I recently shared some blue sky ideas on the future of block-theme switching. This week, I wanted to come back down from the clouds to propose some more practical first steps towards enabling site designs that mix and match styles and layouts from different block themes. Out of the three directions shared previously, I focused on the first approach that’s closest to the current theme switching flow.
When switching from one block theme to another, the Customizer Live Preview screen could be replaced with an alternate screen: a live preview of the site paired with a new “Activation” panel.
Like the multi-entity saving panel, the Activation panel is a sidebar that sits in front of the top bar. It reuses some components and UI patterns from the Global Styles panel — for example, it’s made up of an overview panel and nested panels that are accessible through “drill-down” navigation.
Gutenberg top bar
I also explored potential updates to the pages within the Appearance/Themes section, where a Gutenberg top bar could be added to the page while leaving the page content like theme tiles and notices mostly unchanged.
Why should the Appearance/Themes pages use Gutenberg components, wouldn’t that make this section look like a standalone editor?
If we want to tie the theme switching experience closely together with the site editing experience, it would help if the Themes section at least speaks the language of an editor. Ultimately, I’m hopeful that these changes can help create a pathway for weaving the different aspects of site design together more seamlessly in the future.
That being said, an actual MVP might look something like this — it’s a little more disjointed but still gets you from point A to point B: