that only loads styles for blocks on a page, reducing the page’s total weight and making them blazing fast. That included multiple commits in all WordPress blocks, creating a new system to detect and render styles, new methods for themes to add additional styles on a per-block basis, and a whole lot of other minor improvements across the board. Overall, we improved the way both CSS and JS get loaded in block themes, and there are many more improvements to come in 2022.
Adding new blocks
Since block themes are the future of WordPress, I also worked on adding new blocks to WordPress. Those new blocks (such as a login/logout block, term description, and others) will be necessary to build a website using blocks. I also contributed to many more blocks, most notably the query block, an essential ingredient of block themes.
However, a website is not just about structure. It needs to be pretty too! I worked on a few designer-oriented tools in blocks. One of my most notable contributions in that area was to allow non-pixel units everywhere. Designers in block themes will be able to build more responsive sites with responsive typography and fluid sizing.
One of the tickets that took a long time to commit but will have significant implications is the ability to autogenerate heading anchors. This improvement opens the door to future implementations of a table-of-contents block in WordPress Core, which people have been asking for years.
Implementing hybrid themes
In order to improve backward compatibility and ease the transition to block themes, I worked on implementing hybrid themes, allowing the use of both block templates and classic PHP templates in themes. Template hierarchies in WordPress can get really messy at times, so making this seamlessly work took a lot of time.
On the accessibility front, I worked on adding a skip link to block themes. Theme authors will no longer have to worry about implementing that as WordPress will automatically take care of it for them.
Overall, I worked on multiple bug fixes in Gutenberg, had 97 commits accepted, and reviewed more than 450 code commits by others.
WordPress Core initiatives
In WordPress Core, I worked on two significant initiatives. The first was an effort to “Update the Updater”, making plugin and theme updates safer and more secure. The second initiative was the introduction of a web font API. We did not manage to complete the work in those areas, but we’re not stopping, and we’ll continue working on them in 2022.
On a personal level, I feel I continued improving my skills and craft. I learned new coding techniques, got inspired by my colleagues, and collaborated with many wonderful people.
What’s next in 2022?
My aspirations for 2022 are to continue improving the performance and sustainability of WordPress and to continue working with renewed passion on the things that I didn’t manage to complete in 2021.
The first quarter of 2021
In the first quarter, I tried to find ways to share information about theme reviews; specifically accessibility reviews. The accessibility reviews depended solely on my availability, and I needed to share this responsibility with more contributors.
I planned to do two workshops about contributing to the themes team for learn.wordpress.org. These were postponed because of the upcoming changes to themes and changes to the role of the WordPress.org themes team.
After the first quarter
In the second quarter, my personal goal was to make changes to allow experimental full site editing themes in the WordPress.org theme directory. With the help of the WordPress.org meta team, we were able to make this happen. Following that, I worked on a project to lower the entry barrier for submitting themes to WordPress.org. A lot of energy was put into reducing the theme requirements and improving the tools that are used to check the code quality of the themes.
In the grand scheme of things, this change may seem small, but it is important that WordPress.org can continue to offer a large variety of free WordPress themes to users. At the completion of this project, I also stepped down as a team representative for the themes team.
What’s next in 2022?
For next year I am looking forward to helping improve full site editing further.
This year of 2021 has been very interesting in many ways as a contributor to WordPress. I’ve been working on a wide variety of projects on documentation, tooling in WordPress Core, performance, etc.
Gutenberg developer documentation
My main focus at the beginning of 2021 was to complete the restructuring of the Gutenberg developer documentation. This is a project I started the year before after joining Yoast. It was also a challenging project because it required collaboration between several teams (Core, Documentation, Gutenberg). We also had to take into account the speed at which Gutenberg’s development (and thus its documentation) is evolving.
In the end, it turned out to be a very rewarding collaboration and learning experience. And I’m looking forward to the future improvements that the new Gutenberg documentation system will receive. Of course, maintaining documentation is not a one-time task. And the WordPress documentation team would benefit enormously from new contributors to join it.
Google Season of Docs
This is one of the projects that didn’t get the ending I was hoping for this year. It is with enthusiasm that I accepted to lead this initiative in 2021. Unfortunately, it didn’t end as we hoped. But it is only a postponement for the next edition.
