Customizable WordPress Patterns Emerge

An Important Feature Where Designers and Developers Can Offer Enhanced Creativity for Website Content Editors

As WordPress core continues to evolve from Gutenberg to Full Site Editing and new creative tools emerge, WordPress Patterns are taking the spotlight. A handful of plugin developers nudge the big picture a tad further by adding tools to create customizable patterns. This development connects designers and developers with their content editors to enable enhanced creativity, maintain continuity and branding, while speeding up the process of producing quality content specific to an individual website.

Graphic User Interface displaying pattern options

What are Patterns In WordPress?

First a quick summary of content evolution since the entrance of Gutenberg Blocks in 2018.

When the Gutenberg Editor replaced the familiar TinyMCE editor, website editors needed to make a shift in their creative thinking process. Headings, paragraphs, and images became “blocks” and additional blocks emerged over time to help organize and present these familiar elements of web content in new and creative ways.

Blocks were popping up all over the place. More blocks arrived to help manage these. Blocks upon blocks upon blocks were to abound within the web page.

At the same time, web design was shifting from the familiar layout of heading-content-footer (with our beloved sidebars) to thinking in terms of page sections. Some design ideas with their roots reaching back over a decade were moving into prominence. To accommodate this thinking, WordPress introduced the idea of “patterns” as collections of these “blocks” of content within a page.

Enter the WordPress Repository of Patterns

Sometime around May of 2022, WordPress produced a repository of Patterns, blocks of content, to fill page sections. Creative content poured in from the WordPress community as WordPress offered ways to share your own content ideas with the world at large. This wealth of patterns was organized by means of categories and keywords and became readily available to any WordPress website using the Gutenberg Block Editor.

pattern choices visually laid out in a grid

How to Maintain Continuity with So Many Pattern Options

Designers and developers needed ways to guide content editors so they could easily add beautiful, meaningful, and effective content while staying within the parameters of the website design and branding. The website’s stylesheets helped considerably but were out of sight and could be overridden by an editor’s momentary decisions.

Graphic user interface of consistantly styled patterns

Custom color palettes emerged to guide color choices for buttons, text, backgrounds, and more. With the help of a simple plugin, we now can create customized patterns to help editors make guided choices for sections, even complete pages, quickly and easily.

A List of Free Plugins to Help Designers and Developers Offer the Consistency Editors Need

How Do These Plugins Work?

Each one of these plugins adds an extra item in the WordPress dashboard menu related to Patterns. They also follow WordPress’s use of organizing pattern options by categories. Some but not all accommodate WordPress’s use of keywords and descriptions to make the editor’s job easier. See this list of features broken down between the above list of plugins. Please note that these plugins are relatively new and will likely evolve to better work with patterns or WordPress may add this functionality to its own core as some of the plugin developers have suggested.

Case Example: Control Block Patterns by SenseFlame

Again, please note that all these plugins are similar in nature and this is not intended as a recommendation, simply as an example.

Creating and editing patterns with these plugins is much like creating a WordPress post or page. In fact, patterns in WordPress behave much like custom post types. If you’re familiar with custom post types, this will make sense. If not, no worries. The implementation of custom patterns is as easy as creating posts or pages.

Login, install one of the plugins, and visit the WordPress dashboard to find a new button in the left vertical menu related to Patterns (see below). This looks very much like adding or editing posts or pages.

pattern dashboard

See the example below of the pattern editing window. Just as with pages and posts, you have access to all Gutenberg blocks available in your site. Simply add the combination of blocks of content you think your site editors would need to make their job easier.

editing window for WordPress patterns, similar to post or page editors.

Site Editors Can Be Given Access to Previously Created Page Sections

Did you spend hours tweaking and finessing a certain page section that is impossible to expect site editors to properly select-copy-paste from one page to another? You can set this up for them by replicating specific content sections into custom patterns. Then, genericize or dummify your text to avoid confusion or duplicate content. Now your site editors have an easy path to reuse this valuable, specifically crafted content.

Site Editors Now Have Access to Specifically Crafted Patterns

  1. Choose to add content with blue plus button:
add content
  1. Select Patterns / Choose Category / Choose Pattern:
choose patterns / category / individual pattern
  1. Pattern is inserted and ready to edit:
pattern is ready to edit

How Do Patterns Differ from Reusable Blocks?

Patterns and Reusable Blocks exist for multiple application throughout a website but for very different purposes. The Reusable Block is a globally applied block of content while patterns are generically used templates.

If you edit a Reusable Block anywhere on the site, the change is applied to the same block globally and every instance of that block will change throughout the entire site. This is handy for keeping very specifically focused content updated.

Patterns are not globally linked and are edited independently from other content throughout the website. Patterns are simply templates and are intended for consistent application of design (layouts, colors, etc.) and therefore should contain obviously generic copy that doesn’t target or imply a specific use.

But Page Builders Have Done This Already

That is a true statement and a plus for page builders in general. Page builders have forced WordPress to look at its core methods and features and push its own boundaries beyond its comfort zone. You like pagebuilders? Use ’em!! This article wouldn’t be written without your pioneering work. Come to think of it, we’re all pioneers when we look back. WordPress Patterns meld with the Gutenberg Block universe as well as Full Site Editing and Classic WordPress themes. Choose your path, enjoy your journey. I hope this article is helpful.