WordPress 5.6 Release Team Pulls the Plug on Block-Based Widgets

WordPress 5.6 Release Team Pulls the Plug on Block-Based Widgets
Current block-based widgets admin screen design.

I was wrong. I assured our readers that “the block-based widget system will be ready for prime time when WordPress 5.6 lands” in my previous post on the new feature’s readiness. I also said that was on the condition of not trying to make it work with the customizer — that experience was still broken. However, the 5.6 team pulled the plug on block-based widgets for the second time this year.

One week ago, WordPress 5.6 release lead Josepha Haden seemed to agree that it would be ready. However, things can change quickly in a development cycle, and tough decisions have to be made with beta release deadlines.

This is not the first feature the team has punted to a future release. Two weeks ago, they dropped block-based nav menus from the 5.6 feature list. Both features were originally planned for WordPress 5.5.

A new Widgets admin screen has been under development since January 2019, which was not long after the initial launch of the block editor in WordPress 5.0. For now, the block-based widgets feature has been punted to WordPress 5.7. It has also been given the “early” tag, which means it should go into core WordPress soon after the 5.7 release cycle begins. This will give it more time to mature and more people an opportunity to test it.

Helen Hou-Sandì, the core tech lead for 5.6, provided a historical account of the decision and why it was not ready for inclusion in the new ticket:

My question for features that affect the front-end is “can I try out this new thing without the penalty of messing up my site?” — that is, user trust. At this current moment, given that widget areas are not displayed anything like what you see on your site without themes really putting effort into it and that you have to save your changes live without revisions to get an actual contextual view, widget area blocks do not allow you to try this new feature without penalizing you for experimenting.

She went on to say that the current experience is subpar at the moment. Problems related to the customizer experience, which I covered in detail over a month ago, were also mentioned.

“So, when we come back to this again, let’s keep sight of what it means to keep users feeling secure that they can get their site looking the way they want with WordPress, and not like they are having to work around what we’ve given them,” said Hou-Sandì.

This is a hopeful outlook despite the tough decision. Sometimes, these types of calls need to be made for the good of the project in the long term. Pushing back a feature to a future version for a better user experience can be better than launching early with a subpar experience.

“The good part of this is that now widgets can continue to be ‘re-imagined’ for 5.7, and get even more enhancements,” said lead WordPress developer Andrew Ozz in the ticket. “Not

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This article was written by Justin Tadlock and originally published on WordPress Tavern.

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