We live in a golden age of web design. Everyone and their grandmother want a website, and there are tons of tools available to make something beautiful and performant for a low investment. There are millions of app startups and agencies for designers to choose from when looking for a job. But I don’t often see designers advocate for maintaining the design of open source tools. While improving those tools can make such an impact on how nice it is to work with them.
I can understand how it may seem daunting. I felt the same when I started contributing to WordPress several years ago. Then, the same happened when I was the design lead for 5.7 and I realized there’s so much more going on than I was aware of. WordPress has many opportunities to make great UI and UX improvements for over 40% of websites that exist today. If you’re interested in that, I have some tips for you today.
Take a look at the cutting edge of WordPress design
The fastest way to get excited is to look at what is possible. And you need not look further than the centerpiece of WordPress, the block editor. Just look at what the editor adds in functionality with each release!
When it was introduced in WordPress 5.0, it was a triumph of modern web design. Not just in the use of modern programming but also the design language. The block editor sports a fresh and clean look. And, every part of it gets enhanced and iterated on an almost weekly basis. What happens here will lay the foundation for a modern design that will eventually spread across all parts of the WordPress admin UI. And we need more designers for that.
Getting started is fairly easy. Take a look at this list of issues needing designer feedback on the project’s Github repo. These have plenty of small design challenges that are easy to form an opinion on. If you’re more interested in big UI and UX matters that could shape how new features work, then this list of issues that need design is for you.
You’re welcome to respond to any issue , contribute your thoughts, sketches, or even prototypes and get to know the designers working hard each day to improve the editor experience for millions of users.
Attend a design team meeting
If you’re still overwhelmed by all the context, here’s something else for you: attend a WordPress design team meeting. This group of volunteers and sponsored contributors makes sense of the firehose of design issues. They discusses them piecemeal during their weekly chats on Slack. It’s super easy to sit in on one and observe how they handle WordPress design. You can also ask questions whenever you don’t understand something or need help getting started. Anyone is welcome.
You can join the WordPress Slack team by going to this page. After you’re signed up, join the #design channel. That’s where the meetings happen. There’s a general meeting on Wednesday at 18:00 UTC. There is also a triage meeting on Tuesday at 16:00 UTC that looks at the open issues.
Submit design tickets
If your own projects are keeping you busy enough, here’s a really simple way you can still help out. For every weird design bug you encounter, make an issue. Signaling what needs to be fixed or improved is half the work. You’re helping us out, and when we fix it, we’re helping you out. Everybody wins.
Our weekly team updates
My focus continues to be Full Site Editing (FSE for short) and trying to work with everyone else in the Gutenberg repository towards building a solid product that can be shipped in WordPress 5.8.
I worked on a proof of concept to allow hybrid themes (including HTML and PHP templates). It just got merged this week, so we’re one step closer to something functional for everyone.
I reviewed a lot of pull-requests pertaining to FSE and global-styles, and I remain optimistic that we can make the April deadline for inclusion in WordPress 5.8.
This week I will continue working on FSE and focus on hybrid themes and how they can properly function without issues. I’ll also work on ways to use block-based template-parts in classic themes.
Last Thursday, I did an internal developer presentation about the differences between a traditional PHP-based theme and a full site editing theme. And just as Francesca predicted, this week, everything changed.
The big news that I was not able to include in my presentation is that existing PHP-based themes will be able to add support for full site editing. A theme will have both types of templates: standard templates where users only edit the content and templates where the full page can be edited in the site editor.
At Yoast, we have developer presentations almost every week. It is a way to learn from each other and share our expertise. Even though I am always happy to talk about themes, doing a presentation well takes a lot of effort and energy. That is why our team also participates in speaker- and communication training together.
I did not work a full week, but I have been trying to do as many full site editing pull request reviews as possible on GitHub and testing changes to the TT1 Blocks theme. A lot of the work concerns the MVP but also important changes to block alignments.
With uncertainty around the schedule and the squad for WordPress 5.8, I am mainly focused on internal work. We are almost at the end of the first quarter of 2021, so it’s time to review the goals we set as a team and as individuals and start thinking about what we want to achieve for the next quarter.
To do that, we follow a template inspired by an article I read on Forbes, about the difference between goals and outcomes. We all have daily tasks since we move from one area of WordPress to another to help as much as we can. I believe it’s also important to cultivate the specific hopes and dreams we have for the project. I encourage everyone in the team to put those in the quarterly plan.
As full-time sponsored contributors, it is very easy to get lost in the incredible number of tasks that a project like WordPress has. That can also make one lose sight of the bigger picture. So, I hope to achieve a healthy balance.
My focus for this week is to submit the application of WordPress to the Google Season of Docs. It’s a pretty challenging project and requires the ability to communicate quickly and effectively with all parties involved. Currently, we are collecting project ideas for submission. And we are also identifying contributors who are available to mentor technical writers. This whole process is transparently coordinated on GitHub here.
After this week, I’ll be able to take a deep breath and move on to the next steps of the project.
Last week, my main focus was to continue reviewing bug fixes and enhancements for WordPress 5.8, the next major release, as part of my duties as a Core Committer. I made fourteen commits to WordPress Core and triaged new tickets incoming into Trac (the bug tracking system that WordPress uses).
After publishing my guide on what is involved in leading a release as a designer, we’re taking another look at the rest of the design team Handbook pages. We’re looking to improve the content and make it all fit together better. The Handbook is a growing collection of info, tips, and guides about how the design team operates, so it’s good to revisit this from time to time and update things or explain them in a different way.
Over to you! Questions?
Do you have any questions for our team? Maybe you want to join us for dev chats, and you are a bit worried about stepping into the Core channel? Let us know!
We would love to use this space for dialogue and not only for broadcast. Ask us anything!