Two author bio block mock-ups compared.
Joshua Wold, co-representative for the WordPress design team, shared an early exploration of an author card block. Community members explored several ideas at the design table during the contributor day at WordCamp US 2019. In the post, Wold followed up on the original sketches from that melding of design minds.
The original idea for the author block was a GitHub ticket created in July 2017, but it was far ahead of its time. The Gutenberg project needed to focus on the basics and more common blocks for post content at that point. Now is the time to shift gears and begin work on these more complex blocks that will likely be a large part of the full-site editing phase of the project.
Currently, there are several proposed components to the author block:
- Website Link
- Social Network Links
- Recommended Posts
I am on the fence about a recommended posts option as part of the block. If they were recommended posts written by that author, it could be an interesting concept to explore. However, version 1 of the block should focus on the most common elements, which the other components in the list cover.
Wold asked four key questions about the future of the block. The following are my responses to each.
What Is the Value of the Block and How Will It Be Used?
Coming from the theme world, what surprises me is that WordPress has never standardized on this feature at this point. Author bio sections are commonplace in theme development. Core should have standardized this feature years ago. We have a standard search form, comment list, featured image, and more. Many of the features that WordPress has standardized over the years were born out of theme designers carving the path forward, and author bios are no different.
It has long made sense for an author bio template tag to exist. However, we are living in a block world. The concept has merely shifted.
We do not need an author bio block today. We will need it tomorrow. As we shift closer and closer to full-site editing, we need to be building, iterating, and testing these types of blocks in preparation for the point of no return. This block, along with similar blocks, should drop in core at the same time the switch is flipped on full-site editing.
The primary use case will be for end-users to edit their theme’s block templates to stick the author bio at the end of their single post views. However, such a block need not be limited to that scenario. Users could create a “team” or “authors” page on their site. Some may want to drop these into columns or create some sort of gallery of author bios.
I could see taking this even further and naming it a “user bio” block. Use cases do not have to be centered around the concept of an author.
Where Should the Author Data Come From?
The primary, or at least initial, source of data should come from user data and metadata stored in the database. It does not make sense to duplicate efforts by retyping content within the block if it already exists.
One big question will be around social icons. If these are a part of the block, there is no current source to pull the URLs from. If automatically generating the data, WordPress will need to add social media contact methods to the user profile screen in the admin. That can be a slippery slope when deciding which social networks to include. However, core WordPress could stick to three or four major networks and provide a filter hook for plugin authors to utilize along with a standard for how additional fields are handled.
There is also the possibility that this block could simply be a pre-defined pattern of existing, smaller blocks that pulled in data like a user biography, user social icons, and user avatar. Then, the site owner could move other blocks in and out as they saw fit.
What Block Design Options Should Be Available?
The obvious design options are the standard text color, background color, and font size options. Border design options would be a bonus, but that goes beyond the scope of this specific block.
The standard alignment options would be welcome, particularly center, wide, and full. An alignment option for the avatar image to shift it left or right could also be useful. It could work similarly to the existing Media & Text core block.
I would not go overboard with design options. Let theme authors create custom block styles for users to choose from. That is the theme author’s job.
What Additional Features Should the Block Handle?
Outside of an avatar and biography, a social icon list is the most necessary feature. It is almost ubiquitous with author bio boxes.
What I would like to see is an author/user “gallery” block that builds upon this initial idea. At the moment, I am already imagining the painful user experience of creating a team page and putting individual user bio blocks into columns. Then, I am further imagining having to update that page and potentially move columns around. As an end-user, there are times when I want to micro-manage certain aspects of my site. This would not be one of them. Just give me a simple block to list user bios in some sort of columnized format.
Such a block could provide an avenue for many types of options. Maybe an option to list authors of a certain post type. Perhaps an option to list users by role. Or, let me list the top users by post count.
This idea may be pushing over into plugin territory. However, in terms of what I would want to do with my sites, this would be high on the list.