Unless you are some kind of wizard with the block editor, starting a WordPress website from a blank slate can be overwhelming and ultimately defeating. Mike McAlister, maker of the free Ollie theme, is developing an onboarding experience that aims to drastically reduce the amount of time users spend setting up a new site.
“I suspect we’re cutting out a half hour or more of finagling a new WordPress site,” McAlister said. “No more wrestling with a blank canvas.”
The Ollie Onboarding Wizard creates a guided setup experience that allows users to add basic site settings, select a color palette, input their brand colors, add a logo and site icon, and move on to creating pages. It eliminates the necessity of hunting all these settings down inside blocks and the Site Editor.
Instead of having to create pages individually and assign them the correct template or place the right full-page pattern, Ollie onboarding makes it possible for users to simply check which pages they want automatically created.
“The goal of this wizard is to help WordPress users zoom through a site setup with the Ollie theme and abstract away those annoying and disconnected setup steps we have to do for every site,” McAlister said.
“The wizard is also a way to educate users along the way. WordPress is going through a much-needed evolution, but as expected, users are having a tough time with the transition. Change is tough, especially when you power half of the internet. Workflows like this can help.”
The onboarding interface leans heavily towards the design of the Site Editor to make it seem naturally at home inside WordPress. It demonstrates just how nice plugins and themes can look in the admin with a more modern interface, which could soon be a reality once the ambitious admin UI revamp plans are complete.
“Months ago, Patrick Posner and I agreed that the future of WordPress is in the new Site Editor view, so that’s where we built this wizard,” McAlister said. “That assumption has since been validated, and because of that, our interface blends in seamlessly with native WordPress.”
“This is just a v1, but we’re already planning on how to seamlessly integrate choosing a vertical with curated plugins (eCommerce, landing page, email marketing, etc.) and surfacing pro features to really bring this experience together. This isn’t just a WordPress theme.”
McAlister said the interface is all React with largely native WordPress components and a few custom components sprinkled in to handle some of the more unique aspects of the tool.
After previewing the onboarding wizard, some people have asked if it will be available as a standalone product. McAlister confirmed that he doesn’t have any plans of productizing it but if there is enough demand he is willing to entertain the idea. Others have asked if there is an API for developers to add their own sections.
“No API yet, although with the announcements of the admin overhaul initiative, perhaps one is coming,” McAlister said. “Right now, this is just a custom React layer that mimics the site editor view. It’s built to be flexible though, so if a core solution opens up, we can migrate to that.”
McAlister previewed the wizard on Twitter and in his newsletter, but it’s still in development and not yet available for testing. He plans to launch the Ollie theme on WordPress.org once the wizard is ready for public use.