It was about a year ago. I was happily designing a theme for aspiring novelists. I wanted to get ahead of the competition and market a theme specifically to writers who would be attempting the National Novel Writing Month 2019 challenge.
NaNoWriMo, for short, is a whirlwind of a month where 1,000s of people from around the world clatter away on their keyboards to pen a 50,000-word novel manuscript. One month of sheer willpower, coffee by the gallon, and sleepless nights in exchange for glory. There are no grand prizes or guaranteed publishing contracts at the end of the journey. You nab a certificate, a few coupons, and bragging rights. I completed the challenge in 2018.
Inspired by my win just months before, I built a theme for those who would be taking the journey the following year. I also wanted to broaden its appeal to anyone who might be an aspiring novelist but not necessarily participating in the challenge. Or, maybe even to someone who just published their first book. Perhaps this would be an opportunity to bring a few new WordPress users into our community.
I outlined a homepage layout to show how users could feature their latest book with a purchase button. Then, it dawned on me.
How could someone build this book sales page without solid experience with the block editor?
I had been using the Gutenberg plugin for months upon months before it landed in WordPress 5.0. I knew the ins and outs of the system.
The design was simple. Using the core media & text block, a heading, a couple of paragraphs, and a button, I had created something that may have been too complex for the average user. I had not even gotten into the custom color, font-size, and block-style options that accented the layout.
This simple combination of blocks had the potential to be overly complicated for some. I had other plans for more complex layouts. Other theme authors had taken on bigger combinations of blocks. For end-users, they were likely stepping into a world that did not make sense. They would see beautiful theme demos and grow frustrated when they could not make things work. The block editor was not, and is still not, intuitive enough for the least-knowledgeable users to build layouts beyond the basics.
I opted for a step-by-step tutorial to guide my users into building this simple book-selling section. However, documentation is not always the best answer. Even when users find and read it, the results are not always accurate. It would have been far simpler to have a button that, when clicked, inserted this section directly into the editor. The user could then customize it to fit their content.
That is where block patterns come in.
Theme authors should be able to build unique and complex combinations of blocks with custom styles. Users should be able to just make it look like the demo.
This article was written by Justin Tadlock and originally published on WordPress Tavern.