Bill Erickson, a seasoned WordPress developer, introduces BE Starter, a free hybrid WordPress theme that leverages the block editor for content but not for building the theme itself. This theme is a derivative of the Cultivate Starter theme, stripped of food-blogger-specific functionality, making it a versatile tool for a wide range of WordPress creators.
BE Starter uses
theme.json to define styles and customize the block editor, while traditional PHP template files are used for the theme structure. This approach allows for a fully tokenized design process, where every key in
theme.json maps to a Figma design token. This means designers can customize tokens to create a site’s style guide, and developers can then style elements using these tokens.
The theme also makes it easier to build custom blocks using Advanced Custom Fields (ACF) and
block.json. It automatically registers every block in the
/blocks folder, and most blocks only need a
block.json file, a
render.php file, and a
BE Starter also introduces “block areas” for additional editable content, such as sidebars or post footers. This is achieved through a custom post type called “Block Areas”, which can be managed from the Appearance section of the WordPress backend.
The theme uses Node.js for SASS compilation, and includes a function,
be_icon(), for loading inline SVGs. Full Site Editing blocks have been removed, and a number of core WordPress blocks have been replaced with custom ACF blocks.
Erickson notes that the hybrid theme approach has significantly improved their design and development process, reducing the time it takes to build a fully custom WordPress theme from 30-40 hours to just 8-12 hours. Quite impressive!