We just finished switching the AdPlugg Blog over from a WordPress Classic Theme to a WordPress Block Theme! In fact, you are reading this post right now on the new Block Theme. We made the change primarily to offer a better experience on the blog homepage (www.adplugg.com/blog/) but we also made a number of other changes along the way. As an added bonus, the change to a Block Theme sped the blog up a bit and taught us a lot about the inner workings of block themes, info that we plan to pass along to you – both in this post and in future posts.
So What’s a Block Theme Anyway?
As you are likely aware, WordPress has been in the process of switching over to a new block system called Gutenberg. You can now use the Block Editor (instead of the Classic Editor) when creating WordPress Posts and Pages. While the Classic Editor was just a blank page for you to type in content, the block editor allows you to place Blocks. This makes it easy to create more complex layouts that include images, galleries, lists, slideshows etc. In fact, back in May of this year, AdPlugg released a new WordPress Block that allows you to easily place AdPlugg Ads using the WordPres Block Editor.
While the Block Editor allows you to add Blocks to the content of your Posts and Pages, with a Block Theme, everything on the page becomes a Block. This includes the header, footer, sidebar, navigation, etc. In addition, these various areas of the site/page all become easily editable from within the wp-admin. This is why Block Themes are also known as Full Site Editable Themes (or FSE Themes): you can edit the whole site from the wp-admin. Don’t like the image in your site header anymore? Change it via the wp-admin. Want to change the copyright in your footer? Change it via the wp-admin. Want to completely change your color scheme? Change it from the wp-admin.
With a block theme, you can change pretty much any aspect of your site, all from the wp-admin.
Why Switch to a Block Theme?
As I mentioned above, we switched the AdPlugg Blog to a Block Theme primarily for the ability to make our blog homepage more user friendly. The old blog homepage was just a huge long list of the most recent posts (from newest to oldest). This might be nice if you are just looking to see what’s new but that’s not the case for the vast majority of users. Users are often looking either for specific information or want to see what information is available, and then delve into topics that they find interesting or that are important to them.
To allow for this type of use, we used Blocks. We still have the most recent posts at the top (using the Query Loop block in a grid layout) but this is only for the very top of the blog homepage. As you scroll down, there are sections for “Featured Posts”, “Most Popular” and a section that lists all of our “Update” related posts (posts about updates and changes to the AdPlugg system).
While we could have added Blocks to a Page using a Classic Theme and the Block Editor, switching to a Block Theme offered a more integrated experience. It also allowed us to easily create a new template for the home page that has the sidebar further down on the page.
While our efforts to make the homepage more user friendly were a tremendous success, there were a number of other bonuses to switching as well. These included archive and author pages that now have a nicer, more custom layout as well as improved site speed.
Top Reasons to Switch to a Block Theme
From what we learned, we put together the below list of reasons for why you might want to switch to a Block Theme:
- Seamlessly Integrate with the Block Editor: This was the main reason why we chose to switch the AdPlugg Blog to a Block Theme. While the Block Editor will work with a Classic Theme. It works much better and much more seamlessly with a Block Theme.
- Future-Proofing: This was another big one for us. While Classic Themes continue to work with the latest versions of WordPress, they seem to be getting clunkier. The new features coming out in the latest versions of WordPress are all based around Blocks and Block Themes. Most of the old features continue to be officially supported (such as Widgets) but we’ve seen them become less-and-less reliable.
- Full Site Editing (FSE): With a Block Theme, you no longer need to be a developer to be able to make changes to all parts of your site. If you are a solo blogger or publisher, this is huge. Even for a software company like AdPlugg, this offers advantages, as the marketers who help with the blog don’t need to involve developers in order to make changes. Development firms will also appreciate FSE as clients will no longer need to bother them to make trivial changes.
- Better Performance: Block Themes are faster. Felix Arntz (a developer at Google and WordPress Core contributor) was able to improve his site speed by 45% by switching to a Block Theme. While the AdPlugg Blog didn’t quite see those levels of speed improvement, we did improve our Google Pagespeed scores by a couple of points.
- Better for New WordPress Users: WordPress celebrated its 20th birthday this year. And while many of us have been using it for almost that long, there are still lots of new people coming to WordPress for the first time every day. These might be younger bloggers or developers or people coming from a different system. The Block Editor and Block Themes are more in line with what new users expect from a website builder in 2023.
What Block Theme Does the AdPlugg Blog Use?
We created a custom WordPress theme back when we first set up the AdPlugg Blog (all the way back in 2013). The theme was based on the latest and greatest at the time: the twentythirteen theme.
To create our new Block Theme, we employed the same strategy. We copied the twentytwentythree theme and then modified it to match the style of our previous theme (and the rest of the adplugg.com site).
How Hard is It to Convert a Classic Theme into a Block Theme?
Converting a Classic Theme to a Block Theme definitely isn’t easy. There was a lot to it and it took a lot longer than we expected. The biggest thing was the learning curve. If you are a development shop and need to do several of these conversions, the second one will definitely go much faster than the first.
If you are a blogger or a publisher (and not a developer), it will likely be much easier to switch to an existing block theme rather than to try to convert your current Classic Theme. This list of The Best Block Themes is worth checking out.
Also note that one of the core benefits of a Full Site Editing Block Theme is that you can change virtually every aspect of the theme and your site from the wp-admin. So really, you can just go with the default twentytwentythree theme and then style it to your liking from the wp-admin (more on this with an example below).
Does AdPlugg Work with Block Themes?
Absolutely! Using a Block Theme makes dropping ads in with AdPlugg super easy. Once you’ve installed the AdPlugg WordPress Plugin, you will be able to see the AdPlugg Block from your Block List. Just drag and drop the AdPlugg Block into your site anywhere you want an ad to appear. With an FSE Block Theme, this could be virtually any area on your site.
Any Block Theme Tips or Gotchas?
Yes, we’ve got LOTS of tips to share and plan to post them to the blog soon.
But, to get you started on blocks (and setting up a homepage like the one that we just created), I highly recommend checking out the below video from Jamie Marsland. Matt Mullenweg (the original creator of WordPress) recently mentioned the video on his blog. In the 15 minute video, Marsland takes a brand new install of WordPress (on the default twentytwentythree Block Theme) and creates the techcrunch.com homepage – all in 30 minutes, and with no coding:
We hope that you like the new and improved AdPlugg Blog. Please comment below if you have any ideas for how we could further improve it. Also, if you have any specific questions for how we set things up, questions about Block Themes or questions about anything else, post them below and we’ll do our best to help you out!