Testing WordPress 2022

Checking out free WordPress themes in 2022. Pros, cons, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

WordPress 2022 allows you to create layouts without coding.

Or rather, you can make more design changes without code. Up till now, the visual editor in WordPress was horrible. The output was messy and unusable compared to coding by hand. And compared to something like Elementor or Squarespace, WordPress just wasn’t polished enough. That is starting to change.

You will still want some design skills and training with WordPress to present your information in a compelling way, so don’t think this will eliminate all the WordPress jobs. And coding skills will still help fix glitches here and there, for example font sizes that don’t have UI controls yet.

And there will always be situations where you can’t find a widget to display things the way you want, which means HTML, CSS and Javascript are still useful. In past projects with Elementor and Squarespace, the “custom code” block has been essential to deliver what the client asked for, such as an ever-changing series of partner logos, an animated process diagram, or an interactive fundraising map with pins. The same will be true with WordPress.

There is some learning curve to figure out the WordPress WYSIWYG aka “Gutenberg” aka the “Visual Editor” aka the “Block Editor.” And you can rest easy knowing it’s not time wasted, to really learn the Block Editor, as WordPress continues to outgrow all of its competitors. The skills you learn today in WordPress will continue to bear fruit for years to come.

To clear up any confusion, what you see here now, this is not the official WordPress 2022 theme. This is actually the “Videomaker” theme by Automattic. It’s a child theme of “Blockbase” which is also by Automattic. Blockbase was designed for “full-site editing.” Which means you can edit the layout of your blog, as well as the content within your blog. (Maybe I’ll record a video to demonstrate how it works.) It’s nice to see Automattic contributing free, powerful themes to WordPress.org.

State of the Word 2021 annual keynote

That said, I’m somewhat concerned the general public isn’t really keeping up in terms of contributing anything as good as the Automattic themes. What does that mean? I browsed through about 100 themes, both in new and popular categories, selected about five of the best looking ones, and the only two that didn’t have significant problems: both Automattic themes. Coincidentally, the one I like the most (this Videomaker theme) is a child theme of Blockbase, which was recommended to me months ago during the last State of the Word. It seems that Blockbase will be the foundation (parent theme) for most/all future themes that allow full-site editing.

I haven’t looked at the code yet, but I’m wondering if maybe the general public can’t keep up with the pace of innovation going on within the WordPress developer community. And I’m wondering if maybe that is why publicly-submitted themes aren’t so great compared to the Automattic contributions.

On the other hand, it could just be Envato is more appealing for designers/developers because it pays creators. Also the WordPress.org submission rules are so complicated, I can imagine why talented people are not contributing anything there. I think another factor, PHP is not as “cool” as it was in the past. And the serious professional PHP developers out there are busy with non-free (paid) work, which is more the category I fall into.

This is a “Media & Text” block. The weird thing, it jumps outside of the page margin in the Block Editor. The result does look cool when viewed on the desktop. But on mobile, because there’s not enough room, this text will “stack” below the image. In most cases, that is fine. This should be a useful block for a lot of blogs, to give text some visual variety.

The Media & Text block doesn’t have enough padding. So I had to create “spacers” around it.

This is a caption for a YouTube embed. YouTube videos are easy to add, all you need to do is paste a URL. It looks fine in desktop. First time I tried this, the video was causing the mobile browser to scroll sideways, but now it’s working. Apparently there is a “Resize for smaller devices” control slider to fix that problem.

Overall, YouTube embeds work here as well as the old, non-Gutenberg version of WordPress. Only one small complaint. On my non-Gutenberg blog, YouTube embeds do not show the “Watch on YouTube” branding.


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