Episode 54: Ryan Lawrence: WordPress Full-site Editing, the Impact on Existing or Future Client Sites & Projects

Listen on:


In this episode, Ryan Lawrence joins us again to discuss WordPress Full-site editing (FSE) and its impact on existing or future client sites and projects. Both Ryan and I service clients and other agencies that use WordPress. In fact, for both of us, the vast majority of our clients have WordPress sites or build them.

But a lot has been changing with WordPress. And the reality is the separation between the ‘ideal roadmap’ for WordPress' development team (their vision) and the Real-Life application – how it’s actually used on a day-to-day basis – is bigger than ever.

As developers we have to be prepared for almost everything; there are endless ways to actually develop a site with WordPress.. and the reality is many of our existing clients and projects will have a slower, gradual adoption of FSE – if they do at all. Having said that though, new clients and new projects, complete redesigns.. that’s where the opportunities to build FSE themes really exist. So much to dig into here from the trenches.. enjoy the episode!

Ryan Lawrence

Ryan Lawrence is a freelance web developer specializing in custom WordPress development, plugins, and themes.

Ryan Lawrence is a freelance web developer specializing in custom WordPress development, plugins, and themes. He has over 17 years of experience working with WordPress, since its humble days as a blogging platform. He has worked with companies, nonprofits, and individuals of all kinds, from Fortune 500 companies to his next-door neighbor.

Ryan lives in the Philadelphia area, but works with clients across the US and abroad. He shares a house with four cats, but still somehow manages to get work done.


  • Intro
    • How we know each other
    • We built themes together at Rapid Crush (part of a 5-6 person team of designers/devs I hired..)
    • As a team leader.. building great relationships that last AFTER the ‘job’.
  • When bad things happen, we keep moving forward.
  • Full-site Editing Themes (FSE) & Gutenberg
    • WordPress 5.9 – FSE happened.. everything’s a block
      • Site Editor – including the Footers and Headers, menus!
    • THE IMPACT on existing clients
  • His experience with the client perspective
    • The divergence from the ‘ideal roadmap’ for WordPress development team (their vision) and then the Real Life application – how it’s actually used on a day to day basis.
      • The ideal is often divorced from how it’s being used today.
    • It will be a slow adoption process.
    • From blogging platform to CMS ..
      • the Divide between editing side and front-end
      • Wasn’t necessarily intuitive
    • FSE / Gutenberg.. brings things back into line to a 1 to 1 experience. Brings editing to the front-end.
    • People had gotten used to the split .. distinct editor.
      • Makes it difficult to make the transition.
      • A lot of his legacy sites.. a lot of those aren’t even using Gutenberg yet! On the classic editor.
    • It will be a marathon, not a sprint.
      • Gradual Adoption
  • WordPress hitting 30% of all sites before block editing..
    • The evolution of WordPress
    • Watching Matt Mullenweg's vision ..
      • How the ran the transition
  • Matt’s experience.. what his clients are using.
    • This is a big shift.. a whole new way to develop and manage a theme.
    • Hexater – legacy themes.. closing it down.
      • Big part of it was THIS shift.
    • Elementor’s move to providing pre-installed, hosted services
    • Some agencies are only building ‘classic’ WordPress. This is our way.
    • Backward compatibility / Highly flexible – you can do whatever you want.
  • We’re not locked into doing it the WordPress-way
    • There is room for different philosophies
    • We’ll all be on different parts of the dev path over the years..
    • It’s not just is your site using WordPress.. it’s how is your site using WordPress?
  • Matt’s example of a client’s WordPress site..
    • What was going to be the best path to develop their site..
      • Starting over.. New theme vs transitioning to a better situation step by step..? (23)
        • This client won’t just convert over to FSE right away or build a new theme .. they have to much revenue, too many sales.. to many details to warrant it. It may take years to transition.
    • HOWever.. new clients! That are on board with blocks..
      • And want to start from scratch – or can.
  • Room for caution and innovation – knowing where a client fits.
  • What is a WordPress developers ..
    • People that make fun of WP devs.. don’t know what the reality is.
      • We have to be very skilled because of the array of things we have to deal with.
      • Every WP sites are built differently .. you have to be prepared for almost anything? Especially custom builds.
  • One of the benefits of building a FSE theme to ‘sell’.. as a product.
    • It’s a good learning tool to prepare for future client projects that use blocks/fse.
    • Educating ourselves on the fly
  • WP Devs have to be flexible and versatile
  • A WordPress theme can be anything design-wise..
    • There’s nothing you can’t do.
    • Seeing WordPress as just a framework.
    • Related to ACF
    • Working with another agency.. on a client.
      • Still on classic editor.
      • Proprietary frameworks.. that needs a revamp. In patching mode.
    • Creating new landing pages.
      • Usually means page template + utilize ACF (Advanced Custom Fields)
      • What is ACF?
    • BUT.. working with another dev team.
      • Kick off call – the plan.. with ACF.
      • When the other team heard ACF, the other team has a very negative reaction. :slight_smile:
      • Was surprised because he thought ACF’s rep was positive.
      • Why? Not all ACF is good ACF.
        • There are bad implementations.
        • eg, raw html in a field.
        • Which we do see in the classic editor too sometimes.
    • Communicating and working with the other team to compromise .. showing them the positive aspects of using it. Or other optinos.
    • The takeaway – there are many ways to see a situation. Important to maintain flexibility.. different solutions for different sites.
    • There isn’t one universal right answer.
      • What’s right for the site?
      • What’s right for the people that are going to be editing the site?
      • What’s right for the people that are developing the site?
    • THAT takes communication and flexibility to find a solution that works for everybody.
  • When working with another team.
    • Leaving their ego at the door.
    • Being more opened minded when working with other developers / should go both ways.
  • Some clients have ‘their’ way of doing things.
  • The future of meta-boxes, the customizer.. never know what the future looks like with WordPress :wink:
    • Hiding widgets, the customizer ..
    • One of the early design decisions with Hexater themes .. was the customizer was the FUTURE.
      • We went all in.
    • The preview in the customizer .. that was a good way to update content so the updates could be see live.
  • Matt thought the roadmap would include the customizer .. that’s where it would go. They would adapt it.
  • Wrapping it up..
    • Ryan’s happy to be in the web dev chat rotation
Matt Levenhagen
Latest posts by Matt Levenhagen (see all)


    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Recent Episodes

    Please check out the latest podcast episodes below!

    Unified Web Design

    Translating your brand’s vision into code.

    Learn more