Navigation Screen Sidelined for WordPress 5.6, Full-Site Editing Edges Closer to Public Beta

The new block-based navigation screen is once again delayed after it was originally slated for WordPress 5.5 and then put on deck for 5.6. Contributors have confirmed that it will not be landing in WordPress core until 2021 at the earliest.

“The Navigation screen is still in experimental state in the Gutenberg plugin, so it hasn’t had any significant real-world use and testing yet,” Editor Tech Lead Isabel Brison said. She made the call to remove it from the 5.6 lineup after the feature missed the deadline for bringing it out of the experimental state. It still requires a substantial amount of development work and accessibility feedback before moving forward.

Contributors will focus instead on making sure the Widgets screen gets out the door for 5.6 and plan to pick up again on Navigation towards the end of November.

WordPress 5.6 lead Josepha Haden gave an update this week on the progress of all the anticipated features, including the planned public beta for full-site editing (FSE).

“I don’t expect FSE to be feature complete by the time WP5.6 is released,” Haden said. “What I expect is that FSE will be functional for simple, routine user flows, which we can start testing and iterating on. That feedback will also help us more confidently design and build our complex user flows.”

Frank Klein, an engineer at Human Made, asked in the comments of another update why full-site editing is being tied to 5.6 progress in the first place, since it will still only be available in the plugin at the time of release.

“The main value is that it provides a good checkpoint along the path of FSE’s development,” Kjell Reigstad said. “Full-site editing is very much in progress. It is still experimental, but the general approach is coming into view, and becoming clearer with every plugin release.”

Reigstad posted an update on what developers can expect regarding block-based theming and the upcoming release, since the topic is closely tied to full-site editing. He emphasized that the infrastructure is already in place and that, despite it still being experimental, future block-based themes should work in a similar way to how they are working now.

“The focus is now shifting towards polishing the user experience: using the site editor to create templates, using the query block, iterating on the post and site blocks, and implementing the Global Styles UI,” Reigstad said.

“The main takeaway is that when 5.6 is released, the full-site editing feature set will look similar to where it is today, with added polish to the UI, and additional features in the Query block.”

Theme authors are entering a new time of uncertainty and transition, but Reigstad reassured the community that themes as we know them today are not on track to be phased out in the immediate future.

“There is currently no plan to deprecate the way themes are built today,” Reigstad said. “Your existing themes will continue to work as they always have for the foreseeable future.” He also encouraged contributors to get involved in an initiative to help theme authors transition to block-based themes. (This project is not targeted for the 5.6 release.)

Developers can follow important FSE project milestones on GitHub, and subscribe to the weekly Gutenberg + Themes updates to track progress on block-based theming. A block-based version of the Twenty Twenty-One theme is in the works and should pick up steam after 5.6 beta 1, expected on October 20.

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