Tests, tests, lots of tests
During the year I got very interested in testing in WordPress Core. I have become very familiar with the end-to-end testing suite of our favorite CMS. With the help of a wonderful team of testers, we are laying the foundation for better test coverage for WordPress. This will surely be one of the things I will focus on a lot in the coming year.
Along with end-to-end testing in WordPress, I also had the opportunity to learn more about our testing suite in Yoast products. This time spent in Yoast’s internal projects has been very beneficial to me on many levels. I was able to discover new ways of working in a team, learn new tools, and learn more about testing from very knowledgeable people.
A new adventure with the WordPress Performance team
For some time now, WordPress has had a performance team. Its role is to lead a number of initiatives to improve the overall performance of the CMS. This will have great positive impacts both for the many users, but also on the environment.
On my side, I am acting as the representative for this team; making sure that all contributors have the necessary information to collaborate. This is a first for me in this role, and also a great opportunity to explore other aspects of contributing to WordPress.
A lot of learning
Another aspect that marked my year 2021 is that I learned a lot. As a developer, as a colleague, as a person, as a contributor. But mostly from my colleagues and other members of the WordPress community, I’ve learned how to spot things I don’t know. I’ve learned to discover where I can improve and become better.
What’s next in 2022?
In 2022, I plan to continue to learn more, discover new things, to improve. My main focus will be testing in WordPress and the Performance team. I can’t wait to see all the things that the new year will bring.
2021 was a great year for me overall, with some significant changes in my life.
Some of my professional highlights include:
- improving communication and collaboration with the WordPress Core team at Yoast;
- stepping up as a Core Tech Lead for WordPress 5.7;
- leading new contributor meetings on WordPress Slack every 2nd and 4th Wednesday at 19:00 UTC, where anyone can ask any question on contributing, working with patches, ask for a ticket review, next steps, etc.;
- mentoring some new core committers to make WordPress development more sustainable;
- participating in some live working sessions with Tonya Mork, Juliette Reinders Folmer, and other contributors to discuss modernizing the WordPress core code, test suite, and documentation;
- taking the Pomodoro® training by Francesco Cirillo to better track my time and set priorities;
- attending two online workshops by Smashing Conference to stay on top of modern web development:
I made more than 1000 contributions (“props” and commits combined) to WordPress 5.7, 5.8, and 5.9, in addition to triaging new tickets, reviewing patches and pull requests, and participating in various team meetings and technical discussions.
Some of the projects I helped with include:
- making the WordPress unit test suite compatible with PHPUnit 8+;
- ongoing work on getting WordPress core ready for PHP 8 and 8.1;
- safer plugin and themes updates;
- admin UI for plugin dependencies.
What’s next in 2022?
For 2022, I aspire to continue my personal and professional growth, to keep learning new things and collaborating with my colleagues, to further improve my productivity, and to wrap up some initiatives in WordPress that we could not complete in 2021: PHP 8.1 compatibility, safer updates, plugin dependencies, web fonts API, etc.
I love seeing new core contributors stick around and find ways to make their WordPress work sustainable, eventually stepping up as component maintainers or core committers, and hope to see more of that in the new year. I’m also excited about the new Performance team in WordPress core, and the possibilities it brings for modernizing WordPress and resolving some long-standing performance issues. Cheers!
December 31st will mark my last day as a Yoaster. I have had fifteen incredible months here, filled with learnings, laughs, tears, ideas, and friendships.
I had two goals when I joined the company: shape the way the newly formed team would function and contribute more to WordPress myself. Turns out, I am more passionate about the first task. Don’t get me wrong, I care deeply about WordPress: it has truly changed my professional and personal life. But supporting people’s growth is where my heart is. Yoast once again came through as the great company it is. I had deep, meaningful conversations with Chaya, Joost, and Omar about my future in the company, aspirations, open source, and so many other topics. Ultimately, I decided to pursue a different career.
From January 1st, I will cheer from the sidelines. I will continue rooting for Ari, Carolina, Justin, and Sergey as they continue to make the web a better place for all of us. I will wait for their weekly updates with trepidation (and you should too!). And, of course, I will continue to visit the Yoast booth at online and offline events, to hug friends and keep up with all the new things the talented minds of the company will continue to cook up for years to come.
Happy holidays everyone! Keep caring for the open web, the world needs it!