Building a Homepage with GenerateBlocks

This article sits alongside another one, “Building My “Standard” Demo Site“, as I thought it was worth going into more detail about the homepage of my Standard demo website.

The Standard website uses the GeneratePress theme and the GeneratePress Premium plugin, but I’ve built the homepage using just core WordPress blocks and the free versions of the GenerateBlocks and Kadence Blocks plugins.

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Experimenting with WordPress Image Sizes

As a general rule, it’s a good idea to keep images as small as possible because loading large images will slow a site down. However, they should never be uploaded with a smaller size, in pixels, than the size at which they will be displayed. For example, if an image is 600px wide but it is enlarged to stretch across the full width of the screen then it will look terrible.

The difficulty is that you need to balance “as small as possible” with your desire to display high quality images and you should take into account the purpose of the image. It will be important that the images in a photographer’s portfolio look fantastic, but if all you are doing is using a picture of a sundial to illustrate a blog post on time managment, then you may not be so fussy.

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A Simple Page Layout With GenerateBlocks

About 10 months ago I wrote a blog post, “A Simple Page Layout with the WordPress Block Editor”, as an exercise to compare using just the block editor versus using the block editor plus one of a couple of plugins; Stackable and Kadence Blocks. I concluded that:

The Stackable and Kadence Blocks plugins both made building my page a bit quicker and allowed me to make the site look more interesting without using code, but it was pretty straightforward to build the page using just standard WordPress blocks.

Since then, the blocks plugin I have used most often has been Kadence Blocks.

Now that GenerateBlocks has been released by Tom Usborne, the developer of my favourite theme, GeneratePress, I wanted to try building the same layout with this new plugin for the WordPress block editor. Note that GenerateBlocks can be used with any theme, not just with GeneratePress, although there are some features that are designed to work hand in hand with the GeneratePress theme.

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Adding and Moving WordPress Blocks

I decided to make a very brief video demonstrating some basic methods used when building a page with the WordPress block editor.

One of the most useful features is block navigation; that little icon up towards the left hand corner of the screen. It’s easy to lose track of which block you have selected. Block navigation shows you where you are and helps you move to the next block that you want to use, by clicking on it in the dropdown list.

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A Simple Page Layout with the WordPress Block Editor

Around 18 months ago, I wrote a blog post, Alternatives to WordPress Page Builders, to see how easy it was to build a page with a specific layout. At the start of that post I said:

Page Builders have become so popular that sometimes new WordPress users get the impression that they are expected to use one. My own view is that it’s best to keep things simple and use a page builder only if you have a need for it. However, there’s no doubt that, compared to “drag and drop” website builders, WordPress can be frustrating when it comes to laying out a page.

I found that it was possible, but quite tricky, to get the exact page layout that I was aiming for. I followed this with another post, A Look at WordPress Page Builders, at the end of which I concluded:

If you are new to WordPress, don’t think that you have to use a page builder. Learn what can be done just using the WordPress editor first, and add a page builder plugin only if you have a need for one. Don’t use it on every page and post just for the sake of it… Having said all that, during my research for this post, I began to see the value of page builders, both for speeding up development and for making a site look more polished.

Now that the new WordPress block editor (a.k.a. Gutenberg) has been released, I want to repeat this exercise to see whether it’s now easier to set out a page, using just the block editor without a separate page builder plugin.

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A Look at Some WordPress Photo Gallery Plugins

For this article, I experimented with a few different gallery and slideshow plugins:

I didn’t come up with a definitive “best” plugin, but I can tell you that personally, if I want a simple gallery I tend to choose Meow Gallery. If I need something with a few more bells and whistles, I’ll go with FooGallery.

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Adding a Row of Image Links with the WordPress Block Editor

Some time ago, I wrote a blog post giving instructions for adding a row of image links to a WordPress website. The methods I described should still work, but now that the new WordPress block editor (a.k.a. “Gutenberg”) has been released, I would expect it to be easier to carry out this task without using the plugins I had looked at before.

I thought I’d write a new post to give an update in the light of the changes, and this accidentally turned into a mini review of some third party blocks plugins.

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Self-hosted WordPress Versus WordPress.com

One of my favourite ways to think about the difference between WordPress.com and self-hosted WordPress is to compare building a website to building with lego bricks.

If you choose WordPress.com it’s like being given a basic bucket of lego bricks and a solid table, in a secure room, to build on.

You can build for free but your table will have advertising posters displayed on its side and you have no control over which adverts are pasted there. You’ll be able to invite friends to come round and admire your model, but the address on the invitation (your domain name) will include the word “WordPress”. There will be a range of different WordPress themes you can use (I’m not sure how that fits the lego analogy) but you can’t install your own.

Buying the relatively cheap Personal plan allows you to get rid of the adverts and the WordPress name in your address (although there will still be a discrete WordPress logo which I believe applies to all the paid plans).

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WordPress Website Checklist

This article lists the steps I take when setting up a WordPress website. I’ve included links to some of the plugins I use, and to helpful articles with more comprehensive instructions. I’m not claiming this is all necessarily best practice, but it’s what I do.

I have also written an article titled ‘Building My “Standard” Demo Site‘ to explain how I’ve built a website using the GeneratePress theme.

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