On November 13, the Gutenberg team launched version 6.9 with several features, most of which were aimed at developers. Users can now add custom image title attributes. Plugin developers can start diving into the new Block Patterns API. Plus, theme authors can begin tinkering with the experimental gradient presets and block templates features.

Gutenberg 6.9 fixed numerous bugs, including an annoying invalid content error when selecting a color for the pullquote block. The update included several enhancements and changes to the underlying codebase.

Much of the work in version 6.9 went toward experimental features, including the navigation block. At this point, the nav block still needs a ton of work for practical use. The interface is still a bit clunky. Undoubtedly, this is one of the toughest user experience challenges to solve and will take time before it is ready for widespread usage. Right now, it is about continually iterating upon the work from previous versions.

Image Title Attribute Field

gutenberg-image-title-field Gutenberg 6.9 Introduces Image Titles, Block Patterns, and New Theme Features design tips News|gutenberg
Editing the image title field in Gutenberg.

The ability to add image titles is perhaps the biggest user-facing feature added in Gutenberg 6.9. The original ticket for adding the feature has been simmering for over a year.

The Gutenberg team added the title field under the “Advanced” tab when editing an image block. This was a smart decision because image titles are often used incorrectly to describe an image, which is the job of the “Alt Text” field located under the “Image Settings” tab. Image titles are also generally unnecessary. When used, they should describe the role of the image on the page.

Initial Block Patterns API Merged

gutenberg-block-patterns Gutenberg 6.9 Introduces Image Titles, Block Patterns, and New Theme Features design tips News|gutenberg
Choosing a column layout in the block editor.

The Block Patterns API is a developer feature primarily for creating initial setup states for complex blocks. For example, the columns block has several common patterns that users may want to choose. By providing those patterns when first inserting a block, the user does not have to go through the routine of configuring all of the settings for it.

The idea is to cut back on the complexities of configuring some blocks so that users can more quickly get to the point of adding their custom content and getting their desired results.

The first step toward the Block Patterns API was merged into Gutenberg 6.9, but it is still in the experimental stage at this point.

Block Gradient Presets

gutenberg-gradient-presets Gutenberg 6.9 Introduces Image Titles, Block Patterns, and New Theme Features design tips News|gutenberg
Adding a gradient background to a button in Gutenberg.

Gutenberg introduced gradient backgrounds in version 6.7 for the button block. The feature launched with a set of gradients that did not match users’ themes, which meant the feature was little more than a fun experiment.

In version 6.9, developers can register custom gradients that are less of an eyesore by using colors that fit into the theme’s color palette.

Currently, block gradient presets are marked as an experimental feature and use the __experimental-editor-gradient-presets theme support flag. Now is a good time for theme authors to begin exploring this feature so they can be ready when the experimental flag is removed.

Block Templates for Themes

For theme authors, block templates were the most exciting aspect of Gutenberg’s potential when it first launched. Throughout all of WordPress’ history, creating custom page templates, particularly front page templates, has been an exercise in frustration. Theme authors have always had great ideas about what their themes’ front pages should look like. In a way, it is an author’s signature on a theme project. It is often what sets one theme apart from another.

However, creating an interface that allows users to change what is traditionally a blog post list to something more ornate and complex is not an easy thing to do. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of varying implementations are currently in the wild, each with their take on how to create a custom front page.

Enter Gutenberg. Theme authors, regardless of whether they love or hate it, usually see the potential of a block-based editor in terms of laying out a front page. The idea of having complete control over where specific blocks sit and how they appear on the front end is an alluring one, especially if there is a standardized experience for users to figure out how to plug their content into the blocks.

Gutenberg 6.9 laid the groundwork toward this reality by resolving block templates from a theme’s /block-templates folder.

At this point, theme block templates are still in the experimental stage as part of the full site editing feature. From a theme development perspective, this could be revolutionary.