full site editing and custom post types

In this short article I’m looking at Full Site Editing, specifically what tools you will need and what you will need to know in order to create the single and archive templates for Custom Post Types. Full Site Editing is coming in WordPress 5.9 and it will bring new opportunities for creating theme templates, but the way forward may not be clear. By the end of this article you will a checklist and roadmap to use for getting started. Note, I’m looking at no code options.

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Creating Custom Post Types and Custom Fields

WordPress core supports Custom Post Types but there is no user interface for creating them. WordPress also supports custom fields, but the default interface only supports simple text-based fields. So the first requirement is that you will need plugins for creating Custom Post Types and custom fields. This is the same whether you are using a page builder or Full Site Editing. There are four popular tools available:

ACF is only for creating custom fields, so it is often paired with the free CPT-UI plugin. ACF has a free version and a premium version. Unless you need advanced custom field types, the free version of ACF might be sufficient. Meta Box, Pods, and Toolset come with the ability to create both Custom Post Types and custom fields. Note that Toolset has its own Gutenberg solution that doesn’t involve Full Site Editing, but I don’t know of any reason why it couldn’t be used.

Creating Display Templates

WordPress supports custom fields and Custom Post Types but doesn’t have a built in way to display them. Before Full Site Editing there were two ways to create templates for the single and archive display. You could code them yourself using PHP, or you could use the theme building features of premium page builders. The big deal with Full Site Editing is that the ability to create templates for Custom Post Types is being built into WordPress core. You will be able to use Gutenberg, but Gutenberg by itself is not going to be sufficient. There are two more things you will need.

Block-Based Themes

Creating templates using Full Site Editing requires a block-based theme. WordPress 5.9, which will ship in January, will include the Twenty Twenty-Two theme, which will be the first block-based theme included in core. Until then you can download it from GitHub. Besides being a block-based theme, Twenty Twenty-Two is shaping up to be the nicest looking core theme ever released.

You aren’t limited to the core theme. There are a number of block-based themes available in the WordPress theme directory, but at the moment the core theme is the most advanced and refined in relation to Full Site Editing.

Placeholder Blocks

Next you are going to need placeholder blocks for building the standard features of a post or page. WordPress 5.8 comes with a number of placeholder blocks for the components of a standard post. For example, it includes blocks for the post title, post content, post excerpt, post date, and featured image, among others.

However, 5.8 doesn’t have all of the blocks, nor all of the features of Full Site Editing, which is in an in-between place. There is Gutenberg that is included in core and there is Gutenberg the plugin. Currently you need the plugin version to have all of the needed blocks and features for Full Site Editing.

Blocks to Show Dynamic Data

If you checkout the core blocks that come with WordPress you will notice that there aren’t any that support custom fields. WordPress core has never had a way to display custom fields without using PHP and there is no reason to suppose that will change. Therefore, you are going to need a third party blocks plugin that supports the display of custom fields.

Block Plugin Considerations

  • Blocks need to support the custom field provider
  • They need to support the field types used
  • What Gutenberg version do they support

To create the basic templates, you need to support the custom field types that have been added to the Custom Post Type. At a minimum I imagine you need to support text fields, image fields, dates, numbers, and various types of links. There are a whole slew of other field types that might be used, everything from maps, videos, audio, rich text, repeater, relationship and more. So when you pick your blocks you need to make sure that they support the custom field supplier that you used initially to create the fields, and you need to make sure that the custom field types you pick to add are also all supported.

Has Needed BlocksGutenberg Support
Cwicly Gutenberg ToolkitGoodPlugin
Kadence Blocks ProLimitedCore Only
PodsVery Limited Core Only
Stackable Blocks ProGood Core Only
ToolsetExtensiveCore Only

Stackable Pro has dynamic data options for many of their blocks. Pods and Kadence Blocks Pro currently have some of blocks you would need, but not all. Toolset has an extensive set of blocks supporting dynamic data. None of these four options support the plugin version of Gutenberg. The new comer, Cwicly, is the only one with support for Gutenberg the plugin. So if you need to get started today, that would be the best choice. Otherwise, we need to wait until WordPress 5.9 ships with Full Site Editing.

Discussion

Some people are ready to switch to Gutenberg but still need their page builder to create content templates. They are interested or even excited about the prospect of Full Site Editing. While options are limited now, these are early days and soon the number of available options will balloon.

Some block plugins will be adding support for dynamic data so they can be used in Full Site Editing:

And Full Site Editing and block-based themes aren’t the only option. There will be a number of themes that offer some hybrid way for creating templates:

  • Blocksy has said they will support some kind of hybrid option
  • Kadence has also
  • GeneratePress has a hybrid option available today

So, to summarize, for Full Site Editing you will need:

  • Plugins for creating the Custom Post Types and custom fields
  • A block-based theme
  • Third party blocks that support custom fields
  • And either the Gutenberg plugin and Cwicly, to get started now, or wait for WordPress 5.9
  • Or, you can select a hybrid route

In any case, site builders will soon have many more options and in my opinion that is a good thing.

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