Should the “Page” in WordPress be the new default?

WordPress is so post-centric it can almost drive you crazy. Posts are great, and the template hierarchy is amazing, but what if WordPress could drastically reimagine it’s relationship to pages, perhaps even making the “page” the default experience for a new WordPress website.

(This is a thought experiment, more of a conversation starter than anything else, so don’t take it too seriously.)

Let’s make “page” the default post type in WordPress- and make posts (and all that come with them) opt-in.

The “Front Page” Experience

Look at the home page of the TwentyTwentyFour theme (click to expand):

It has a “sort of home page” experience. It tries to be a landing page but is actually the blog page with a little Query Loop tucked all the way at the bottom.

What happens when you have more than 12 posts and click through to page 2? The mountains of content show up again and I guess the user needs to scroll down to find it. (Granted this is slightly relieved by the adoption of the Interactivity API and dynamic content updates in the Query Loop, though that doesn’t solve direct linking to /page/2).

I’m a big fan of the TT4 theme, but are there actual website homepages built like this: a massive landing page that sits on top of the actual blog?

I understand that the design team was working within the constraints of the current system, and that’s my point. This clearly should not be the default experience for WordPress. It’s time to evolve.

Instead of WordPress starting with a blog/index.php for the home page and a “Sample Page” that you always forget to delete, why not start with a populated page called “Home” that is actually set to be the home page of the website?

Goodbye Frontpage.html

I know what you’re thinking, that’s what the frontpage.html template is for. But it’s become increasingly clear that block theme developers are by and large not using it. The biggest issue, from what I can understand, is that it places content inside of a template, not inside of page content. That distinction has consequences. It’s really hard for average users to disable or even modify without understanding the intricacies of the site editor. (And can editor-level users even edit it?)

A default “Home” page with a predefined set of blocks would be perfect, especially because those blocks would work with any block theme! (And there could even be an option for block themes to swap the default content out on activation if the blocks haven’t been edited yet).

And you know what – we could even have a Query Loop block in that default home page template showing the three most recent posts. It would be much more intuitive than the current Sample Page with the mind-bending instructions:

This is an example page. It’s different from a blog post because it will stay in one place and will show up in your site navigation (in most themes). Most people start with an About page that introduces them to potential site visitors.

“Stay in one place”? Huh?

The Problem of Page Templates

Let’s take it further – let’s imagine if pages defaulted to not having a template at all.

Instead, pages would lean into patterns, with partially-synced patterns inside the content area offering the opportunity to have a templated experience. This would also solve the issue of users getting confused and building all of their pages as custom page templates with actual content inside of them (this is a real workflow that happens for new users).

As the great unification happens, the experience of editing a page template and a page’s content at the same time is only getting more confusing. There’s a number of open issues in Gutenberg trying to solve this, but the reality is that the pages don’t really function like posts. And the overall goal of editing a page exactly the way it looks on the front of your website is ideal, even if the current experience is not.

Pages don’t always want a title, featured image, and a column of content. In fact, the h1 of a page is very often not the same thing as the page’s title. We need pages to be more fluid than that. This wasn’t really an issue in the classic theme days, but the page-centric mindset of tools like Squarespace, Framer, or Webflow makes a lot of sense to users who are not bloggers.

And get rid of posts while you’re at it.

Ok. Don’t really get rid of posts. But maybe… do?

Imagine if posts were optional. A WordPress site with no posts means no tags, no categories, no comments, no date archives, no author archives, no index. Just pages of content as a default experience. Clicking the “New” button in the admin bar makes a new… page.

Imagine all the UI cruft we could get rid of for WordPress sites that don’t ever plan to use a blog.

And then for more sophisticated users, Posts and CPTs can be enabled and archives and templates set up and designed more effectively. Doesn’t that sound like more realistic use case for building a website this decade?

OK, so I know this is a pipe dream, but man, can’t you imagine how much simpler the WordPress experience could be if “having a blog” was opt in instead of (impossible to) opt out? Need eCommerce? Install a plugin. Need a blog? Enable it (perhaps via a one-click setting that actually installs a canonical plugin that really just turns on a filter in core).

How strong of a signal would that send to the broader web that WordPress isn’t “just for blogging” anymore?

I know that it doesn’t solve a lot of the problems around complexity – we still need to make template editing easier in WordPress for those situations where posts and post types are being used. But am I crazy here in saying that this would make life easier for the majority of new WordPress installations?

6 responses to “Should the “Page” in WordPress be the new default?”

  1. Neil Murray Avatar

    I’ve always seen the separation of Posts & Pages as illogical. Most new WordPress users find the distinction confusing.

    I know it’s there because of the history of WordPress. Pages were added as a major innovation early on in – previously there was only Posts.

    With the switch to Block & Site Editing the distinction between Pages & Posts is unnecessary. Add Categories & Tags to Pages & the difference disappears.

    Make the current Classic approach readily available to users who don’t want any change & remove the distinction between Pages & Posts in the Phase 3 WP Admin update.

    1. Brian Coords Avatar
      Brian Coords

      I think there’s still a lot of value in treating posts and pages separate. Posts include comments, categories, archives, date-based permalinks, etc. They’re just not necessary for every website.

  2. Trevor Robertson Avatar

    I wish you’d never written this….Because now I don’t know how I can go on with this not being a reality since it would be so amazing! 🙂 In all seriousness, this is terrific and thank you for getting this idea out there.

    I’ll take it one step further and say this idea of “Page” being the new default and “blog” stuff being opt-in could be part of a “WordPress Next Generation” quantum leap. By that I mean it would be a new version of WP where backward compatibility would start over again. I really wonder how much WordPress Core and Block/Site Editor development is held back by the need for never ending backward compatibility? Is full BC really necessary or just dogma at this point? How many people really need their WP 3.1 site to still work today, and are they even using the block editor?

    Don’t get me wrong, I love WP and the Block/Site Editor. I’ve been a WP dev since before WP 3.0 would would love to see the current stagnation of market share growth end and for another big increase to begin.

    1. Brian Coords Avatar
      Brian Coords

      The block editor is not really backwards compatible. Yes WordPress itself is very backwards compatible but the block editor was a bold step forward that doesn’t support a lot of classic features (menus, widgets, etc). So I think there are ways to make a major change to WordPress while still allowing people to use it exactly the way they have been in the past.

  3. Yochai Glik Avatar

    Nice thinking, I also think that the post centric software have evolved long ago to something more abstract than “just a blog”.

    How about creating a plugin that does exactly what you are suggesting?

    1. Brian Coords Avatar
      Brian Coords

      There are some plugins out there to do things like disable comments and tags. You can use a plugin to hide posts in the sidebar and redirect away from the post edit screen, but you can’t actually turn posts or the need for a complicated template hierarchy “off” in WordPress.

      What I’m talking about is a structural change to the default WordPress experience, where you could turn these features ‘on’ instead of turning them ‘off’.

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