Earlier today, the Phoenix theme was merged into the WordPress Theme Experiments repository on GitHub. Like all themes in the repo, it is not meant for use on a live site. It is a project to test new ideas for the upcoming Full Site Editing (FSE) system.
Imran Sayed of Codeytek Academy created the theme and is hosting a live demo. Those who want to give it a test drive can grab the code from GitHub.
Until now, every block-based theme I have seen has been missing a left or right sidebar. I am a fan of the open-canvas format that focuses on content, hiding the often-frivolous widgets that only detract from the important bits. However, sidebars are sometimes useful and even necessary.
When I refer to a “sidebar,” I am not talking about the dynamic sidebar system of widgets that we have all come to love or hate since WordPress 2.2. That system no longer exists in the world of FSE. The site editor merely has a concept of templates and template parts, which are containers for blocks. It is up to the theme author to give some default structure, even building template parts that work like sidebars.
A sidebar in the Phoenix theme literally means a block area on the side of the page.
It is such a simple idea, one that is nearly as old as blogs. It hardly seems something worth getting excited about, but I have been waiting a while to see a block-based theme with a sidebar. The feature further legitimatizes the path that WordPress is heading down. The greater theme development community needs to see these simple architectural ideas put into action. They need to see someone saying, “Hey, here’s how you do this simple thing you’ve been doing for a decade in this new system.”
Phoenix only adds a sidebar on the front page, but this is a start.
The theme is also more ambitious than some previous attempts by mixing static and dynamic features on the front page. Phoenix includes a header area with the standard site title and a nav menu. Below that, it adds a static hero section that users can customize.
It then uses the Columns block to split the content and sidebar. On the left, the theme uses the Query block to list the latest posts. On the right, it adds a sidebar template part.