Skatepark is a bold and vibrant block theme for events and organizations – WP Tavern

Automattic’s skatepark landed in the WordPress.org theme directory on Monday. It was designed for modern events and organizations, but it should work well for many sites with a small amount of customization.

For those counting, this is number 52 on the long road to the 3,000 themes project manager Matt Mullenweg is hoping for before the collaboration phase of Project Gutenberg. The pace has picked up in recent months, but the less-cited figure of 300 seems more realistic.

One thing seems inevitable. The Automattic theme team will continue to release new block themes. Skatepark is now on its 10th contribution, almost a fifth of the total available on WordPress.org.

With the release of the Blockbase theme last year, I expected most of Automattic’s theme releases to become child themes of it. They would be slight variations on that same design, never really pushing the envelope. After all, that’s how most of their block themes seemed to unfold. However, the last three versions of the theme team have been self-contained. Skatepark exited child-themed status just eight days ago.

I love seeing this approach. Child theming can have its limits, often putting designers in unnecessary boxes. The latest team theme was to be released to do its own thing.

If there was one theme design that marched to the beat of its own drum, it would be Skatepark.

The color scheme is…how can i describe this? THE. EAST. SO. MANY. GREEN. Blindly so.

Default Skatepark theme homepage.

I love experimentation. We need more of this in the WordPress community. Even if I don’t like the default color scheme, it’s probably perfect for someone else.

I would have instantly disabled and deleted the theme in the classic era. But, the site editor and overall style system allow users to change colors with relative ease these days.

The first thing was to change things up so I could properly explore this theme:

WordPress global styles interface with the site preview on the left.  On the right, a white background color has been selected from the options.
Changing the background color of the theme.

Once my eyes readjusted, I enjoyed tinkering with this Skatepark. There’s a lot to like about it from a general usage perspective. Bold typographic choices and generous use of white space give users the freedom to experiment.

However, the theme offers a helping hand for those who need it. Skatepark includes 10 ready-to-use block models.

My favorite is also the simplest. The “Columns in container” template is a Group block that encompasses a few other elements:

A layout section contained inside a box with a black border.  At the top are two columns of text, followed by a wide image and a paragraph.
Simple but practical layout template.

It doesn’t seem to try too hard, just creating a functional and practical layout. Often this is exactly what users need.

One of its unique templates is “Fullwidth Image with Side Caption”. It places an Image block in the content, followed by a Columns block. The “legend” in this case is not a legend at all. Instead, it is a separator and a paragraph.

A full-width image with two columns below.  The left column is empty and the right column contains a caption for the image.
Block of columns to create a separate legend.

I love this concept, but I wonder about the implementation. The design itself could have been done with some custom block styling on the Image block and a few lines of CSS targeting the caption element. Maybe the team wanted to give users more customization.

Subtitles are currently not standalone blocks. However, there is an open ticket to separate them from their parent containers. The change would give theme authors and users more design freedom.

I’m generally not a fan of the staggered column patterns that seem to be a signature of Automattic’s themes these days. There’s definitely a bit of that mixed in. However, the “Paragraph with Quote” template fits well with the overall design, with the main column aligning with the text above it.

Paragraph, followed by two columns.  The left column aligns below the text above and the right column pops out of the layout.
The columns create a citation that sits to the right of the content.

Technically, it’s a three-column design. The left column is empty and the other two columns contain the content. This gives the illusion that the Quote block is the only thing moved outside the container.

I have seen this technique used to align blocks in the past. It works as a quick hack at best, but it has a flimsy base that crumbles at different screen sizes. It also shows that the block system still lacks a robust set of layout tools. In 2022, there are plenty of ways to achieve this design with CSS instead of column hacks. However, theme authors use the tools they have. Until the core design tools mature, they will continue to experiment and innovate in their own way.

I salute the experimentation in the Skatepark theme. The default green may never be my Cup of tea, But it is okay. I want to see theme writers pushing boundaries and trying new things. Plus, underneath all of that, the theme includes one thing that Automattic almost always nails: readable typography.

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