Community Chat April 13, 2022

What we talk about when we talk about WordPress

April’s Community Chat will focus around how you get others started with WordPress. Do you start with conversations around digital identity? Do you like to start with the technical stuff? Do you dig right into the dashboard, or talk about posts and pages? We want to hear from technologists, designers, or anyone who finds themselves teaching people how to get started with a WordPress site. Let’s discuss and share strategies for guiding folks that are just starting out!

When: April 13th, 2022 12pm ET
Where: Online, Register at the link below.

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Here is the recording!

I’ve collected some of the links that got shared as well:


One of the things that we were talking about in the community chat was the idea that maybe to get into the Block editor, maybe people need to get some recommendations for a good Block theme.

One of the things I do when I think about what themes to review, is I think about what companies have a financial stake in making sure that WordPress is easy to use, and that end users who are not experts are successful.

That leads me to look at three places: The most used themes on, the recommended themes on created by Automattic, and the themes created and maintained with GoDaddy.

I take the most popular themes on, but I take that with a grain of salt. 45% of WordPress sites are running a version of PHP less than 7.3 according to Statistics | Just because its popular, doesn’t mean its a great idea, and the community might be lagging behind trends.

Even so, there are themes I recommend with that list:

  • Astra is still one of my go-tos. It’s a very minimal theme, and I like the header and footer builders. It lets me do full site editing type things, without being a full site editing theme.
  • I’m really liking working with theme Twenty Twenty Two. Since I have full control over the header, footer, blog roll, typography, and colors, it checks a lot of my boxes.
  • I used to recommend OceanWP, and that’s there. But honestly, it is just starting to feel overcomplicated compared to these modern themes.
  • Go has been on my list of favorite themes for a while. If there is one theme to recommend to a newbie, I like that, because it has just a couple settings that make it a very versatile theme, both in display, fonts, and colors.

Automattic /
I figure, has a financial stake that their most prominent and recommended themes look great, and also have a low learning curve. I try to notice the trends that are happening there with their recommended themes. One person mentioned in the forum that part of their frustration with the block editor is that it blurs the lines between what the theme does and what can be done in the editor.

  • Is that why “Blank Canvas” is among the top themes on right now? A theme where there is literally no header, no sidebar, no footer, and you add everything from scratch?
  • I also played with Archeo recently. It’s a little illuminating to see what makes a good block theme, because so much of the structure of the past isn’t there. Instead, a great block theme should have a series of sensible and reusable templates that look great.

A special note about Full Site Editing Themes. Making great looking headers using the block library is actually quite hard. So one of the features of FSE is that you can “replace” a header or footer with templates that your theme designer has created. This feature was only added last minute, so Twenty Twenty Two has it, but I don’t see other themes offer the functionality. It’s just a reminder that I see so much potential in FSE, but it is truly only a beta.

From GoDaddy themes, I might pick out two more. The ones that appeal to me right now are:

  • Keynote, which looks to me like the visual successor of the Go theme, and
  • Barista which just seems to have a nice appealing group of colors, good headers, and as all the themes on this list, just seem to get out of the designers way.

The plugin that I recommend everyone download is called “Ultimate Add-ons for Gutenberg” because it has a couple hundred block patterns that can be used in every theme.

What I love about this, is even though the ability to add these patterns is enabled by a plugin, all of these patterns are only made up of standard blocks in different arrangements. If I migrate away from using this block, none of my past work needs to be redone, unlike when I migrated away from Elementor and had to redo every page.

I hope that the Block Pattern Directory eventually replaces this plugin, with new and fresh patterns constantly being added in there.

Anyway, a few people on the call said they liked my “5 tips for starting with WordPress” Post, and I immediately responded that it was dated. At the time (2019), I was responding to the new block editor, and this is how I would rewrite it to respond to the beginning of FSE.

I was also thinking about my comments (and criticism) about a crowdfunded list of recommended plugins, because we might only recommend “things that we had always done” vs “the current trends of the system.” So I thought I might share how I try to stay up to date in the theme world, so that my recommendations are relatively new and fresh.

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Thanks for this Ed. This is a great starting place for this conversation, I think. I’m still really interested in the idea of an up-vote/down-vote capable site that I could put together to compile a list from people to continue this. Picking a theme is super time consuming, and giving people a curated list to pass on to their users I think could really help a lot of people new to WP out.


I get it. You want Stack Overflow where the size and engagement to the community supports the best solutions rising to the top because other people have tried and come back and report which suggestion helped them the most.

I just wonder about the “lurker” tendency in communities of practice, where only 5% of the community actively engage in discussions, some do simple reactions, and the majority just read and watch others engage.

I want The Wirecutter where an expert looks at the best 5 options and says, this is the best option for most people, this option adds additional functionality for some other use cases, and finally this is an upgrade pick for those willing to pay a little extra. Think you have a better solution? Let us know in the comments and we will review it when we update this article.

By the way, you can upvote and downvote comments on Wirecutter, but the main article is written by someone who has done authentic user testing of all options.

Lurking in open communities is always going to be a reality, but I think that’s a valid way to engage with a public resource, particularly if you are new, uncomfortable, or dealing with some imposter syndrome. To me, its about giving folks more ways to participate that they may click with. That hopefully leads to less lurking and more sharing. I see this idea as just a different way to participate in the discussion that might bring in folks who are unlikely to post to a forum.

I feel like these two ideas are complementary, one feeds into the other in a pretty natural way. I definitely have the 3-4 themes I constantly use, and encouraging others to share their go-tos definitely helps me prioritize new things to try out. After trying some new stuff out, I could see summarizing those into a “my favorite wp themes in 2022” style blog post. Its clear to me that there is a need for something in this space.

No reason you can’t have both and I agree they’re complimentary.

We’re planning something similar with an educational surveillance observatory. People can submit small bits of structured content like personal stories, news coverage, published research, social media posts, etc. Those bits will help drive larger summary articles, additional research, etc.

I tend to think through a site like this starting with workflows and metadata (makes me popular at parties). How do people look for sites? What information do we need on the submissions? How do we keep that bar as low as possible?

Long term, a site like this for new people could help them understand their own needs/preferences based on their individual goals. That’s what I tend to do in conversations. It’s some balance between educating them about possibilities and giving them the language to express their preferences. Showing examples and restricting choices based on a progression would be a fun thing to make.

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