WordPress.org template builder is now open to the public – WP Tavern

The WordPress Template Directory finally opened its doors to the entire community today. Anyone with a WordPress.org account can log in, access the template builder, and start designing.

For some of us, it felt like an unbearably long wait. In fact, it took the development team less than a year since the launch of the directory to put this in place. It was no small feat to make it work and put all the safeguards in place for such a system in that time frame.

Some members of the community already have a head start. Ana Segota from Anariel Design announced by Twitter that three of his models had already landed. “More to come soon,” she said.

Showcases a specific author's block patterns from the block-pattern directory.  Displays three models in a grid.
Patterns by Anariel Design.

The Template Directory has the potential to be an on-ramp for creators who want to contribute to the WordPress project but don’t know where to start. The barrier to entry is one of the lowest in the community. There is no need to write code or understand all the intricacies of theme design. It’s nowhere near as complex as developing plugins. It’s simply a visual builder that allows art to be shared with the world.

I have no idea where this thing is going. I hope to see thousands of models in the directory within a year.

I had a small role in building two of the initial models last year. I was excited about the potential of the repertoire and happy to contribute in any way. However, I wasn’t completely satisfied with the process because I didn’t have the creative freedom I wanted.

For example, my vision of an “about me” column template had turned into something completely different:

Final pattern of cards about me.

By the time it was added to the repertoire, there was hardly anyone from me in it. The first designs that were launched were carefully selected, and that was OK. It was more about providing users with production-ready templates at the time, and I knew WordPress.org would open it up eventually.

Today I started working again, reconstructing my original “about me” model. I made some changes as we now have new spacing controls. And the built-in search powered by Openverse didn’t seem to locate some of my early images, although they were available through the Openverse site. Nonetheless, it’s a work in progress:

Inside the WordPress template builder.  The content canvas displays three columns with the about, contact, and follow-up sections.
Build with the new pattern builder.

Users can also save draft templates. So if you want to try your hand at designing one but you don’t know if you can finish it in one sitting or you don’t have a complete idea, you don’t have to worry about wasting work . You can save it and retrieve it later from your templates page.

The pattern maker runs Twenty Twenty-One under the hood. The classic theme has some quirks, CSS that often overrules the core WordPress styles. I would have preferred to see Twenty Twenty-Two because it sticks much more to the global style standard. At least people who want to try designing offsite will be able to experiment with a similar setup.

Templates should, ideally, be theme-agnostic. However, in practice, the theme that features these templates – Twenty Twenty-One in this case – can make or break a design. Creators shouldn’t design specifically for it, but they should at least verify its output.

Using the template builder is simple. It’s just an instance of the block editor with some directory-specific changes. It also provides a quick welcome screen:

Welcome popup to template editor on WordPress.org.  He teaches what the creator is.
Pattern Maker welcome screen.

Overall, my experience was relatively smooth for a day 1 launch. Most of the issues I encountered were with image search. It sometimes timed out and filtering images wasn’t a perfect experience. Although it’s powered by Openverse, it doesn’t offer the same filtering tools.

Hopefully the pattern maker will eventually link to the WordPress photo directory. The built-in search is a handy tool, but sometimes you have to sift through dozens or hundreds of outdated images to find something worth using. The photo directory is fresh and modern. Additionally, we should prioritize the work of those who contribute to WordPress.

There are still many open tickets for the Template Directory, and it will no doubt evolve based on feedback and usage. However, this is a solid launch from the template builder. Kudos to everyone who made this possible.

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